It took only two questions for quarterback Jay Cutler to become a topic during coach John Fox’s official introduction Monday at Halas Hall.
Fox was put on the spot: Can he win with Cutler as his quarterback?
“That’s a lot for a guy who has not talked to him yet,” Fox said. “I feel good about whoever is at quarterback. I’m looking forward to getting to know Jake [sic]. He did text me, welcoming me to Chicago, and was very excited that I was coming here, which I thought was a nice move.
“I just reminded him that this game is only fun when we win — and we will — and that I was looking forward to getting to see him. I’m looking forward to seeing Jake face-to-face.”
Yes, Fox referred to Cutler as “Jake.” You can consider it a Freudian slip, a reference to his former quarterback Jake Delhomme. It could be a sign that Cutler has much to prove in Fox’s book or just an innocent slip of the tongue. Fox did call Cutler “Jay” later on when talking to reporters.
Either way, the unease surrounding Cutler — will he or won’t he be the Bears’ quarterback in 2015 and beyond? — isn’t lost on Fox.
“You know, it’s not always about talent, whether you’re putting together a SEAL Team 6 group. Sometimes it’s experience; sometimes it’s a special skill,” Fox said when asked again about Cutler. “It’s not always the most talented teams that win. It’s the best teams that win.”
Cutler has never been short on talent. But the lack of detail when discussing Cutler was a considerable difference compared to Marc Trestman’s first news conference two years ago.
Trestman’s No. 1 objective was turning Cutler’s talent into results. Fox’s top objective is to restore the Bears’ brand.
The best quarterback is “one that wins,” Fox said. And after going 10-16 under Trestman, Cutler can’t be described as a winner.
“I’ve had different ones,” said Fox, who won a division title with Tim Tebow in 2011. “They’re just like any other position from the standpoint of what you’re looking for: decision-making, executing their job, what to do, how to do it and execute it under pressure.”
Fox and general manager Ryan Pace have plenty of experience with elite quarterbacks. Fox joins the Bears after three years with Peyton Manning in Denver. Pace is running the Bears after nine seasons spent with Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Fox and Pace said they want to get to know Cutler, but a time for those meetings has yet to be determined.
Pace will be spending time at the Senior Bowl this week, meeting with all of his scouts for the first time. Fox will remain at Halas Hall and work on his coaching staff.
They will learn that Cutler is not the miscreant some make him out to be. He’s not the Bears’ No. 1 problem in the locker room. Last year, he handled his Week 16 benching and the Aaron Kromer fiasco in a professional manner.
“[Fox’s opinion] is important [on Cutler],” said Pace, who said Cutler was discussed in every interview. “Every guy on the roster is important, but there’s no denying that guy [Cutler] is important.”
Figuring out how important he is becomes a pressing matter in several weeks. Cutler already is guaranteed $15.5 million for 2015, but it becomes $10 million more for 2016 on March 12.
Perhaps the most important question is whether Cutler can be that bridge quarterback until the next capable player arrives.
“I know everybody makes a big deal about the quarterback — and I get that — but it’s still a team game,” Fox said. “We all have to do it for our teammates and for something bigger than ourselves. I look for that at any position.”