As I watched the Bears ground into a fine dust by the New Orleans Saints last night, I felt that long-standing sick sensation that has been around all season in watching Jay Cutler — our $127 million franchise quarterback — continue to blow little things like foot work, telegraphing throws, and waiting too long in the pocket. It then occurred to me. I was not watching another crushing defeat but a towering victory. As an attorney, I was watching the ultimate triumph of a fellow lawyer: Cutler’s agent Bus Cook who sold the Bears on $54 million guaranteed contract for a quarterback who has literally never had a true winning season from Vanderbilt to Denver to Chicago (he was as some have noted good for a 10-5 season that fell short of the playoffs). I was watching the work of a genius and I felt a tad better. For the rest of the season, I intend to cheer for Bus — the Monster of the Midwest.
Now it is not just Cutler but the whole team that seems frozen in mediocrity. However, it is Cutler who is being paid unrivaled compensation for uncompetitive play. The disconnect between the contract and Cutler’s actual performance was so glaring that ESPN held an unbelievable gathering on the field after the game where four commentators express disbelief that the Bears not only signed Cutler as their franchise QB but gave him such an unbelievable contract. The four detailed how Cutler has been told for years to correct basic and “easy” problems but has failed to do so . . . even after being paid a fortune to work a bit harder. They even joined fans in complaining about how Cutler conveys virtual disinterest in games as they fall apart — showing little passion or connection for the team. That last criticism may be unfair. I do not know Cutler. He may just be a guy with little outward passion or warmth but still privately believes deeply in the team and his fellow players. I have not heard many players complaining about Cutler as a person. Moreover, there is more than enough blame to go around on the team and coaching staff this year. Yet, the normally diplomatic ESPN commentators throughout the game were describing Cutler’s play as “embarrassing” and “unacceptable.” They did not even try to hide their contempt which was only punctuated by their fascination in watching a three-hour, slow-motion car crash. It was not just that the Bears are viewed as losers but, worst yet for any self-respecting Chicagoan, we look like chumps.
It is clear that the owners of the Bears, the McCaskeys, are unlikely to eat the money that Phil Emery invested in Cutler. He will be back despite calls of fans for a clean start. (Indeed, I know many fans who were praying for another 50 point loss to convince the McCaskeys to take the hit and find a new QB and coaching staff). Perhaps the “good” Cutler will be back after his long hiatus. Of course, at $127 million fans exported to see a consistently good QB. It is not clear how much that would cost if $127 million is not enough. After the show, the commentators went on for about 30 minutes on just how bad the deal is for the Bears. What they did not mention is that, if Cutler is average, his lawyer is anything but average. You want to see a golden arm, check out Bus Cook.
Cook attended American University on a basketball scholarship in Washington, D.C. and graduated from law school in 1974 from the University of Mississippi. He worked as an attorney for Fairchild Construction Company in Hattiesburg until he could raise enough to go on his own to break into sport agency. He eventually landed Brett Favre. He later added Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss, Marcedes Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Jerious Norwood, Tony Scheffler, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Michael Turner and Steve McNair. And, of course, Jay Cutler.
Just as the Sisteen Chapel will always be Michelangelo’s greatest work, the Cutler contract will always be Cook’s masterpiece. After all, Cutler has been criticized his entire career for inconsistent work and less than a winning personality. He was coming off a solid but not earth-shaking year and there was a popular alternative in Josh McCown, who fans genuinely liked. Despite Cutler’s underachieving record, Cook made him the highest paid QB this year. More than Peyton Manning. More than Aaron Rodgers. Jay Cutler. That, my friends, is true genius.
Keep in mind that it is not just the $127 million. The Bears crafted the team and coaching staff around Cutler. They brought in players that complemented his needs and Marc Trestman, an offensive-oriented coach, that met with his approval. It literally built the team around Jay Cutler. The problem is that they could not build the opposing teams around his needs and quirks.
None of that mattered. Not because of Cutler’s but Cook’s unique skill set.
If you want to see the ability to stay in a closing pocket and throw a ball 50 yards to the end zone, look at this contract. Cook got Cutler an average for the first three years of $18 million, with $54 million guaranteed. That started with $17.5 million as soon as he signed. It increases to $38 million on March 14, 2014 and then goes to $48 million in March 2015, and then reaches $54 million in March 2016. That translates to a base salary of $22.5 million for 2014 and $15.5 million for 2015 and then $16 million for 2016. Only in 2017 does it go down to $12.5 million in 2017 but goes up to $13.5 million in 2018, $17.5 million in 2019, and $19.2 million in 2020. On top of that, he will earn $156,250 for each game he appears on the active roster, for a maximum additional earnings of $2.5 million per year and $10 million over four years. I particularly like that last item. You are paid roughly $20 million a year as a quarterback but you can still demand an incentive to play of roughly $160,000 a game. (I intend to try that with my next employment contract: “I would like XXX in annual salary, plus $10,000 for every class that I actually show up and teach.”)Thus, if he plays through 2020, he will bank $126.7 million.
If fans feel like they were taken, they are wrong, They got a Bus.
That is why Cook is a Super Bowl Champion of a lawyer. So I intend to focus on the positive. Yes, we have a $127 million quarterback who barely makes the average this year in terms of stats (except for being number one in interceptions and fumbles) but he has one amazing lawyer.
So Bear Down, Bus Cook, Bear Down!