Jay Cutler decision highlights risk of bringing NFL stars to TV booth

got intercepted. Imagine that.

Three months after being drafted by and three weeks before what was to be his broadcast debut, Cutler got picked off by the .

"We loved our time working with Jay and wish him the best back on the field this year with the Dolphins," a Fox Sports spokesman said, avoiding the question of whether the former quarterback and erstwhile TV analyst had burned a bridge or merely availed himself of it to return to his not-so-old profession.

Fox had protected itself in the event of Cutler’s cold feet or failure as a broadcaster following his abrupt "retirement" and announced career change this spring. It now is left with a two-man booth — Jeff Burkhardt and analyst Charles Davis remain on Fox’s No. 2 broadcast team — instead of the planned three. If it wishes to add another analyst in Cutler’s place, Fox can, but it doesn’t need to do so.

It would be understandable were casting a wary eye toward former Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, whom it plucked just as suddenly from the active NFL ranks and installed as analyst on its top pro football broadcast crew.

But CBS has its own insurance policy. Should Romo prove irredeemably bad, get ill, opt to return to football, dive headlong into golf, run for public office or chase some other dream, real or imagined — none of which seems imminent at this time — Phil Simms is still around.

Simms, the longtime commentator and ex-quarterback Romo displaced, remains in the CBS fold as part of the network’s "NFL Today." Get Simms a plane ticket and he can be sitting next to lead play-by-play man Jim Nantz in short order, assisted by fancy video graphics in explaining that poor blocking allowed the defense to apply pressure.

The Cutler situation highlights a risk of bringing NFL players straight from the field to the booth.

While the newly retired player enjoys name recognition and presumably has insight into the players and teams just left behind, he is also an untested commodity who may not yet have come to terms with no longer playing a game that’s been a constant in his life since childhood.

Cutler’s official network-issued statement upon joining Fox in May, eight weeks after the Bears cut him loose, suggested that he wasn’t entirely sure his career was over after 11 years, eight in Chicago, just because no team wanted him as its quarterback.

"I don’t know if retirement is the right word," Cutler said in the statement. "I don’t feel that anyone ever really retires from the NFL. You are either forced to leave or you lose the desire to do what’s required to keep going. I’m in between those situations at this point in my life."

If that didn’t raise concerns at Fox Sports about the man in which the network was placing a considerable bet this season, then his remarks later that day to WMVP-AM 1000’s Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman almost certainly didn’t either.

Whether it was Cutler’s initial level of enthusiasm about going into television — "When I first heard it, I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell I’m doing this; this is literally the last thing I want to do’ " — or his prediction about how he would feel right about now, it was all out there in the open.

"There’s zero doubt in my mind that there’s going to be some regret," Cutler said on ESPN 1000. "That’s going to happen. I feel like last week, even when this decision was solid in my mind, I woke up like, ‘Is this really what I want to do?’ So there’s going to be some of that.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that come the middle of August, September, there’s going to be that itch to play, and there’s going to be part of me where I know I still can do it."

Even off the field, even without fancy video graphics to help show where things went awry, it’s clear in retrospect that Cutler wasn’t all that hard to read.


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