With retirement ‘permanent,’ Jay Cutler ready to dive into TV analyst role – Chicago Tribune
Even the 34-year-old quarterback wasn’t exactly doing backflips when the idea was floated to him last winter.
“When I first heard it,” Cutler said, “I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell I’m doing this. This is literally the last thing I want to do.’ “
But this is where Cutler suddenly stands, announced Friday by Fox Sports as a new color analyst for the network’s NFL coverage. Cutler will be mixed in with play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and fellow analyst Charles Davis next season. And, as fate would have it, his first national on-air broadcast will come Aug. 27 near his current place of residence in Nashville, Tenn.
If there had been lingering curiosity as to whether Cutler would play again, that speculation came to a screeching halt Friday. In addition to Fox Sports’ announcement, Cutler said in a WMVP-AM 1000 interview that his move away from the playing field is “permanent.”
“I don’t really see anything else happening,” Cutler told the “Waddle & Silvy” show.
Still, Cutler knows that when late July arrives and NFL training camps begin that he’ll feel a void. The urge to play rather than broadcast likely will creep in.
“There’s zero doubt in my mind that there’s going to be some regret,” Cutler said. “That’s going to happen. I feel like last week, even when this decision was solid in my mind, I woke up like, ‘Is this really what I want to do?’ So there’s going to be some of that.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that come the middle of August, September, there’s going to be that itch to play. And there’s going to be part of me where I know I still can do it. But that’s not how the cards played out, and that’s not where we’re at.”
In a statement issued by Fox Sports earlier in the day, Cutler steered around using the word “retirement.” That would imply an exit from the game on his own terms. Instead, Cutler’s 11-year NFL career — eight with the Bears — came to an abrupt end in March when he was cut on the first day of free agency.
In the eight weeks since, Cutler’s free-agent job hunt hadn’t produced anything of substance.
“I don’t know if retirement is the right word,” Cutler wrote. “I don’t feel that anyone ever really retires from the NFL. You are either forced to leave or you lose the desire to do what’s required to keep going. I’m in between those situations at this point in my life.”
Cutler said Friday he knew in January that his time with the Bears was finished. His release in March came with four years left on the seven-year, $126.7 million extension he signed in January 2014. But all $54 million of the guaranteed money on that deal had been paid. And given the Bears’ pronounced struggles over the last three seasons — three last-place finishes and an 11-24 record with Cutler as their starter — the move carried minimal surprise.
More attention-grabbing, it turns out, was Cutler’s quick detour into the broadcasting lane. In April, he traveled to Los Angeles to audition with Fox Sports and did a test broadcast with Burkhardt of the Week 16 game played last season between the Seahawks and Cardinals.
“I was a little anxious,” Cutler said. “Because I wanted it to go well. But I didn’t really know what to be nervous about.”
Cutler expressed excitement for the opportunity to remain involved in football and to see the game from a bird’s-eye view. His booth presence will now be interesting to track. While earning a reputation in his younger days as irascible and easily annoyed with the media, Cutler’s dry wit and football intelligence are undeniable.
In an interview Friday on Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio, Burkhardt praised Cutler’s preparation habits and long-term potential.
“I’m telling you he’s going to surprise a lot of people,” Burkhardt said. “He is smart. He’s engaging. And I really believe that in the short time I’ve gotten to know him and talk to him a bunch, there is a good, dry, sarcastic humor in there that’s going to make its way onto the air. It’s going to surprise people, I think.”
During his lengthy interview on WMVP, Cutler spoke openly about his successors in the quarterbacks room at Halas Hall. He said he’s open to communicating with starter Mike Glennon about what’s ahead after the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky with the No. 2 pick last week.
“He’s in a really tough spot,” Cutler said of Glennon. “He signed on for something kind of completely different than what he’s into right now. So if he wants to have that conversation with me, I’m more than happy to have it.”
Cutler also emphasized his belief that the Bears should not rush Trubisky, especially if the 2017 season goes wayward.
“If it’s going downhill, I don’t really see any reason to play the kid,” Cutler said. “I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people calling for his name because you drafted him at 2 and you drafted him for a reason. And that’s to play football and win games. …
“But until you have some pieces around you, it’s hard to win football games in this league as a quarterback.”