Cutler is going to have to stock up on charisma
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.”
Jay Cutler is the lastest NFL quarterback to join a television broadcast crew.