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.
[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]
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.