FIRST-AND-10: Jay Cutler ends ‘retirement’ to join Adam Gase, Dolphins
Former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s retirement from the NFL didn’t last long.
Cutler, who signed with Fox Sports as a game analyst after being released by the Bears, agreed to a one-year contract Sunday with the Dolphins. The move reunites Cutler with Dolphins coach Adam Gase, who was the Bears’ offensive coordinator in 2015, when Cutler had a career-high 92.3 passer rating.
Cutler talked with the Jets but did not seriously pursue NFL jobs after the Bears released him March 9. He announced his intention to retire and joined Fox Sports, where he was to be teamed with Kevin Burkhardt after an impressive audition. Cutler, who lives in Nashville, was scheduled to work the Bears-Titans preseason game Aug. 27. He also was expected to work the Falcons-Bears regular-season opener Sept. 10 at Soldier Field.
All that is moot now that Cutler is signing with the Dolphins. The opportunity came about when Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a knee injury in practice last week. Tannehill will be out at least six to eight weeks and possibly for the season.
Cutler himself is coming off a season-ending injury. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder suffered in a loss Nov. 20 to the Giants. He also missed five games in Weeks 3-7 last season because of a sprained thumb. Cutler started five games for the Bears in 2016 and had a 78.1 passer rating, with four touchdowns and five interceptions.
2. It’s no surprise Cutler would look for a comfort zone to make his ‘‘comeback.’’ But while he had a career-best 92.3 passer rating under Gase in 2015, that still ranked only 16th in the league — barely above the NFL-record 90.3 average passer rating that season.
For the record, Cutler’s best ranking in passer ratings came in 2011 under Mike Martz (13th, 85.7) and 2013 under Mark Trestman (13th, 89.2).
But best of luck to Cutler in his comeback. After all he has been through, he deserves every opportunity for success in the NFL — and to finally be the right guy in the right place at the right time.
3. Back on the actual Bears beat: The ‘‘redshirt’’ plan for rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky still seems like the best way to go. But it’s interesting — and perhaps awkward — to see that while Mike Glennon might be the best quarterback on the team right now, Trubisky already does things better than any quarterback in camp.
In no particular order: his general accuracy; his ability to put the right touch on any pass — zipping it when he has a tight window, feathering it when necessary; his quick feet in escaping a rush while still staying in position to pass; and, most of all, his ability to throw on the run.
4. Bears offensive players grew to respect Cutler in recent years, but it seems as though we’ve heard more about Glennon’s intangibles — his leadership, chemistry with receivers, command of the huddle and command of the offense — in four months than we did about Cutler’s in his last four seasons.
It’s a surprising theme of Glennon’s early tenure with the Bears. There was little in Glennon’s background coming out of North Carolina State that suggested he had the leadership qualities to put a team on his shoulders or to inspire teammates to overachieve. In fact, his confidence and leadership were considered weaknesses in draft previews. But not anymore, apparently.
‘‘Even down to the way he recites the play to us prior to us breaking the huddle, there’s something about that that gives us a good sense of confidence,’’ guard Kyle Long said. ‘‘I haven’t been out there for team [11-on-11] periods. But even in walkthroughs, he says things with conviction. He sees the field and usually puts us in good spots to make plays.’’
5. Falling in love with rookies is a common pitfall of camp. And when a team is coming off a 3-13 season, it’s easy to fall into that trap. For what it’s worth, though, the 2017 rookie class — including Trubisky, tight end Adam Shaheen, safety Eddie Jackson and running back Tarik Cohen — is ahead of 2016’s productive class.
Center Cody Whitehair was the Bears’ most impressive rookie at this time last year, and he still was playing left guard next to Ted Larsen after Hroniss Grasu’s knee injury. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was in the midst of what defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called a ‘‘choppy and inconsistent’’ preseason. Running back Jordan Howard was an afterthought, ranking behind Jeremy Langford, Jacquizz Rodgers and Ka’Deem Carey entering the first preseason game.
All three took a huge steps in the regular season. There’s a long way to go, of course. But if this group does the same — even if Trubisky doesn’t play — the Bears will take another step in laying the foundation for a contending team.
6. Even if Victor Cruz can’t recapture the explosiveness that made him an elite receiver early in his career with the Giants, he’s still good enough to help Glennon and the Bears. And they can use him. Compared to the enigmatic Brandon Marshall, the reticent Alshon Jeffery and the star-crossed Kevin White, Cruz seems like a beacon of normalcy as productive NFL receivers go. So far.
7. Camp often is rife with false positives, but if Floyd stays healthy and doesn’t take a huge step toward Pro Bowl status this season, it would be a big disappointment. His athleticism is much more noticeable than it was at this time last year.
It might be too much to expect the same jump the Falcons’ Vic Beasley made last season — from four sacks as a rookie to 15.5 and the Pro Bowl in 2016 — but Floyd, the ninth pick of the 2016 draft (Beasley was eighth in 2015), seems to be on that path.
The difference this year?
‘‘Just being more mature and more calm in situations,’’ Floyd said. ‘‘As a rookie, I played kind of jittery at times and missed a few sacks. I’m going to make sure I don’t miss any [this year].’’
8. Second-year defensive end Jonathan Bullard looks improved from last season, when he had one sack.
‘‘I think he’s more mentally ready for the rigors of playing in the NFL trenches against grown men,’’ Fangio said. ‘‘We’re hopeful. I think his arrow’s pointing up.’’
9a. Fangio, on Bullard’s rookie season: ‘‘It’s hard sometimes for you [reporters] because you get married to the sack totals. You all know that [Jadeveon] Clowney’s one of the best pass rushers in the league, right? He had six [sacks]. We had three guys with [seven or more]. Sacks aren’t the only thing.’’
9b. Fangio isn’t the first coach to admonish us for being obsessed with sacks, and he won’t be the last. But the response is always the same: When NFL teams stop paying for sacks, we’ll stop using them as a measurement of success.
10. Players to watch in the Bears’ preseason opener Thursday against the Broncos: receiver Tanner Gentry, safety Deon Bush, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, outside linebacker Dan Skuta and inside linebacker Alex Scearce.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.