PHOENIX — Jay Cutler has neither a starting job nor a team.
Adam Gase can’t figure out why.
“I guess I just don’t get it,” said the Miami Dolphins head coach, who, as the Bears’ offensive coordinator in 2015, helped produce perhaps Cutler’s best season. “I think he has a lot to offer a team. I think he’s a starting quarterback in the NFL.”
There’s a growing sense among some at the annual owners meeting that Cutler, released by the Bears earlier this month, has thrown his last NFL pass. Only a few teams need a clear-cut starter — the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans and, perhaps, the Denver Broncos. Tony Romo figures to land in Houston or Denver. The New York Jets were considered a potential Cutler landing spot, but they signed Josh McCown.
The 49ers already have inked Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, two of three Bears to win games in 2016.
“Two of those guys have signed,” Bears coach John Fox said, “and one of them hasn’t.”
“I’m a little surprised, to be honest,” Fox said.
Cutler is recovering from surgery on his right labrum in December and didn’t pass a physical before he was released. If he wants to play next season, he might be better off, strategically and medically, waiting until after next month’s draft.
If there’s no good fit, Cutler, who turns 34 next month, could consider retirement.
That baffles Gase.
“I guess I just don’t get all the hatred towards him,” Gase said. “I see a guy that worked hard and did everything he could to try to help the team win, sacrificed his body. To me, he was an athletic quarterback that could throw the ball. And when you got to third down, you could call the worst play possible and he was going to get you a conversion. He made a lot of the things we did look really good.”
Gase said the Dolphins have not pursued Cutler. He claims to be content with starter Ryan Tannehill and backup Matt Moore.
Cutler, who hasn’t come off the bench in his 11-year career, would have to be at peace with it first, Gase said. Anything else would be counterproductive.
“I think it’s not as easy as people would think it’d be, when you’ve been a starter your entire career and all of a sudden be like, ‘OK, I’m just going to be a backup,’ ” Gase said. “If that’s a role that in his mind that’s what he wanted to do, he’d probably be good. But if that’s not where his mind’s at, I wouldn’t see him plugging into it.”
Right now, Cutler might be as unplugged as any player on the planet. He’s vacationing in Mexico with his wife, Kristin Cavallari. On Tuesday, she posted an Instagram photo of Cutler, staring at the ocean. His back — and backside — faced the camera. All he was wearing was a watch on each wrist. (Former Bears receiver Brandon Marshall found that detail funny, telling TMZ , “Jay Cutler, I’ve known you since we got drafted in 2006. What the hell are you doing?”)
If Cutler is to continue his NFL career, it won’t be because he needs the money. He has made $112 million, and he has made it clear over the years that he prioritizes his time over additional cash.
“Your free time is your free time,” he said last season when asked why he didn’t endorse products. “You can’t get any more free time. You can’t buy it. You can’t find it on the street.”