Jay Cutler was a first-round draft pick, played 11 NFL seasons, and had one of the strongest arms in the league. And yet, Cutler was very much an enigma to fans and analysts alike.
What was Cutler actually like behind the scenes?
“He was just different,” former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He wasn’t very talkative, is that the word? He was one of the guys. There was a couple years there where we played dodgeball on Saturday mornings. We had a good time in the locker room, but it just didn’t ever seem authentic, I guess. I’m not sure the way to put it. But he was a good teammate. Never had any issues with him. The media always made him worse than he was, I believe, because of the way they got him on the sideline making those faces. But off the field, he was okay.”
Some critics, however, have labeled Cutler the dreaded t-word: toxic.
Urlacher insist that wasn’t the case.
“He didn’t have a choice when we were there,” Urlacher said. “That locker room was so solid. Olin Kreutz, Lance (Briggs), Charles (Tillman) – we had a good locker room. You could bring anyone in there, and it wouldn’t have mattered. They would fit in. Olin would make sure of that.”
The Bears released Cutler in March. Two months later, he became a broadcaster for FOX Sports.
“That shocked me,” Urlacher said. “That really shocked me. He doesn’t say much, but you don’t give a lot to the media when you play, and I think that’s on purpose. Most coaches like that. But he’s a smart guy. I’ll definitely give him that. Vanderbilt guy, smart, speaks well. It’ll be interesting. They’ll give him a good guy to be next to, and he’ll probably do a good job.”
The Bears, meanwhile, hope to do something they haven’t done since 2010: make the playoffs. Indeed, the Bears are trying to rediscover the magic they had with Urlacher, who had 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, and 15 fumble recoveries in 13 NFL seasons – all with Chicago.
“I don’t know any of the players (on the team),” Urlacher said. “It’s weird to watch a game and personally not know any of those guys. This is my fifth year out, and I know no one on the team. There’s no one there that was there my last year. It’s really weird. Even the kickers are gone.”
Urlacher retired in 2012, the same year that Lovie Smith was fired – despite a 10-6 record.
“I like to say it’s the Lovie Curse – because since he left, (the Bears have struggled),” Urlacher said. “He got fired being 10-6. I think they fire him either way. Even if we go to the playoffs, I think they fire him. I don’t think the GM liked the way he coached the football team. The guy’s a winner. I love playing for him. I don’t know what the identity of that team is. They sign (Mike) Glennon, then they draft a kid No. 2 – I don’t know what (they’re doing). It’s confusing.”
That “kid,” of course, is Mitchell Trubisky, who started just one season at North Carolina.
“I hope this kid is unbelievable,” Urlacher said. “I hope Mitch Trubisky is the best quarterback of all time. He looks like a stud. He’s 6-2, 6-3, put together, good-looking kid, he seems really nice – I hope they do really well. Their defense is going to be good this year. They were good last year and they had so many young guys play that it’s only going to help them this year.”
Still, it’ll be interesting to see how Glennon and Trubisky co-exist – or if they co-exist.
“(Glennon) was not very happy (when they drafted Trubisky),” Urlacher said. “But the good thing is (he has) that $45 million that they paid him for three years, so they’re not going to get rid of him right away.”