Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler says he has accepted a role as a color commentator for FOX Sports, but he is not saying he’s completely done on the field.
“I don’t know if retirement is the right word; I don’t feel that anyone ever really retires from the NFL,” Cutler said in a prepared statement on Friday. “You are either forced to leave, or you lose the desire to do what’s required to keep going. I’m in between those situations at this point in my life.”
Cutler, 34, will join play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and analyst Charles Davis in the broadcast booth of FOX’s No. 2 team. He fills the seat vacated by John Lynch who left to become the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Jay to the FOX Sports family,” president of production John Entz said in a statement. “We’re very excited about the potential he brings to the booth and are looking forward to hearing his analysis during what is sure to be another great season of the NFL on FOX.”
It is unknown if Cutler has a clause in his TV deal that would allow him to leave for a quarterback job, though Fox does have a history of putting such clauses in contracts. Brady Quinn, for instance, briefly left his role at FOX in 2014 to attend Dolphins training camp — something his contract allowed him to do — before later returning to the network with the same clause in his new deal.
Cutler will start in a three-man booth to allow him to get adjusted in the same way that Troy Aikman did when he entered broadcasting in 2002. A three-man booth, in theory, would also allow a more realistic chance for a return to the field since it wouldn’t put FOX into such a bind if Cutler left.
Cutler, whom the Bears released on March 9 after an 11-year NFL run, had conversations with the New York Jets and Houston Texans before the draft, but none of those talks led to a contract offer.
Two NFL general managers of QB-needy teams say they did not anticipate Cutler getting a role that would allow him to compete for a starting job, noting his best chance would be to wait for a potential injury during training camp or the season.
“Words can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who helped me along my journey,” Cutler said in his statement. “I started playing tackle football at the age of 10 and was so lucky to have supportive parents and great coaches along the way that made my path possible. If I listed each person individually, this would quickly turn into an essay, but you know who you are and I wouldn’t be in this situation without you. So thank you.
“To my parents, my sisters, my wife and kids — thank you for putting your wants and needs on the back burner while I played a game every Friday, Saturday or Sunday. You made it all possible.
“I recently read a quote that struck a cord with me at the time. It was attributed to Henry Rollins. ‘I did that, I gave everything I had to give to that. Now, if I returned to that it would be repetition — it might be fun repetition, but it wouldn’t be meaningful repetition.’ Thank you to everyone along the way. You made my dream come true.”
Cutler will be the second high-profile quarterback to leave the playing field for the broadcast booth this offseason. Former Cowboys star Tony Romo joined CBS last month.