Wouldn’t you think if you grew up in a town called Santa Claus everything in your life would be merry, merry indeed?
Not if your name was Jay Cutler and you were an NFL quarterback.
Don’t get me wrong. There is much of Jay Cutler’s life that brings him the joy of Christmas every day. Like a relatively new family with a loving wife and three young children.
It’s just that his career has been anything but merry and he’s hoping to change all that.
Cutler is from the small town of Santa Claus, Indiana, no kidding, with a population of 2463 give-or-take a few. He recently did an about-face after retiring from the game at the age of 34.
There was an opening on the Number 2 Fox NFL broadcast team when John Lynch gave up the mike to become the General Manager of the San Francisco 49ers.
That left a big hole for Fox for the expert-analyst on the important team right behind the standard-bearers, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.
They wanted a marquee name, someone as current as possible, and if he were a quarterback, so much the better. CBS had brought in Tony Romo, who also announced his retirement this year, to work with their lead group with Jim Nantz, replacing veteran Phil Simms who will now be working the CBS pre-game show.
Cutler was asked to audition for the job, impressed the production leaders and was on his way. He was slated to work with Kevin Burkhardt and a third analyst, Charles Davis, to form a promising trio . Jay Cutler had found a new career in a hurry.
But, as we all know, things happen, and things change.
They changed for Cutler in an unexpected, but not in a totally unsurprising way.
Ryan Tannehill, the Miami Dolphins quarterback who led his team to a sharp turnaround after a disastrous start in 2016, re-injured his ACL when his left knee gave way while running in a non-contact drill. He just went down. His knee buckled and that was that.
He suffered a torn ACL in the 13th game and was done for the year. Matt Moore, one of the better backups in the league, came in and guided the team to a 2-1 finish. Then he was hit hard in a playoff loss to the Steelers who dominated. Still, the Dolphins season was successful, finishing 11-5 and a post-season appearance in the first year for Head Coach Adam Gase. Tannehill was able to return this season avoiding surgery to his knee opting for stem-cell treatment and rehabilitation.
Now, Gase, and the Dolphins had to move fast after the latest injury to Tannehill and for the coach, it was really a no-brainer.
He called Cutler who immediately expressed an interest in ending his lighning-quick retirement and giving the game one more try.
It was really a no-brainer for both, since the two had known each other for years. It was in 2015 that they teamed together when Gase was the offensive coordinator for the Bears and Cutler was the team’s quarterback. Cutler also played for the Broncos but was traded to the Bears the year Gase came to Denver, first as a wide receivers coach, then quarterback coach, then running the Broncos offense.
The great Peyton Manning has said on several occasions that Adam Gase was the best coach he’s ever had on any level.
Gase and Cutler not only know each other, but trust each other to the extent that in the one year they worked together in Chicago Cutler had his best season by far.
So now Jay Cutler and Adam Gase are re-united. I don’t believe Cutler would have come out of retirement for any other team. Now what?
For one thing, the Dolphins receivers are a better group than any receivers Cutler had in Chicago.
He inherits a young team that has already tasted success so there is no re-building program in Miami.
Then there is the elephant in the room.
In his 12-year career, Jay Cutler has proven to be a solid quarterback who has never taken a team close to the promised land.
His teams have fallen short and he has had to battle injuries along the way.
There has been considerable attention given to his body-language on the field, but mostly on the sidelines, that has drawn much disdain by the media and other observers.
He looks like he is sulking when he’s not in the game. Often sitting off on his own, not communicating with teammates, Cutler has given the appearance that he is anything but then leader a quarterback has to be.
The crowning blow came in January of 2010.
After a sparkling playoff debut against the Seattle Seahawks, when he threw two passing touchdowns , rushed for two more and led the Bears to a 35-24 triumph, the NFC Championship Game the next week was Cutler’s career low-point.
He completed only 6-of-14 throws for 80 yards and had an interception before a knee injury put him on the sidelines early in the third quarter in a game the Bears would lose to their long-time rivals, the Packers 21-14.
But Jay Cutler was the target of many who felt the quarterback took the easy way out and removed himself from the game in which he might have gone on.
As it turned out, the Bears head man, Lovie Smith later clarified that he, and not Cutler, took him out.
An MRI the following day revealed that Cutler sprained his MCL, but the damage to his reputation was done. And the TV shots of Cutler, once again appearing to sulk, sitting alone, reinforced that image.
So now, Jay Cutler is a Dolphin, with a chance to be an effective quarterback for a coach he knows and trusts.
In his first appearance last week, only three weeks after joining the team, he started the second pre-season game against the Ravens and played briefly.
The statistics mean nothing to me, especially in pre-season.
Those who dwell on numbers tell me they don’t really know the game.
He was on the field for 12 offensive plays, and immediately showed he can run a team and is in command.
He went no-huddle for seven snaps, played fast, and as Gase said, “He looked like we really weren’t apart for a year”.
He completed 3-of-6 passes but 50 yards of offense were erased by penalties.
He fired a 31-yard beauty to a second-year receiver DeVante Parker who will be a favorite target when it really counts.
That play was wiped away by a penalty. He was even hit hard and sacked once which he felt was a good thing.
He also said he was nervous which showed honesty by a player I feel has been misunderstood.
Not everyone walks around a with a constant smile and a happy-go-lucky demeanor.
I’ve always felt you should accept people way they are. Jay Cutler, may not be a barrel of laughs, but he is a fierce competitor on the field, and a good man off.
Interesting that you’ve never heard any of his teammates put him down.
Now he has another chance to revise his image. The only one he really cares about, I believe, is his performance on the field.
We all know the possibilities.
Success. Failure. Injury, and even none of the above.
But at least Jay Cutler is a quarterback again, the book on him is not complete.
And maybe, just maybe, the man from Santa Clause can have a merry life in every way.
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