BOCA RATON, Fla. – Few topics in Chicago football engender greater emotion than Jay Cutler, particularly his future as Bears quarterback now that he is turning 33 in a month.
As far as his head coach is concerned, there is no discussion.
Not because of Cutler’s age. Not because of Cutler’s performance. Not because of pretty much anything Cutler-related. If you want to talk Bears quarterbacks, talk to Fox about Cutler’s backups, not his replacement.
“He might’ve been the most pleasant surprise on our team of a year ago,” coach John Fox said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. “What’s interesting about Jay, is I don’t see a 32-year-old guy. The moving, the mobility – I see a young quarterback. As long as they move like they’re 28, it doesn’t really matter.”
Cutler’s roster status is further buttressed by having support in absolutely the highest corners of the organization.
“I’ve said for a long time now that I’m a big fan of Jay’s, on and off the field,” said Chairman George McCaskey. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for everything that he does off the field. He established himself in 2015 – again – as a leader of our team. He had a great year statistically, really solid play, cut down the turnovers.
“We’re looking forward to even more from him in 2016.”
If there is a single epic twist in all things Cutler, it lies in the fact that, unlike Jerry Angelo and the Bears giving Cutler an extension less than a full year after trading for him, unlike Phil Emery proclaiming him a “franchise quarterback” right after inheriting him, Fox and GM Ryan Pace were explicitly non-committal on Cutler this time a year ago.
Cutler then produced his best NFL season in one that began with reservations on the parts of both his coach and general manager.
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“I’d see tape on him. I’d seen stats,” Fox said. “There are a lot of things we evaluate. But until you actually get in a meeting room, get on a practice field and start teaching, that’s really when you kind of find out what kind of student you have. You can’t just look at him across the room or just look at them on film.”
The surprise will be if the Bears do not draft a quarterback sooner rather than later in the draft. Fox prefers to begin training camp with three quarterbacks, ideally four. Right now there is only David Fales behind Cutler.