Thank You For Smoking: Talking to the Creator of the Smokin' Jay Cutler Tumblr

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There's some room for debate where Jay Cutler is concerned. As a quarterback, his strengths and weaknesses are well known. As a public person, his weaknesses are much more widely known than his strengths. But the Idea of Jay Cutler, which exists in a space beyond all those back-footed interceptions and Frat Boy Haz A Sad pressers, is more complicated still.

Our own Nick Bond looks at Cutler and sees something that is all too recognizable and all too human; commenters on Nick's piece see a clear-cut case of, to quote one, "a knob being a knob." Jay Cutler is not a problem to solve, which is a good thing, since he's as much a surly Rohrshach slide as he is a quarterback. We will all see different things when we look at Jay Cutler, because of him and because of us. But, thanks to the amazingly great Tumblr Smokin' Jay Cutler, we will, all of us, at least imagine a poorly pasted-on cigarette hanging out of Jay's mouth whenever we look at him.

Smokin' Jay Cutler came from the imagination and casual Photoshoppery of Brandon Freeberg, a producer at MTV.com, Maryland native and Pittsburgh sports fan who has no special beef with or love for Cutler. He's just a man who realized that Chicago's vexing, fascinating, stubbornly Cutlerian quarterback looks most like himself with an imaginary Winston plugged into his jaw. We spoke over email.

Jay Cutler being surly and pouty and bro'ed up and otherwise brisket-y is not news, or a new thing. He has been the subject of gifs and jokes and memes and so on since the moment he first sulk-slouched onto the field in the NFL. But this is a new thing, and an elegant one. What, from your years of Cutler study or otherwise, led you to decide to do this?

My former roommate is a huge Bears fan so I've been watching games with him for a while. A few years back we were out at a bar watching the game and we were laughing at how Cutler looked like he didn't care about anything, to which my former roommate said "I feel like if he could, he'd be smoking a cigarette in the huddle." Immediately I thought it was a hilarious concept.  

Last Thursday during the Packers-Bears game another friend sent out a mass email saying how much Cutler's facial expressions pissed him off, which got me thinking about him as a smoker again. The tumblr idea just came to me. I started the page the very next day.

The most amazing thing about the pictures on the tumblr are that most of them look jarringly plausible, up to and including the ones in which he's being sacked with a cig hanging out of his mouth. In those photos, Cutler looks like a dude being hauled out of a bar after a Beer Pong dispute gone too far, but he also looks a lot—maybe more than ever—like Jay Cutler.

With the very first image I made, I sat back from my computer, looked at it and thought "Wow, even with a bad photoshop job, this look for him makes some sort of cock-eyed sense." And even more surprising to me is that people seem to agree. The most fun part about this for me is deciding how far to tilt the cigarette.

Besides your awareness of his innate hilariousness, it's hard to tell what you think about Cutler from the site. How do you feel about the guy?

Honestly I have absolutely nothing against Cutler.  In fact, he won me a fantasy championship back in 2008 and those winnings helped pay for a nice vacation to Costa Rica with my friends, so I guess I owe him. But only about as much as I owe Larry Fitzgerald and Pierre Thomas for that season.

Tumblr, obviously, is built for this sort of thing, and we at The Classical certainly hope that you'll continue doing this until Cutler retires, and failing that until the sun goes out. But what is your plan for the next step on this journey? More Cutler pics with more photoshopped items? Different athletes with different symbols of vice? Or is this it: the perfect pairing, the alpha and omega and the ultimate of what you're setting out to do?

I'll keep this going as long as I can. If Cutler keeps underperforming it probably will keep the tumblr more relevant. A week ago I said I'd be happy if it got coverage on Grantland or Deadspin, and both of those happened yesterday, so I guess my next goal is to see if someone can get Cutler himself to acknowledge it. I turned on user submissions yesterday and have been getting a good bunch of photoshopped images sent in, so I'm starting a fan submission of the day post later this afternoon.

Finally, if you could pick another athlete to give the pasted-on-cig treatment to, who would it be, and why? It doesn't have to be a cigarette, either. If you want to put a cigar in A-Rod's face or a Quizno's steak-and-cheese in Jonathan Broxton's, we'll certainly take that trip with you.

Not sure about other athletes to mess with at the moment. This really was a catching lighting in a bottle type moment for me. My friend mentioned a few weeks back that he thinks Andrew Luck has a resemblance to Oscar the Grouch, so maybe there's something there.

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He's just a man who realized that Chicago's vexing, fascinating, stubbornly Cutlerian quarterback looks most like himself with an imaginary Winston plugged into his jaw. We spoke over email.

Regards Larry McDaniel