I've done my best to avoid comparing the pair of quarterback-teammate confrontations in last Thursday night's game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. As ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi discussed in a post over the weekend, there were some fundamental differences between the admonishment that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers directed toward receiver James Jones and the rebuke of Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb by quarterback Jay Cutler.
In essence, Bruschi said it is acceptable in NFL circles to get after a teammate for making a mental mistake, as Rodgers did when Jones didn't run the route he anticipated on a fourth-quarter interception. On the other hand, according to Bruschi, Cutler was wrong to criticize Webb simply because he had been beat physically.
My sense is that showing up teammates during a game, for any reason, never leads to anything good. Tuesday, I said my piece on Cutler, and on Wednesday we should probably note and comment on what Rodgers said in retrospect as well.
Speaking on his ESPN 540 radio show in Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon, Rodgers confirmed he apologized to Jones and made clear he wished the incident hadn't occurred at all.
"That was something I apologized for because I never want to show up a guy on the field like that," Rodgers said. "… It's the competitor coming out, which is not an excuse for it. … It's not something I enjoy doing. There are times where it definitely comes back the other way. You know how that feels. Almost to a man, there is always a moment of apology and getting back on the same page and realizing that as frustrating as the moment can be, the emotion shown is never really worth it."
In the end, these incidents have generated discussion about the leadership qualities of both players. My feeling is that both Rodgers and Cutler have been in their roles long enough. Most observers have already decided if they are good leaders, one way or the other.
If nothing else, though, we can crystallize the difference in their respective approaches.
Cutler was equal parts contrite and defiant this week. He said he regretted bumping Webb but not getting after him verbally. He wouldn't say if he apologized and disputed the suggestion that he had lost his composure.
Rodgers, on the other hand, pointed out that football is an emotional game but said there is an important line to avoid: "You never want to make someone look bad out there by showing them up too much," he said.
I fall closer to Rodgers' point of view. These things happen at times but they are rarely for the better. I don't think Cutler's rebuke had any chance of making Webb play better Thursday night. At the same time, I appreciate that Cutler didn't spew the politically correct answer when he clearly doesn't believe it.
Both quarterbacks are fiery competitors, however, so it would be foolish to think they won't find themselves in another glass case of emotion again. At least we'll know where each of them stand on the issue ahead of time.