St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who knows Jay Cutler better than most NFL coaches who never coached him, said ''Chicago is lucky to have Jay'' and critics of his on-field demeanor last week against the Packers ''ought to back off and let him play.''
''A guy has an opportunity as a quarterback in the huddle or on the sideline to voice his opinion,'' Fisher said in a conference call with Chicago-area reporters Wednesday morning. ''[He's] not the first quarterback to do that. A quarterback that's got a chance to lead a football team and win games has to take that position. So I think you guys, or whoever's generating this stuff, ought to back off and let him play.''
Fisher not only coached the Nashville-based Tennessee Titans throughout Cutler's career at Vanderbilt, but his staff coached Cutler at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. in 2006, attended his Pro Day workout at Vanderbilt, conducted an individual workout with him and visited with Cutler three times prior to the draft.
After the combine that year, USC's Matt Leinart, Texas' Vince Young and Cutler were considered the top three quarterbacks in the draft, with Cutler hailed as the best by NFL Network's Mike Mayock, ESPN's Ron Jaworski and Joe Theismann and others.
The Titans had the No. 3 overall pick and chose Vince Young. Leinart went at No. 10 to the Arizona Cardinals. Cutler was taken at No. 11 by the Denver Broncos, who moved up four spots to get him.
''I watched Jay in college,'' Fisher said. ''We spent a lot of time with Jay prior to the draft. I've gotten to know Jay over the years. Jay was close with [former Titans offensive coordinator] Mike Heimerdinger. So I know Jay. I think Chicago is lucky to have Jay. Jay is a very, very talented quarterback. The Green Bay Packers have a very, very talented defense. So that happens sometimes at that position.
''That's not the first quarterback the Packers have given a hard day to. I don't think anybody needs to worry about anything. It's very early in the season. You can bounce back from these kinds of things very easily.''
Asked about the Titans' evaluation of Cutler from a personality standpoint, as it pertains to NFL success, Fisher said Cutler is a competitive, smart guy who hates losing.
''Gosh, I mean, he's just a really talented player,'' Fisher said. ''I'm always pulling for him. I'm probably not going to pull for him this weekend. But I'm always pulling for Jay. I think Jay's very talented. He's Jay Cutler. He's a good football player.''