Cut­ler is go­ing to have to stock up on charisma

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - PHIL ROSEN­THAL Chicago Tri­bune

So it turns out the Bears aren’t the only team fall­ing over them­selves to pick up a quar­ter­back that has some Chicago foot­ball fans scratch­ing their heads: Fox Sports has signed Jay Cut­ler as an NFL an­a­lyst for the com­ing sea­son. Cut­ler, cut by the Bears in March, has never done this sort of work but is slot­ted along­side ris­ing Fox star Kevin Burkhardt, ex­pe­ri­enced player-turned-an­a­lyst Charles Davis and side­line reporter Pam Oliver on the net­work’s No. 2 crew. “We’re very ex­cited about the po­ten­tial he brings to the booth and are look­ing for­ward to hear­ing his analysis,” John Entz, Fox Sports ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and pres­i­dent of pro­duc­tion, said in the an­nounce­ment. Hey, ev­ery­one likes sur­prises. Right? Chicago is a city that rec­og­nizes, cel­e­brates and clings to sports fig­ures with charis­matic star qual­ity. It’s no ac­ci­dent Michael Jor­dan, Mike Ditka and Harry Caray con­tinue to have thriv­ing restau­rants here cash­ing in on their names, im­ages and pop­u­lar­ity af­ter their glory days. There’s no soup for Cut­ler, the Bears’ all-time lead­ing passer, but likely to be re­mem­bered as the hus­band of TV per­son­al­ity, ac­tress and de­signer Kristin Caval­lari who got a post-Bears job at Fox. Cut­ler could prove the sec­ond com­ing of John Mad­den or Frank Gif­ford as a foot­ball an­nouncer, but that will re­quire qual­i­ties not read­ily on pub­lic dis­play dur­ing his eightyear run be­hind cen­tre for the Bears. Com­pare Cut­ler with Tony Romo, also go­ing straight from the field to TV this year, leav­ing the Cow­boys for CBS’ No. 1 NFL broad­cast team. Both quar­ter­backs have ex­pe­ri­enced a full range of emo­tions dur­ing their ca­reers, but which con­jures the im­age of a win­ning smile and which a sullen pout? A sports columnist at one of Chicago’s daily news­pa­pers not typ­i­cally given to harsh pro­nounce­ments re­ferred to Cut­ler a few months ago as “a strong-armed ath­lete with zero soul, zero charisma.” A columnist at the other big Chicago daily, again on the sub­ject of charisma, wrote, “Cut­ler for­got to get in line the day that was passed out.” To be fair, those ob­ser­va­tions came af­ter years of Cut­ler tak­ing the brunt of crit­i­cism for the Bears’ of­fen­sive short­com­ings, a pum­mel­ing that would make in­tro­verts of plenty of peo­ple. Go­ing back to 2009, a sub­ur­ban sports columnist shared his first im­pres­sions a few days be­fore Cut­ler’s first start as a Bear af­ter the trade from the Bron­cos: “The Bears’ quar­ter­back doesn’t seem to have a very sunny dis­po­si­tion. His smiles and hu­mour ap­pear forced.” All along, many Bears fans widely pre­sumed Cut­ler was more charm­ing than he tended to come across, if only be­cause, well, how he could he not be? Whether he can project that on tele­vi­sion is the cliffhanger go­ing into next sea­son. Burkhardt, who said his first Fox na­tional tele­cast with Cut­ler will be the Bears’ ex­hi­bi­tion against the Ti­tans on Aug. 27, told Sir­iusXM’s Adam Schein on Fri­day that Cut­ler’s au­di­tion prepa­ra­tion and per­for­mance im­pressed him. “My gut, when we got done, I was like, wow, he can do this, and that’s not al­ways the case with those,” Burkhardt said. “And then, yeah, boom, the Fox guys liked him and here we are. “So I’m re­ally ex­cited. I’m sure a lot of peo­ple said, ‘Wow, Jay Cut­ler, I didn’t see that com­ing.’ But I’m telling you, he’s go­ing to sur­prise a lot of peo­ple. He’s smart. He’s en­gag­ing. And I re­ally be­lieve that ... there is a good, dry, sar­cas­tic hu­mour there that’s go­ing to make its way onto the air. It’s go­ing to sur­prise peo­ple.” As pregame and postgame host of Fox’s post-sea­son base­ball cov­er­age last year, Burkhardt coaxed the best out of for­mer Yan­kees star Alex Ro­driguez. Af­ter an in­aus­pi­cious start, by the time the Cubs reached the World Se­ries, Ro­driguez came across as in­sight­ful and per­son­able. “A-Rod is a good com­par­i­son in cer­tain ways,” Burkhardt said. “I’m not say­ing they’re the same per­son or any­thing like that. But what was the per­cep­tion of A-Rod when we hired him? ... He wasn’t a well-loved guy in the me­dia . ... But he came on, he was ul­tra­smart and good on the air, and, yes, he made fun of him­self. “Peo­ple were like, ‘Wow! I think Jay will (suc­ceed too).’ Trust me, I saw the smarts and a lot of the things he brought to the ta­ble there, and he has that hu­mour. I’ve seen it in text mes­sages. So now it’s a mat­ter of my job to bring it out on the air, which we will.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Jay Cut­ler is the lastest NFL quar­ter­back to join a tele­vi­sion broad­cast crew.

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