Maybe it was just a fist bump. Maybe it didn’t mean anything. But maybe it was a sign that, for the first time in his Bears career, Jay Cutler will have a head coach who can pick him — and the rest of the team — up when things aren’t going well. Maybe it was a sign that the Bears have a coach who understands the ups and downs that happen on game day and knows how to react to them. Maybe it was evidence that Cutler finally has a coach who can bring the best out of him.
The scene, as described by Adam Jahns, wasn’t noticed by many others, but it was something different from what we’ve seen from previous regimes. There’s little evidence that Lovie Smith didn’t hate offensive players and Marc Trestman wasn’t capable of relating to players. John Fox has a charm to him; a charm that he uses to get the most out of players. That charm could be as important as anything to help an often-moody quarterback stay level, preventing the disastrous games we have seen over the last six years.
If Fox was just a good guy and Cutler just happened to like him, it wouldn’t matter. Cutler has liked other coaches, but his friendship with Jeremy Bates didn’t help him. He liked Trestman and Kromer, but we saw where that ended up. Fox combines those likeable qualities with a winning percentage over 57 percent and around 72 percent over the last four years. He’s good at his job and players have to respect that.
Like any job, NFL players have to have fun doing at work and they have to respect their superiors. Having fun is an important part of the job, at least according to Mike Holmgren, who — like Fox — managed to get to two Super Bowls with two very different quarterbacks.
“He looks like he’s not having nearly enough fun out there,” Holmgren said of Cutler. “I think everybody is watching the quarterback. His teammates are watching him. The fans are watching him. Even though you say, ‘Well, what’s that have to do with anything?’ Well, I think it does. That’s what I would talk to him about.”
Cutler didn’t respect Mike Tice. He didn’t have fun with Mike Martz. He didn’t seem to have any relationship with Lovie Smith. He liked and respected Trestman and Kromer and the result was one of the best seasons of his career in 2013. What happened in 2014 is a lengthy discussion.
In Fox, Cutler has a coach who will keep him from losing his composure and one he can trust to do his job well. It’s a combination he hasn’t had since coming to the Bears.
Cutler is far from perfect, but he’s a competitor who does whatever it takes to win. Attributes that are likely going to remind Fox of Jake Delhomme. And if Fox took truth serum, he’d say Delhomme was his favorite quarterback to coach.
The marriage could be perfect. Both the coach and the quarterback could get exactly what they need to be successful. Maybe we’ve seen signs of that bond forming. Or, maybe, it was just a fist bump.