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The strange allure of watching Jay Cutler not care


We might not have Jay Cutler to kick around much longer.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the soon-to-be ex-Bears quarterback is contemplating retirement at age 33. While this struck the football cognoscenti as a transparent attempt to torpedo what's left of his trade value and send him into free agency, it also serves as a reminder that Cutler is closer to the end of his NFL career than the beginning.

I've always strangely admired Cutler's brand of Don't-Give-A ... let's just call it DGAF. He never seemed particularly interested in what you or I think of him. Many past teammates will attest that Cutler cares little about how those in his own locker room perceive him, either. Cutler has gone through 11 NFL seasons living in his own fortress of Cutlertude: A man so seemingly disconnected from his interpersonal shortcomings that photoshops of Cutler carelessly dangling a cigarette from his mouth -- a perfect visual metaphor -- could become an enduring internet meme. Smokin' Jay don't care.

Cutler's DGAF vibe has also been connected to his desire to play football. Many Bears fans never forgave Cutler for coming out of the 2010 NFC Championship Game with a mystery knee injury that was later diagnosed as an MCL sprain. The prevailing sentiment -- Cutler had tapped out in the midst of a miserable performance at frozen Soldier Field -- stuck with him. Cutler and the Bears never returned to the playoffs in the six seasons that followed, costing the quarterback any chance to alter that ugly January legacy.

That game damaged Cutler's reputation plenty, but not his wallet or the Bears' faith. Three years later, he signed a seven-year, $126 million extension that included $54 million guaranteed. On the day the deal was announced, then-Bears general manager Phil Emery described Cutler as a "demonstrated winner" who proved he could "be the reason you win."

The fact that you completely forgot Emery used to run Chicago's football operation says plenty about how that deal worked out. Cutler led the league in interceptions in the first year of that deal, and the Bears went 5-11, 6-10 and 3-13 over three seasons before informing Cutler this January they were going in a different direction under center.

Where does that leave Cutler in 2017? Let's work under the assumption that he is not ready to become a full-time Mr. Mom. (This is definitely, *definitely* not happening.) Cutler has struggled with durability -- his only 16-game season with the Bears came way back in 2009 -- and he's recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. His cannon arm has always been his biggest attribute. If he doesn't have that, it's hard to imagine a varied market for his services.

But again, let's say his shoulder is OK by training camp and he is not retiring to help Kristin Cavallari build an upper-crust lifestyle empire. Would you want Jay Cutler on your team? As a Jets fan, I have some skin in the game here. The Jets are in the midst of one of their bi-annual quarterback crises, and Cutler is a sensible option for a New York team whose best starting options for 2017 include (in no particular order) Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg and a mop used to clean up food and beverage spills in the team commissary.

Cutler in Gotham is a match made in tabloid heaven (a New York Daily News headline writer just passed out at the thought of such a scenario). THE CUTLER DID IT! after a stunning Week 2 overtime conquest of the Patriots. PASS THE JAY when a furious columnist calls for Hackenberg to replace Cutler in Week 6. CUT-LER after the team releases the QB on the eve of a new league year in 2018.

The chance Cutler works out in New York is slim, and yet, at a time when there isn't a ton to be excited about as a Jets fan, Cutler still has enough juice to make the thought appealing. (That sound you hear is Bears fans chuckling at my ignorance.) And for the army of Cutler haters out there who don't think he will have many options on the open market, just know that Josh McCown, a man who extended his career for half a decade thanks to six weeks as a Cutler injury replacement, said this week that "four or five" teams have contacted him. That's right. Josh McCown has so many teams interested in his services that he's lost count.

Cutler will resurface somewhere. He will probably be a Week 1 starter. And that team will have a veteran quarterback in fair condition with a solid skill set and enough baggage to fill the entire overhead compartment of the team charter. If this doesn't appeal to you, look elsewhere -- perhaps you can be lucky enough to still get in on The Josh McCown Sweepstakes.

But count me in the group that still finds Cutler to be a perversely compelling option. He's like a bad TV show that I can't bring myself to remove from the DVR. I would not mind hate-watching Jay Cutler in 2017. It's better than whatever else is on.

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