John Fox believes Bears need to play ‘complementary football’ with Jay Cutler

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PHOENIX — Bears coach John Fox has a working model to turn to when it comes to making Jay Cutler an efficient, productive quarterback again.

His name his Tony Romo. And that’s not meant as a criticism.

Last year, Romo benefitted from an improved defense and the NFL’s best running game. The result was his best individual season and a Dallas Cowboys playoff berth.

‘‘Playing defense [and] playing complementary football is going to be something that helps,’’ Fox said Wednesday during the NFC coaches breakfast at the NFL annual meetings.

‘‘I know Tony personally. He’s a tremendous competitor. I thought he had one of his better seasons a year ago with that same kind of build-up. With success comes confidence.’’

Weeks after publicly committing to Cutler at Halas Hall, Fox seemed to have a better handle on how he can make things work with the volatile quarterback in 2015.

Or, at the very least, he was more willing to talk about Cutler while seated comfortably at the Arizona Biltmore.

‘‘I’ve seen him have success, albeit maybe not super recent,’’ Fox said. ‘‘But in spurts, in sections of his career and in games, he’s had success. And now, like anybody, it’s becoming more consistent with that success. So that’s about as simple as you can be, but it’s about as truthful as you can be.’’

Fox’s predecessors said similar things, but Fox and his staff won’t be empowering or catering to Cutler. The path to maximizing him will be minimizing his overall impact.

Recreating Romo’s situation for Cutler is likely impossible for next season, especially with Fox and general manager Ryan Pace continuing to talk about their many needs. But Fox said the offense will lean on running back Matt Forte, and history says Fox can turn around a defense quickly and win with quarterbacks other than Peyton Manning.

‘‘I’ll go back to when people forget that we had Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow [in Denver],’’ Fox said, referring to the Broncos’ playoff appearance in 2011. ‘‘When I walked into that building, I didn’t have Peyton Manning.’’

Fox’s evaluation of Cutler’s 2014 season — which included getting called out by receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Martellus Bennett, getting benched by coach Marc Trestman and being anonymously scorned by offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer — tells him Cutler’s confidence is a priority.

‘‘I think maybe he got to the point where he lacked confidence a year ago,’’ Fox said. ‘‘To build that back up, it’s going to take time daily. It takes trust, like any relationship.’’

It helps that Cutler has a relationship with new offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. But performance still is everything, even in practice.

‘‘I know this: Unless something good happens, it’s hard to have confidence,’’ Fox said. ‘‘So our job is going to be building that confidence up and hopefully make some good things happen.’’

Fox wasn’t surprised that players such as guard Kyle Long and linebacker Christian Jones voiced their support for Cutler. But Fox’s Bears also aren’t hung up on making Cutler something he’s not. If he’s going to be a leader, it won’t be pushed, but allowed to occur naturally.

The Bears will elect five permanent captains, and Fox will name one weekly based on performance.

‘‘The intangibles and the leaders, regardless of position, are critical,’’ Fox said. ‘‘I can’t speak for all teams. . . . But I’d say there’s been successful quarterbacks that maybe weren’t outwardly energetic.’’

That said, there’s plenty ahead for Fox and Cutler. It’s only March.

‘‘Obviously, we’re all judged by how we perform on Sundays,’’ Fox said. ‘‘We’re a production-based business. I haven’t had one of those experiences yet.’’


Twitter: @adamjahns

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