When the Chicago Bears met with Jay Cutler early this month, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that they left the room convinced they had to pick up the quarterback’s $10 million option for 2016.
Coach John Fox’s commitment falls short of that often provided for franchise quarterbacks of Cutler’s contract level, however.
“Obviously you’ve got to start somewhere,” Fox said, via CSN Chicago, “and my experience in football, really in anything, it’s not where you start a competition; it’s where you finish it.”
Cutler was benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen late last season, in part because he didn’t fully embrace the coaching staff’s philosophy and struggled to make the correct pre- and post-snap adjustments.
Fox believes Cutler’s confidence might have been shot as well.
“I think maybe he got to the point where he lacked confidence a year ago,” Fox added Wednesday. “To build that back up, it’s going to take time, daily. It takes trust, like any relationship.”
Cutler has an obvious advantage due to the $25.5 million in guaranteed money he’s collecting over the next two years.
Contract discrepancies aside, there are mitigating factors in this competition.
The new Bears regime has nothing beyond money invested in Cutler. Next month’s draft could bring an early-round quarterback hand-picked by Fox and new general manager Ryan Pace.
If Fox is to be taken at his word, Cutler won’t be under center in Week 1 if he’s outplayed by Clausen and/or a rookie quarterback in August.