John Fox: Not up against a deadline

ByMichael C. Wright ESPN logo
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace received multiple opportunities Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine to give quarterback Jay Cutlervotes of confidence but declined, leaving their sessions with the media taking noncommittal stances on the signal-caller.

Fox said he met recently with Cutler but has not decided about the quarterback's future.

"We're not up against a deadline," Fox said. "My experience has always been that you need to gather the information, and in turn, you usually make better decisions. We're in that process, and we'll keep you posted."

One component of the evaluation process is simply getting to know Cutler, Fox said.

"Well, I think just getting to know him [is important]," Fox said. "You know, everybody's got perceptions. But I think that getting to know the guy, this is a relationship business, and that takes time. So I don't want to stand up here and give you a final evaluation when I'm maybe a quarter through the test."

Pace echoed Fox's comments, saying the team plans to "maximize" the time it has to make a quarterback decision and be thorough.

"Cutler has outstanding physical talent, there's no denying that. It's just getting to know the individual and all of the other intangibles that make a great quarterback," Pace said. "Again, that's what we're doing now. That really takes getting to know the person, right? So that's the process we're going through. Me and John have both been around all different kinds of quarterbacks, it's just figuring out him as a person."

When it comes to a young quarterback versus a veteran, Pace said he has no preference and just wants the best guy because of how critical the position is. The Cutler evaluation will go further than a two-, three- or four-year window, Pace said.

"There's certain things that were happening last year that might have been tough for him, and so we're going to analyze that and go further," Pace said. "The quarterback position is the hardest position to evaluate, so I think the more games we can look at, the more evidence, the more accurate we can be with our decisions."

Cutler set Chicago's season-single record in completions (370) during the team's 5-11 2014 campaign and posted career highs in completion percentage (66) and passing touchdowns (28). But Cutler tied Philip Rivers for most interceptions in the NFL with 18.

Cutler also lost six fumbles to lead the league in turnovers and was benched for a Dec. 21 loss to the Detroit Lions in favor of backup Jimmy Clausen, who had played for Fox in Carolina.

The Bears met with recently released quarterback Josh McCown at the combine Wednesday to discuss a possible reunion.McCown played for Fox in Carolina (2008-09), and spent three seasons with the Bears (2011-13), before signing a two-year deal to join former Bears coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers released McCown on Feb. 11.

Cutler's $15.5 million base salary for 2015 is guaranteed, and $10 million of the quarterback's 2016 salary is guaranteed if he's still on the roster on the third day of the new league year (March 12).

"Some of it's obvious with deadlines," Fox said. "They don't start until March. We're going to take the full amount of time to gather information, visit and build a relationship, and hopefully make the best decision for our organization. I don't think there's any question that there's ability and talent there. But there's a lot more that goes into it, and we're evaluating as we speak."

Cutler owns a regular-season record of 61-58.

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