Jay Cutler going into TV broadcasting is like me pursuing a modeling career.
Rarely has an idea seemed so ridiculous, so beyond the outer reaches of reality. Yet there it was Friday, the breaking news that the former Bears quarterback, the master of the mumbled response, was joining Fox as a color commentator for NFL games.
If I’m going to fit into a size 6, I had better start working on my hips.
It’s perfectly understandable why Cutler would want to do TV. He can stay busy, he can make more money (not that he needs it), he can remain involved with the game in case an NFL team needs a quarterback and he can give his family some alone time. For a guy who doesn’t like to talk much, the decision to take a TV job seems like a staggering lack of self-awareness. But, hey, everybody has to make a living, right?
But why would a network thrust Jay upon the public? That’s the bigger question. Why would it even occur to anyone that Cutler would be good in a broadcast booth? It’s possible I missed the part of his eight-year career in Chicago when he wasn’t muttering, giving one-word responses or offering a technically dense answer to a question about a simple screen pass, an answer that was unusable for any reporter who didn’t have X’s and O’s tattooed across his forehead. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss happy, engaging, funny Jay.
He had a local radio show in which he avoided calling anyone by his first name, which is what he did in general with human beings who didn’t play in the NFL. Come warm your hands by the warmth of his personality, football fans.
It’s all about what he can do for ratings, of course, but it’s beyond me what Fox sees him bringing to a broadcast. This isn’t like hiring Skip Bayless in the name of antagonizing viewers. Cutler isn’t a provocateur. He’s a guy who, for a good portion of his adult life, would have preferred 40 lashes than making eye contact with another person.
He knows the game, but unless grunting becomes a new form of communication, he’ll go through as many broadcast coaches as he did offensive coordinators.
If it looked like Cutler couldn’t give a rat’s asset while he was playing, it’s hard to understand why he’ll sound like he cares during a TV broadcast. Maybe this is why I’m in print journalism and not TV. Maybe there’s some magic hidden talent inside him bursting to get out. Or maybe getting treated badly is what TV viewers are aching for.
If there’s a way of conveying a shrug to an audience, then I think Jay has a bright future in TV.
There’s something galling about the networks rewarding people who have gone out of their way to be rude to the media or who simply are unpleasant. It’s like making a pickpocket the chief of police. Yet it happens. Sterling Sharpe went long stretches in Green Bay without talking with reporters, then landed a job at ESPN as an NFL analyst. Former Bears receiver Brandon Marshall has become a national-TV fixture despite being a Grade A phony.
But that’s my pet peeve, and very few people outside the media care if Cutler or any other ex-athlete played nice with reporters. Most fans just want a good show.
I’ll be surprised if Cutler is capable of providing it. When I look at him, I don’t see someone who can communicate quickly and clearly what just happened on the field. And then doing it play after play after play. I see a quarterback who knew the right play when he was playing but too often decided against it. How does that translate to the small screen?
He’s going into broadcasting because no NFL team wants him or because he doesn’t want to be a backup. He did leave the door open for a return to the league.
‘‘I don’t know if retirement is the right word; I don’t feel that anyone ever really retires from the NFL,’’ he said in a statement. ‘‘You are either forced to leave, or you lose the desire to do what’s required to keep going. I’m in between those situations at this point in my life.’’
Thus, talking on TV. Of course. Jay Cutler is attracted to the very thing he wanted to avoid for so long.
No one asked for another example that the world is a crazy place, but it arrived nonetheless Friday, completely unsolicited.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.