Hall of Fame coach John Madden recently joined Adam Schein and Rich Gannon of Sirius NFL Radio to discuss the hottest issue of the week — the injury to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, whether he could have played with the injury, and whether his demeanor suggested that he cared about the fact that he was missing the second half of the biggest game of his life.
In defending Cutler, Madden was passionate, emotional, and as angry as we’ve ever heard him.
“I’ve been in football for over 50 years,” Madden said, prefacing his remarks. “I’ve never questioned a player’s toughness. I never have. Whether it was in coaching, broadcasting, whatever.”
Madden then turned to Cutler specifically.
“There’s no one in the NFL that has a tougher job to do than Jay Cutler,” Madden said. “I think playing quarterback in the NFL is the toughest thing you can do. I think throwing a forward pass and having guys rushing you and hitting you when you’re looking downfield and throwing the ball is the toughest act you have to do.”
Madden explained that Cutler plays with Type I diabetes, what that means, and what it requires. After that, Madden got pissed.
“And then people are looking at him, they put a camera on him, and they say they don’t like his demeanor,” Madden said. “Demeanor hell!”
We don’t use exclamation points lightly. In this specific case, based on the volume with which the words were delivered, we probably should have used three or four of them after the word “hell”.
“Live a day in his shoes,” Madden said. “Type I diabetes is not a daytime thing. It’s not a week thing. It’s not a month thing. It’s a life thing. And it’s every day, and it’s every day for 24 hours.”
Madden, whose grandson suffers from Type I diabetes, said that Cutler is a role model to kids with the disease, and that Cutler necessarily is tough because of what he does and the realities of the illness from which he suffers.
(He’s also tough because, as we’ve pointed out this week, he played the bulk of the 2007 season suffering from the disease and not knowing it, losing more than 30 pounds during the season.)
Schein then raised with Madden whether it would have been wise for the Bears to be more direct and candid about the fact that Cutler wasn’t returning to the game, and Madden explained that, if a players is out due to injury, the potential strategic gains from concealing the extent of injuries probably need to be set aside.
Through it all, Madden articulated his thoughts in the same plainspoken yet powerful way that made him beloved as a broadcaster. Nearly two years after his retirement, the comments were reminder of what the NFL is missing with Madden no longer serving as perhaps the greatest ambassador to the fans the league has ever had.
And hearing him talk about the game he loved makes us hopeful that he’ll stand up on behalf of the fans some point soon and insist that the league and the players work out their differences so that the game he loves may continue.
UPDATE: In 2008, Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports provided a thorough look at the challenges Cutler and those with Type I diabetes face every day. Silver knows the never-ending drill; his son has Type I diabetes.