Speaking from the NFL owners meetings in Arizona, Fox made it clear that although Cutler is being paid a king’s ransom, he’ll have to beat out backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen and earn the starting job this summer.
“Obviously you’ve got to start somewhere and my experience in football, really in anything, it’s not where you start a competition; it’s where you finish it,” Fox said.
It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which not only does Cutler lose the battle but also rides the bench as one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. That kind of salary cap imbalance severely hampers the Bears’ ability to spend money on other positions of great need and speaks volumes about the colossal mistake that former general manager Phil Emery made in signing Cutler to the 7-year, $126 million deal before last season.
Even though Fox and Clausen spent one season together in Carolina, I wouldn’t expect that short-lived relationship to have much impact on deciding the outcome of the quarterback derby in training camp. In all likelihood, Cutler will beat out Clausen to remain the signal caller, and then it’s up to the ingenuity of offensive coordinator Adam Gase to put him in the best position to make plays and limit mistakes.
Cutler’s time in Chicago could be limited, and it’s not likely that playing even an average season could save his long-term future with the team. When all is said and done, Fox’s comments about a quarterback competition could be a last-ditch effort to light a fire under Cutler’s backside to make the best of a bad contract situation until the organization can unload it.