I'll begin by saying that I am a firm supporter of Ryan Tannehill and I wish him a speedy and full recovery. That said, I have been crunching the numbers on Jay Cutler and I am very impressed by what I see. A few trends have emerged: Cutler has produced a high number of fourth quarter scoring drives. More importantly, Cutler has improved teams after his arrival. However, Cutler has also been subject to a great deal of cynicism and mistrust from fan bases and coaching staffs. I am hoping that Miami will offer this talented player a warmer welcome. Here are a few reasons to believe.
In his first full season as a starting quarterback in Denver, Cutler led fourth quarter comebacks against the Bills and Raiders in his first two games. In the Raiders game he also engineered an overtime drive to win. In that same season, he led two additional drives to tie or win in the fourth quarter and overtime- and this was a first year starter. In his second season Cutler led an additional 4 game winning drives. Let's recap: 8 comebacks out of a rookie starter? No wonder the season ended with comparisons to Manning and Brady.
Despite this early success, Cutler met with a strange lack of popularity. Despite only missing the playoffs on a season-ending game in which his defense surrendered 52 points, Cutler found himself suddenly on the outs. Mike Shannahan was fired so the Broncos could make room for New England wunderkind Josh McDaniels. McDaniels insinuated that Cutler was expendable.
This may have temporarily endeared McDaniels to his new fan base. Shannahan had inserted Cutler into Denver's lineup over the wildly popular Jake Plummer. The team was 7-4 when Shannahan, induced by Cutler's talent, switched horses. The rookie closed 2-3, and the Broncos missed the playoffs. Cutler was an easy whipping boy, despite glamorous statistics and a solid record as as starter.
When Cutler got wind that McDaniels was shopping him, he sold his house and asked for a trade. Here I see the first of several career-long traits emerge. Cutler wants to be valued. And he is willing to go where he is wanted. He is also fiercely proud and competitive.
The aftermath for the Bears and Broncos in the next two seasons reveals Cutler's value. McDaniels went on to an 11-17 record without Cutler and was fired in 18 months. Cutler, meanwhile, went 19-13 in the next two seasons and had the Bears winning the NFC north. The Bears had been 15-17 in the two seasons prior to Cutler's arrival. The Broncos had been 18-14 prior to his departure.
In Chicago, Cutler was often a punching bag, both for other teams' defensive lines and for the media. Cutler replaced a very popular Kyle Orton (who had saved the franchise from Rex Grossman) and Cutler had the misfortune of rolling into a working man's town as a heralded blue blood. Although he was successful (twice winning a tough division in his first three years) the fan base never truly warmed.
But Cutler remained ferociously competitive, once pushing an inept lineman in his huddle and lighting up Mike Martz for terrible protection schemes (he took 52 sacks that season) all while pushing a limited Bears roster to a division title. However, the hits came at a price and Cutler was often injured. Which leads to a closing thought.
Cutler was injured in 2011 with the Bears sitting at 6-3. His backups went 1-6. In 2012, he sat for a concussion after leading the Bears to 7-1. They lost the next two games. Cutler returned and went 3-3, and the Bears missed the playoffs at 10-6. Think about the WAR there: Cutler was 17-7, his replacements were 1-8. If this were baseball, a smart front office would have made him their franchise player.
In sum, Jay Cutler should never have been available for the Dolphins to sign. A perfect storm of under-appreciation and talent has ensued, which has given the Dolphins the unique opportunity to fall upwards. Hey O line: protect this guy; he'll win.
Home » Unlabelled » Jay Cutler: A Talented, Clutch Player, Oddly Undervalued.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Posted by Jay Lopez