Jay Cutler's success as FOX analyst not the biggest question hanging over ex-Bears QB

Jay Cutler's success as FOX analyst not the biggest question hanging over ex-Bears QB

Jay Cutler stepping away from one microphone venue he despised in favor of another to begin another career made for interesting discussion about his suitability to be a commentator for FOX football coverage. But while his performance as an analyst ultimately will answer questions about his abilities behind a microphone, left unanswered will ultimately be the ones about his abilities behind center.

The bigger story behind Cutler’s move was why a quarterback who totaled more passing yards than the likes of Kurt Warner and Sonny Jurgensen, and more TD passes than Joe Flacco, couldn’t find a quarterback job at age 34. Jeff George got one at 34. Ryan Fitzpatrick had one at 34. Josh McCown has had four since he turned 34.

Yet in a league where painfully few teams have one legitimate starting quarterback, Cutler could not land a job as a second-stringer. FOX was willing to take a chance on Cutler in a job he’d never done before. Nobody in the NFL was willing to take a flyer on a guy who’d had 11 years of seasoning.

Whether or how much he really wanted a job after the Bears cut ties has been cited as a possible factor. Regardless, the Houston Texans weren’t interested and that’s a playoff-intent team with Tom Savage as their starter, at least until Deshaun Watson assumes his rightful place as that. The New York Jets didn’t even nibble, content with McCown. Cleveland was fine with DeShone Kizer in the second round.

You have to assume it wasn’t talent; never was, for that matter. (Hopefully his fan base doesn’t start blaming his supporting cast of booth- or panel-mates if he doesn’t do well at this job.)

Peter King, longtime NFL chum from Platteville Days, posited in an excellent MMQB piece that “Cutler was a little too smart for his own good.” FOX colleague-to-be Charles Davis’ glowing comments to Adam Jahns over at the Sun-Times notwithstanding, production meetings with the weeks’ broadcast teams during his playing time here were marked by more than a few instances of bizarre, rude behavior.

Cutler defenders cite his having seven different offensive coordinators in the span of his last nine seasons (including Rick Dennison in Denver) as a cause for his consistent mediocrity. Maybe the NFL looks at it from exactly the opposite direction, that Cutler was part of why no coordinator since Dennison survived longer than two years coaching him. John Fox is the first of four Cutler head coaches to see him ousted, not the other way around.

[RELATED: Will Bears fans finally get to see another side of Jay Cutler in his new role as FOX broadcaster?]

Wonder how the scene might’ve gone in Houston if GM Rick Smith had signed Cutler and walked into coach Bill O’Brien’s office…

“Bill, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is I signed Jay Cutler for you. The bad news is, I signed Jay Cutler for you.”

The Bears had no thought whatsoever of opting to hold onto Cutler while putting a young franchise guy in their pipeline, the way Andy Reid and Kansas City did behind Alex Smith. The reasons were more than anybody-but-Cutler and don’t matter here, but that his own team didn’t want to keep him over a lesser-credentialed Mike Glennon is a statement.

Now Cutler is in a position where he can make his own statement, or statements; in fact, that’s kinda his job now. And maybe he really didn’t want to play anymore, didn’t say so explicitly but projected it (there’s that body-language thing again). None of this is to say Cutler’s a bad guy, or even a really bad quarterback. But that nobody in a QB-lite league wants a quarterback with more than 32,000 passing yards does stand as the final mystery over an individual, a lot of whose career was shrouded in it.

Is Jordan Howard underrated in fantasy football?

USA Today

Is Jordan Howard underrated in fantasy football?

Jordan Howard has accomplished some pretty amazing things to start his career. Most notably, he's the only running back in Chicago Bears franchise history to finish his first two seasons with more than 1,000 rushing yards, including 1,313 yards as a rookie, good for a team rookie record.

Still, Howard has been the target of criticism this offseason because of his questionable set of hands. He was plagued by a case of the drops last season and he's been labeled as a guy who can't catch the ball heading into 2018. Combine that with the player nipping at his heels -- Tarik Cohen -- and the overwhelming theory advanced by analysts is that he'll give way to Cohen on passing downs.

This presumption has made its way into the world of fantasy football, too. Howard is rarely if ever mentioned as one of the first running backs that should be drafted this summer and in a recent player vs. player showdown on Pro Football Focus, 49ers starter Jerick McKinnon was selected as a more appealing fantasy starter in 2018.

It’s close, but I give the nod to Jerick McKinnon. Howard’s troubles in the passing game are very real and it’s clear the Bears want to focus on that more this year. Meanwhile, McKinnon was handed a fat contract and has little competition when it comes to carries.

McKinnon, a career backup, was signed by San Franciso to be Kyle Shanahan's feature running back. He has a real chance to be a stud in fantasy circles, but should he be valued over a guy like Howard who's proven to be a contender for the NFL's rushing crown?

All of this offseason chatter will serve as great motivation for Howard who has to prove, first and foremost, that he can be a three-down back for coach Matt Nagy in the Bears' new offense. If he has a consistent training camp as a receiver and carries that momentum into the preseason and regular season, those fantasy players who draft McKinnon or another less-proven player over Howard will long for a redo.

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 8 - Eddie Goldman

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 8 - Eddie Goldman

Eddie Goldman is entering the final year of his contract this season and in order to cash in on a big payday, he'll need to stay healthy and make good on his top-tier potential. 

If he does, he'll become a very wealthy man and the Bears defense will have an even better year than its top-10 finish a season ago.

Goldman, 24, came to Chicago via the second round of the 2015 NFL draft and quickly became a household name among Bears fans. He started 12 games that season and finished with a surprising 4 1/2 sacks, a total that was more productive than his college scouting report predicted. He was pegged as a breakout star for 2016, but injuries ultimately derailed his second season. He played only six games that year (started five) but still flashed a surprisingly productive set of pass-rush traits; he finished 2016 with 2 1/2 sacks.

This past season represented something of a mixed bag for Goldman. He started 15 games and quieted some of the injury concerns that started bubbling around him, but his production dipped. He managed only 1 1/2 sacks. That said, he set a career-high with 27 tackles, nearly doubling his output as a rookie.

Still, Goldman wasn't a dominant force in 2017. He finished the year ranked 69th among interior defenders with a 76.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. Despite being healthy and available, it was the lowest season grade of his career from PFF.

Nose tackle is arguably the most critical position for any defense running a 3-4 scheme. It's no exception in Chicago. Goldman will set the table for linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith and the more bodies he can consume or attention he can draw from offensive lines, the more room second-level defenders will have to work. It's not just about filling up the stat sheet for Goldman. If he clogs running lanes and collapses the pocket consistently, he'll be worth every penny of a big contract extension despite lacking numbers.

The Bears need Goldman to bring his A-game in 2018, especially as a pass rusher. Chicago resides in arguably the most talented quarterback division in the NFL and for the defense to make those quarterbacks uncomfortable, Goldman has to apply pressure up the middle. He's proven he can do it, as evidenced by his rookie year production. But he's been on a steady decline in this area of his game since then and there's no room for more regression in 2018.

Players entering contract years tend to bring extra motivation to the field and there's no reason to expect anything less from Goldman. If he can combine his rookie year production with last season's availability, he could end up with the most well-rounded year of his career en route to leading the Bears' defensive line on a late-season playoff push.