Bears

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

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

Well, that escalated quickly.

Just a day or so after word got out that former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had auditioned to become an NFL game analyst for FOX came the announcement Friday morning he'd been hired and will pair with Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis as one of their broadcasting teams.

And look for Cutler around Halas Hall, and the Bears, again this season.

While Burkhardt and Davis are respected, solid and do a fine job, that threesome with Cutler likely won't be high on the pecking order for marquee games each week, and the Bears — not being one of those must-see teams nationally right now — have 11 games on FOX this season.

Just as the media here would have loved to have been a fly on the wall wherever Cutler was over his eight years at Halas Hall, how interesting will those Friday and Saturday production meetings with John Fox and Mike Glennon be? And how will Cutler handle any mistake from Fox, Glennon or the Bears in general during games? Or maybe he'll turn that over to Davis? Any tension will be broken quickly, as Cutler & Co. are scheduled to call the Bears' third preseason game, against the Tennessee Titans, during a national broadcast Aug. 27.

As JJ Stankevitz, Scott Krinch and I discussed on our latest Bears Talk Podcast (recorded Thursday afternoon before Cutler was officially announced as a new FOX employee), we found it hard to believe Cutler would make the jump this quickly, believing that he'd at least sit tight and wait for the inevitable preseason injuries for an opening around a league that's shut its doors on him so far. Perhaps his surgically repaired shoulder wouldn't have been ready to take the kind of hits he absorbed during his time here.

But Cutler was always an "on my terms" guy with the Chicago media after his splash signing in April 2009. And despite agent "Bus" Cook's public contention on the eve of last week's draft that he didn't see retirement in his client's near future, Cutler probably wanted to operate on his terms here. While not shutting the door on retirement papers in the statement he released through FOX on Friday morning, the guess here is he didn't feel like having to be the guy who gets invited to camp late in an emergency, having to pick up an offense quickly (which he's perfectly capable of doing) and having to still wait his turn for snaps.

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If that's all there's going to be for Cutler's playing career (unless he'd sign with a coach he has a good history with), the final assessment is that he preferred to call his own shots.

During his time here, Cutler was available for a midweek and a postgame press conference during the season. And he'd be a pretty decent listen and share a thing or two if he was asked smart, pointed questions. Eventually, he cooperated with a tolerance for those less inquiring whose knowledge lacked or who'd go in areas he didn't care to address.

Otherwise, he'd be a guest on the team-sponsored radio show once during the season and once for a preseason sitdown interview for the local preseason broadcast. Outside of that, there might be a quick sideline interview once he was lifted in a preseason game and a few one-on-one postgame chats during the year with the radio network's Zach Zaidman. Outside of that, with the exception of a charity event or two along the way, he was allowed his terms, media-wise. That's fine. While I didn't like it, I never personally held it against him for a guy who preferred to limit access. A majority of the guys in any locker room you can just walk up to and chat up after practice without being on record, football topic or not. Cutler made sure, through the team, that wouldn't happen and would barely be seen there during the 45-minute sessions when the media had access three times during a normal week.

It would have been nice, but not necessary, to get to know him better. He was not a "bad" guy. But given the handful of bad looks that cameras caught on the field during games, maybe more exposure could have softened some of that fan and media perception. But the answer to that for him became the running joke that he "didn't care" about those outside opinions.

The scrutiny will be less, the rope a little looser from a smaller number of critics in this new role. There are certain basics and fundamentals in this business, just as there were in the job he's at least temporarily given up. There's no doubt that the first time he criticizes a quarterback's footwork and decision-making, his critics will fire back with a vengeance. He's been a controversial, love-him-or-hate-him player. For publicity purposes, FOX wouldn't mind him creating the same reaction as an analyst. Don't hold your breath on that. But just like his playing days, there's potential there. Let's see how close he reaches it and how far and high he goes.

Matt Nagy, Bears may be facing ironic end to 2020 preseason plans

Matt Nagy, Bears may be facing ironic end to 2020 preseason plans

Just when Matt Nagy actually wants to play his starters in preseason games, there might not be a preseason. 

Ironic, right?  

On Wednesday, Pro Football Talk reported what’s been anticipated for weeks: The NFL will cut its preseason schedule from four to two games. But, per NFL Network, the NFLPA hasn’t signed off on that reduction just yet – potentially because they’re hoping to not play any preseason games at all in 2020. 

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And why would the players want those games? All it’d be is another opportunity for team-to-team transmission of the novel coronavirus that’s still raging across the United States. And the NFL has very little monetary incentive to play these games, too, which would happen in front of empty stadiums and presumably don’t bring in much TV revenue anyway. 

So if playing these games would risk COVID-19 exposure – which is way more important than the next words you’re about to read – and wouldn’t negatively affect anyone’s bottom line, why play them?

Some coaches will argue they’re critical for getting players ready for the regular season. Nagy, up until this year, wasn’t among those coaches. Remember these tweets from last August?

“My biggest thing is I’m trying to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears, and every team is different, and that’s okay,” Nagy said last summer. “… We love where we’re at right now in regards to our starters. We feel really good about it.”

All the NFLPA has to do to argue against preseason games is point to how Nagy – as well as Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay – viewed the importance of those in the past. If teams felt prepared for the regular season without playing their starters in the preseason, why should that change in the midst of a pandemic? 

Nagy has since switched his thinking – this after a truly awful start on offense to the 2019 season – and committed to playing his starters during 2020’s preseason. Not only does Nagy need as many preseason games as possible to evaluate Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles, but he needs it for the rest of his offense to find an identity and rhythm quicker than they did last year (if they ever found one at all). 

So that means having Anthony Miller catch passes from both Trubisky and Foles in preseason games. That means getting the interior of the offensive line – whether it includes Germain Ifedi or Rashaad Coward at right guard – reps together in live action. That means getting Cole Kmet’s feet wet before throwing him into the deep end of the “Y” tight end position in September. 

“As we talk, that's one of the things that I look back at from last year that I'm not happy about that I made a decision to do in the preseason," Nagy said on the Waddle & Silvy Show in May. "Number one, I think it's good for them to have it, but number two it sets the mentality. 

“So that's not going to happen this year."

Except it might not happen. And probably shouldn’t. 

 

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Bears' Allen Robinson included in Big 10's All-Decade team

Bears' Allen Robinson included in Big 10's All-Decade team

Here's some fun news for your holiday weekend. 

Bears WR Allen Robinson has been named to the Big 10 All-Decade team: 

A two-time Big 10 receiver of the year, Robinson finished his three-year career at Penn State with 177 catches for 2479 yards and 17 touchdowns. Seven years after he went into the NFL, Robinson's name is still all over the Penn State record board. Currently, he's: 

- 3rd all time in receptions
- 1st in single season receptions (97 in '13)
- 3rd in single game receptions (12)
- 4th in receiving yards
- 1st in single season receiving yards (1432, '13)
- 2nd in single season TD's (11, '12) 

He's also one of two receivers in Nittany Lion history to catch three touchdowns in multiple games. Allen Robinson: underrated in the NFL, but now properly rated by the NCAA.