Bears still evaluating Cutler, Marshall

Bears head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace were noncommittal on the futures of quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

For the Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall were arguably the two most-disappointing players on the team last season.

Cutler – fresh off signing a seven-year, $126.7 million contract – led the league in turnovers and was benched in Week 16, while Marshall posted career lows in nearly every statistical category.

The poor season ushered in a new regime led by GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox, neither of whom have any ties to Cutler and Marshall.

When asked today at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine about Cutler and Marshall, both Fox and Pace declined to commit to either player.

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“We’re still evaluating,” Pace said. “We have gotten to meet with him. We've met with several of our players individually, with him being one. So far it's been good. We're going to take our time on this. We really have until mid-March [to decide]. We're going to maximize that time and make thorough decisions through this while process."

Cutler is as talented as they come yet his inconsistencies both on and off the field have never allowed him to reach his full potential. As a result, Pace was not ready to name Cutler the Bears' starting quarterback.

"We're still evaluating all that," said Pace. "I don't want to rush into any decisions. I want to max out the time that we have and just be thorough with every one of these.

"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. 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."

At this juncture, it appears Cutler’s character could be the determining factor in deciding his future in Chicago.

“Everybody’s got perceptions,” said Fox. “But I think that getting to know the guy, this is a relationship business and that takes time.”

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Cutler has often been criticized for his lack of leadership, a character trait in which Fox strongly believes.

“It’s part of the game,” Fox said. “As you’re evaluating and trying to acquire the best human talent you can find and then motivating them on a daily basis to be the best they can be. Sometimes [leadership] is the edge that you have with a league built for parity. So leadership is real important.”

Concerns about leadership and character exist with Marshall as well, who repeatedly stuck his foot in his mouth last season.

“We met with him and that’s going to be a slow process,” said Pace. "Sometimes these reputations outside the building, you get inside and it's not what you expected and I think we need to make our own decisions and our own judgements and that's the process we're going through right now."

As for Marshall's in-season role as a Tuesday night co-host on Showtime's "Inside the NFL", Pace said that's likely to end.

"Football needs to be the No.1 priority. We’re going to win a lot of games if we keep football our No. 1 priority.”

Despite their immense talent, Cutler and Marshall have combined for just one career playoff win. Think about that, 18 combined seasons, 12 as teammates, and just one playoff win between them.

So why would any competent GM or head coach blindly commit to a pair of career underachievers who own two of the three largest contracts on the team? It only makes sense to thoroughly vet Marshall and Cutler before making such franchise-altering decisions.

Being noncommittal toward two of the most polarizing players in the sport, both of whom cost a pretty penny, is smart business.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.

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