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Revisiting Jay Cutler’s career against the Packers: the 2010 NFC Championship Game

The narratives surrounding Jay Cutler changed on a single day in January 2011, when the Packers advanced to Super Bowl XLV.

2011 NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After eight seasons, the Chicago Bears appear on the verge of parting ways with their all-time leading passer, Jay Cutler. As a regular figure in the NFL's longest-running rivalry, Cutler's pending departure marks an important milestone for the Green Bay Packers as well as the NFC North. Over the next few days, Acme Packing Company will review Cutler’s time in the division from a number of perspectives.

With Jay Cutler likely on his way out of Chicago, Green Packers fans will be entering a bit of a mourning period.

As perhaps the fourth best quarterback in Packers history (with apologies to Lynn Dickey), Cutler certainly made life easier for the Packers. His charitable efforts with the football will be long remembered in Packers lore. As Charles Woodson once so aptly put it, "Jay will be Jay."

Of course, not many thought it would end like this. When Cutler arrived in Chicago in 2009 after whini...erm...*asking* his way out of Denver when the Broncos reportedly tried to trade him for Matt Cassel, many thought the Bears had finally landed a good quarterback. After all, Cutler was a Pro Bowl quarterback under Mike Shanahan before Josh McDaniels came to town.

Things started well enough for Cutler and the Bears overall, although he had plenty of early struggles against the Packers — something we documented recently. Not long after, however, everything went off the rails.

So when exactly did that happen? Where exactly can the obituary on Cutler's career start?

The NFC Championship Game, January 23, 2011. Soldier Field.

Cutler did not play well in that game (he was 6 of 13 for 80 yards and an interception in the first half), but it was what happened in the second half that was the turning point.

He played one three-and-out series in the second half and was not seen under center the rest of the game. It was revealed after the game that Cutler had suffered an Grade II MCL sprain.

Todd Collins came on in relief but was soon pulled for poor play and the Bears were forced to try and win the game with Caleb Hanie. (Editor’s note: Remember that this was also in the old days of the 45-man roster with the “emergency quarterback” rule, so with Hanie entering the game under that designation, the Bears had given up entirely on Cutler and Collins.) To his credit, Hanie did pay tribute to the fallen starter, with a Cutler-esque pick-six to BJ Raji that essentially sealed the game. So Cutler at least was on the field in spirit.

The Packers of course went on to win the game, but Cutler's behavior on the sideline after he got injured nearly drew as much attention as Green Bay's victory. He was seen standing on the sideline, on the bench sulking or on an exercise bike, leading to speculation Cutler was not hurt as badly as it seemed.

No one knows the full truth of how badly he was really hurt, but Cutler's reputation never recovered after that game. It was like he was a mountain climber who nearly reached the summit only to tumble down in painful yet comedic fashion.

Sources also cannot confirm if he was smoking a cigarette while he was nearing the top of said metaphorical mountain, but the internet will not be the same.

From that point, Cutler was a punchline around the league, but especially in Green Bay. Cutler has only been on the winning side once against the Packers twice since that NFC championship (Thanksgiving 2015), and now he's likely on his way to greener pastures.

With a rumored retirement possible or a possible signing with an AFC team should he be released, there is a chance we have seen the last of Cutler at Lambeau Field and against the Packers.

At least until the Packers bring him in for his Ring of Honor ceremony.