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Jay Cutler retires to join FOX broadcasting booth

The veteran quarterback followed Tony Romo’s lead and pursued a career opportunity off the field.

NFL: Chicago Bears at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to announce his retirement after 11 seasons and accept a broadcasting job with FOX, adding an appropriate ending to one of the strangest career arcs we’ve seen in the modern NFL era.

“I don’t know if retirement is the right word; I don’t feel that anyone ever really retires from the NFL,” Cutler said in a statement Friday, via Jeff Darlington of ESPN. “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 in my life.

“Words can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who helped me along my journey. I started playing tackle football at the age of 10 and was so lucky to have supportive parents and great coaches along the way that made my path possible. If I listed each person individually, this would quickly turn into an essay, but you know who you are and I wouldn’t be in this situation without you. So thank you.”

According to Peter Schrager of FOX Sports, the network hired Cutler to join Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis in the booth — filling the vacancy left by John Lynch, who became the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. His first assignment will be a preseason game between the Bears and Tennessee Titans.

Earlier in the offseason, Tony Romo spurned possible free-agency interest to accept a job with CBS. However, Romo had a much more amicable relationship with the media during his time as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, while Cutler became known for his seemingly distant personality that sparked “Jay Cutler Don't Care” and “Smokin' Jay Cutler” memes.

It’s not the type of character that one would typically expect to find a career in broadcasting, but Cutler’s 11 seasons in the NFL were mostly defined by contradictions as well.

The veteran passer never lived up to the hype that caused the Bears to ship two first-round picks and more to Denver back in 2009. The strong-armed quarterback went 34-22 in his first four seasons in Chicago but never posted a QB rating that rose higher than 87 points, painting him as a middling talent despite the Bears’ protestations he was a star. The club went to an NFC Championship Game in 2010 and posted a 10-win season in 2012 but won just one playoff game with Cutler at the helm.

Cutler’s play improved as the years piled on, but the Bears got worse. He showed off improved accuracy and made big plays downfield despite a revolving door of offensive coordinators, but a lack of consistency forced the franchise to the bottom of the NFC North standings. Chicago bottomed out in 2016, winning just three games last fall while swapping Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Barkley in at quarterback.

The Bears released Cutler in the offseason, and he received scant interest on the free-agent market before ultimately deciding to hang up the cleats at age 33.

Cutler wraps up his playing career with 32,467 passing yards, 208 touchdowns, 146 interceptions, and an 85.7 QB rating, completing 61.9 percent of his passes in the process. And now he begins a new career off the field.