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In Sunday's NFC Championship* game, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler left the game with a knee injury and did not return.

Almost immediately, a storm grew up on twitter and elsewhere criticising Cutler for his lack of toughness. This wasn't just from fans, but from players, including fellow quarterbacks. Even though the injury was later revealed to be a sprain of the medial collateral ligament, this criticism has continued all week.

Until today.

Enter John Madden, Oakland Raiders head coach in the 1970s, long-time TV analyst and the face of the 'Madden NFL' videogame franchise. Madden went on the radio to defend Cutler, and in the words of profootballtalk.com, was as "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 off. “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! Live a day in his shoes, 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. Cutler played the bulk of the 2007 season suffering from the disease and not knowing it, losing more than 30 pounds during the season.

As you might expect from a Raiders fan, I'm a huge admirer of a coach who brought the Raiders their first Super Bowl win. It's entirely characteristic of Madden that, even though he's been retired for a few years, he would go out of his way to defend a player, even when everybody else was rushing to criticise him.

And it's a measure of just how much John Madden is respected that if you check out NFL forums now, you'll see how public opinion of Jay Cutler has completely reversed. Someone commented negatively about Madden's defence of Cutler on PFT and the comment received 19 thumbs up votes to 187 thumbs down votes.

* That's the NFL semi-final for those who don't follow American football.