DAVIE, Fla. — New Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler won’t play in the team’s exhibition opener Thursday, but look for him to be starting soon enough.
“He didn’t come out of retirement to stand on the sideline,” coach Adam Gase said.
Cutler missed Monday’s practice because it took place as he landed in South Florida to sign a $10 million, one-year contract. The 34-year-old Cutler decided to delay the start of his network TV career for the chance to replace Ryan Tannehill and be reunited with Gase, his former offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears.
“A situation like this doesn’t come along very often,” said Cutler, wearing a polo shirt bearing the Dolphins logo. “I know Adam very well; I know the system. And you’re talking about a playoff team with a lot of really, really good players and a lot of potential.”
Cutler is expected to leapfrog longtime Dolphins backup Matt Moore for the starting job while Tannehill remains out with a left knee injury that likely will sideline him for the entire season.
Gase reached out to Cutler shortly after Tannehill was hurt Thursday and said the former Bear needed no persuading to launch a comeback. But Cutler likened the conversations with Gase to college recruiting, saying the decision to return was difficult.
He parted with the Bears in March after eight seasons, and was then hired by Fox as an analyst to work in its No. 2 NFL broadcast booth.
“The last four months I’ve been in a different mindset, getting ready for the Fox deal,” Cutler said. “I was pretty good with where I was in my life; I was around the kids a lot and felt pretty content. So I went back and forth on this. My wife talked me into it more than anybody else. … I think she got tired of me being around the house.”
In 2015, Cutler had a career-best quarterback rating while with Gase, who then joined the Dolphins. What will Cutler’s learning curve be with the offensive scheme?
“I’m pretty sure he’s already got it,” Gase said. “He’s good.”
Ramping up Cutler’s arm strength may take longer, Gase said.
“I’m sure he wasn’t in the backyard throwing a hundred balls a day,” the coach said.
Cutler said his two sons and pickup basketball games at his alma mater, Vanderbilt, helped him stay in shape. He missed time last year with a sprained right thumb and a labrum injury that required season-ending right shoulder surgery in December, but said he’s healthy now and confident his arm will be fine.
“It’ll come back pretty quickly,” Cutler said. “I’m not worried about the throwing part. Getting used to the guys and the more detailed stuff, that’s what we’re going to have to hit the fast-forward button on.”
The acquisition of Cutler has potential to divide a locker room where Moore enjoys strong support, especially after he helped Miami clinch a playoff berth while Tannehill was sidelined last December.
But Gase is popular with his players and said he explained to them why he wanted Cutler.
“I was very upfront with everything,” Gase said. “We felt this gave us an opportunity to have two really good quarterbacks on our team. We wanted to make sure if something happened, we weren’t going to have a falloff. I think our guys understand that.”
That includes Moore. He said he still considers himself a contender for the starting job after a drama-free conversation with Gase about the need to sign Cutler.
“It was very simple and straightforward,” he said. “It wasn’t very Hollywood. And I get it.”
Receiver Kenny Stills said that while Moore is “our guy,” there’s no quarterback controversy among the players.
“We’re confident in the people upstairs to do the right thing for this team,” Stills said.
Still to be determined is how quickly Cutler can shake off the rust and lingering doubts about his attitude, toughness and decision-making, all of which were often questioned in Chicago.
He went 51-51 as a Bears starter. Among his teammates was guard Jermon Bushrod, now with Miami.
“I know the guy,” Bushrod said. “I’ve seen how he is in the huddle. I’ve seen how he is in the locker room. The message portrayed by some of the major broadcasting networks isn’t what we see or feel.
“People are going to have things to say. But if you win games, nobody says anything.”
Cutler’s chance to revise his reputation came after Tannehill’s left knee buckled a week into training camp. He decided against surgery after missing the final four games of last season with two sprained ligaments in his knee, but the latest injury likely will require an operation.
Tannehill stood near midfield Monday watching practice, wearing a brace on his left knee and conversing with the coaching staff and quarterbacks.
“We were talking about the stages you go through,” Gase said. “We were both saying we keep going out of order — from denial to anger to depressed, and back to denial. It’s tough.”
There’s already speculation about Tannehill and Cutler beyond this season, but the Dolphins’ new quarterback isn’t worried about 2018. He’s worried about Tuesday.
“I just want to get to the next meeting and figure out where the dining room is,” Cutler said. “Then we’ll start running the offense and learning some guys’ names.”