Hoge: Public Perception Of Jay Cutler Will Change On TV

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Jay Cutler talks with reporters in 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

It’s Noon on Sunday, Sept. 10. Bears fans are settled in on their couches ready for the Mike Glennon/Mitch Trubisky era to begin.

The NFL On FOX jingle begins and that weird robot thingy dances across the TV screen. And then, there he is, Jay Cutler in an expensive suit and a microphone in his hand.

Come on, Chicago, you couldn’t get rid of Jay that easy.

For some Bears fans, it might seem like a nightmare, but get ready, because this is going to be a reality at some point this fall.

Cutler officially announced his retirement Friday and FOX confirmed that the former Broncos and Bears quarterback will be joining its No. 2 NFL broadcast team, forming a three-man booth with play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt and analyst Charles Davis.

Whether or not Cutler ends up calling the Bears’ season-opener against the Falcons remains to be seen, but it certainly seems possible. Typically, but not always, Fox assigns its No. 1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to the late-afternoon game that most of the country receives. In Week 1, that game is Seahawks-Packers in Green Bay. With the Falcons coming off a Super Bowl appearance and the obvious Cutler-Bears connection that surely will draw some ratings, one would think Cutler gets sent to Soldier Field Week 1.

In fact, it’s possible Cutler calls a Bears game sooner than that. The Bears are scheduled to play a nationally televised preseason game in Nashville — where Cutler now lives — on Fox Aug. 27.

Regardless, Cutler will definitely be calling a Bears game at some point this fall and the thought of him analyzing the team’s quarterback situation is incredibly enticing. Some are balking at the idea of Cutler on TV, but I’m guessing these are the same people who bought into the wrong national narratives that unfairly defined the quarterback’s career.

The reality is that Cutler was always comfortable with a microphone in front of him. Sure, early on in his career, he wasn’t necessarily cooperative with the media, but there’s a difference between being comfortable and cooperative. Also, if you were paying attention, Cutler’s attitude with the media changed drastically in recent years. I would describe him as “carefully honest” with reporters over the last three seasons. He didn’t dodge questions or the reality that the Bears weren’t very good, yet he never threw anyone under the bus.

Cutler knows the game as well as anyone. Analyzing from the broadcast booth should come natural to him. And now he won’t have to worry about protecting teammates and shouldering the blame for everything. He can — and I think he will — call it like he sees it.

If you’re surprised that Cutler retired, don’t be. There were strong indications at the NFL owners meetings in March that it was headed this way, although I’m not sure anyone saw Cutler ending up in a broadcast booth.

At 34, Cutler could definitely still be playing. But he’s taken a beating in his career, both physically on the field and verbally off the field. The concussions have piled up and he’s coming off a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Unless he could find a situation where he was starting on a team ready to win the Super Bowl — and those situations didn’t seem to be available — why keep playing?

“I don’t know if retirement is the right word. I don’t feel that anyone ever really retires from the NFL,” Cutler said in a statement released to the media. “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.”

“I recently read a quote that struck a cord with me at the time. It was attributed to Henry Rollins (but with the internet these days, you can never be too sure who really said it). ‘I did that, I gave everything I had to give to that. Now, if I returned to that it would be repetition — it might be fun repetition, but it wouldn’t be meaningful repetition.’ Thank you to everyone along the way. You made my dream come true.”

This statement is a glimpse into the thoughtfulness and honesty that wasn’t always obvious during Cutler’s playing career, but was present if you were playing close attention. Believe it or not, he has a sense of humor and that should come through on TV.

FOX recently hired another smart, but polarizing player to be an analyst and it turned out to be a brilliant move. That player is Alex Rodriguez, who has quickly developed into an outstanding baseball analyst and, frankly, drastically improved his public image as a result.

Expect a similar outcome for Cutler. Perhaps his broadcasting talent isn’t as obvious as his quarterback talent, but don’t be surprised if the execution is a lot better.

Adam Hoge covers the Chicago Bears for WGN Radio and WGNRadio.com. He also co-hosts The Beat, weekends on 720 WGN. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.

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