In the normal context of most NFL games, Jay Cutler yelling to somebody on the Bears sideline ''Tell him I said [bleep] you" or something close to that would be as inconsequential as Lovie Smith says it was Sunday night when Jay Cutler profanely vented an expletive after breaking the huddle in the Bears-Vikings game.
Tempers flare in the heat of battle in many professions. Just the other day in the media room at Halas Hall, one reporter told a competitor, ''[Bleep] you, bitch!'' in a rare heated exchange. Columnists from the same paper have had to be separated by cooler heads. It happens.
But the context of Cutler's ire makes it at least seem like it was more than just creative tension. As often as these disagreements supposedly happen in the NFL, how often do they happen when your team is winning 23-3? And how often do they happen on the field when a quarterback is getting ready to run a play? Don't those things usually happen on the sideline?
Yes, the Bears were trying to beat the clock in the final minute of the first half when an obviously irritated Cutler glared at the Bears sideline after Devin Hester dropped a catchable pass on second-and-seven from the Vikings 32. He called the play in the huddle, clapped to break the huddle then turned to the Bears' sideline and said -- as can be best discerned from NBC's field microphones, ''Tell him I said [bleep] you.'' Matt Forte lost one yard on a draw play.
But still, the Bears were winning 23-3. Doesn't that usually raise the threshold for that kind of anger? How upset do you have to get -- or how much pent-up frustration does there have to be -- for a quarterback to reach an ''F-you'' level of irritation when you're up 23-3 and your passer rating is 134.0?
Smith downplayed the incident when asked indirectly about it -- ''Was there a point where [Cutler] was upset with the sideline?'' -- Monday at Halas Hall. But his complaint that fans and media get to hear too much on the field was tacit acknowledgment that he heard the same thing we did.
''I don't think many guys were upset last night,'' he said. '' You know, those cameras -- you've got to be careful about those cameras and the access that you guys get now. Some things you don't want to know.
''For us, some things are sacred, like the locker room for the players. You don't want cameras and microphones down there. So ... there's got to be more important things to talk about than that type of stuff ... football.''
He's right about that last part. There are definitely more important things to talk about than what Jay Cutler might have been saying to Mike Martz or somebody on the Bears sideline. But it doesn't mean the Cutler outburst has to be ignored.
(And for the record, there were 11 or 12 things that were talked about prior to Lovie being asked about the Cutler situation -- Chris Harris' demotion; Devin Hester's injury; the trip to London this week; Cutler's comfort with the offense; and the Jim Harbaugh-Jim Schwartz tiff from Sunday among them.)
It isn't just our prurient interest in Bears dirty laundry that makes Cutler's frustration worth talking and writing about. It's the possibility that it's evidence of latent discord between Cutler and Martz that has kept the Bears' offense spinning its wheels for most of this season.
This isn't coming out of the blue. Cutler has not-so-subtly expressed his
uneasiness with the protection situation while still being a team guy and supporting his offensive line. And it was Cutler himself who, perhaps unwittingly, advanced the ''bad fit for Martz's offense'' angle last week when he acknowledged he talked with Martz about coming up with a game plan that will allow him to beat the pressure he's been getting.
In that context, the possibility that Cutler was venting at Martz in the middle of trying to run a play during a game isn't just a heat-of-the-moment thing. It's still not bigger than Theo Epstein being hired by the Cubs. Or even Chris Harris' curiously sudden demise. But it's not the proverbial tree falling in the forest. We heard it. Something definitely happened. And by the time this season is over, it might tell us more about the Bears than anything else that happened against the Vikings on Sunday night.