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John Fox: Keeping Jay Cutler comfortable was key

The Chicago Bears buffered Jay Cutler last season, installing an offense that got the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly in order to mitigate some of the bonehead decisions that have plagued his career.

The Bears are saddled with Cutler for at least another season, but the tune surrounding the quarterback has changed after the team's brass didn't seem to want him last offseason. Now coach John Fox is embracing the enigmatic signal-caller.

"I thought Jay had an outstanding year," Fox told The MMQB's Emily Kaplan.

The coach then offered an excuse for some of the remaining struggles, including the team's 6-10 record.

"It wasn't ideal. Alshon (Jeffery) wasn't healthy the whole season," Fox said. "Kevin White did not play. I'm not knocking any of the guys that did play, but a lot is always made of the quarterback, and his supporting cast is critical. I don't care what it is-defense, offense, wideouts, ability to run the ball ... there's a lot that goes into it besides one guy, although that guy gets a lot of the magnified glass. So if you saw what Jay did last year, I'm expecting good things again."

Cutler put up a career-best passer rating (92.3), threw 21 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions and completed 64.4 percent of his passes in 15 starts. He still throws far too many YOLO balls that Jeffery must bail him out on and we don't know yet how well he'll succeed in Chicago sans Matt Forte.

2016 marks the final year of guaranteed money on Cutler's contract, meaning the Bears can move on as soon as next season if they find a reliable replacement -- surprisingly, general manager Ryan Pace has done little to find a QB of the future.

With Adam Gase taking the head coaching position in Miami -- based in part on his management of Cutler last year -- the team promoted Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator. It's Cutler's sixth OC in eight seasons.

"It was critical to keep Jay comfortable," Fox said. "Everything comes through the quarterback, so keeping Jay in the same system is best for us."

The Bears are an intriguing team this season. If Jeffery and White remain healthy, they have one of the best top-end receiving rotations. The defensive front seven has been rebuilt quickly, in a big way. Considering Chicago as a sneaky wild-card team isn't outlandish. For that to occur, however, Cutler must not regress.

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