Jay Cutler: A retrospective on the NFL’s surliest man

Ned Balme Roar Pro

By Ned Balme, Ned Balme is a Roar Pro

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    Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Thus ends the Jay Cutler era.

    The much-maligned gunslinger called it a career this week, announcing his intention to join Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis as part of the FOX commentary team.

    While he hasn’t officially filed the papers yet, his demeanour towards playing, combined with the scant interest from any quarterback-needy team seems to point clearly in the direction of an NFL exit.

    Cutler’s realisation that his true calling now resides in a commentary booth and not on the gridiron has been met with a mix of scepticism and indifference.

    Responses of “he’s just playing his cards” and “I thought he was already retired” were echoed around the footballing community.

    I believe Jay Cutler should still be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

    He’s an upgrade over Cody Kessler, Brian Hoyer, Deshaun Watson and whatever Frankenstein’s monster of a second-round project quarterback the New York Jets decided to put on the field.

    But as has been the way throughout his career, Cutler became a victim of his own detached disposition; it simply took until he was 34 and coming off a season-ending shoulder injury for it to catch up with him.

    Assuming he doesn’t dip his toe back in the water following a pre-season injury to a starting quarterback, now is the time to take a look back at Cutler’s career in its entirety.

    Was he underwhelming or underappreciated?

    Was he a victim of his supporting cast or was it his inability to improve those around him that caused him to plateau for the second half of his career?

    Do we hate the player or hate the game?

    Jay Cutler

    (Mike Morbeck / Flickr)

    Riding Rocky Mountain High (until McDaniels came along)
    Contrary to what Chicago fans may retroactively believe, it made every sense in the world to trade for Jay Cutler.

    In his first three years as the Broncos signal caller, Cutler threw 54 touchdowns to 37 interceptions.

    Compared these stats to the first three seasons of top-tier quarterbacks of the era:
    -Eli Manning (54 td, 44 int)
    -Ben Roethlisberger (52 td, 43 int)
    -Peyton Manning (85 td, 58 int)
    -Tom Brady (69 td, 38int)

    These aren’t meant to be indicators of where he stood next to the greats of the game or even put him in their echelon. After all, Cutler also has 11 fewer Superbowl rings than the four aforementioned quarterbacks.

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

    (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    These stats simply state the obvious; Cutler was one of the brightest and arguably most physically gifted young quarterbacks in the league at the time of his trade to Chicago.

    His brief tenure in Denver shouldn’t be discounted by the fact that he was traded away. Quite the opposite, his performance should rather be bolstered by the reality that then head coach Josh McDaniels made an obvious mistake to jettison the young quarterback.

    The one-time (and now current) Patriots offensive coordinator received a healthy return for Cutler from the Bears; a 2009 and 2010 first round pick, a 2009 third round pick and Kyle Orton for Cutler.

    And while it seemed like a king’s ransom at the time, the picks amounted to a whole lot of not much:

    2009 first-round selection Robert Ayers managed only 12 sacks in five seasons.

    Tight end Richard Quinn finished his NFL career with one reception for nine yards.

    Cornerback Alphonso Smith played only one season with the Broncos after they traded a 2010 first round pick to acquire his services in the second round of the 2009 draft.

    Kyle Orton put up respectable numbers in his three years in Denver, but was ultimately replaced by Tim Tebow (which tells you all you really need to know.)

    Statistically speaking, Cutler did all you could want and more from a young quarterback in his time with the Broncos. While he should certainly bear some responsibility for the frosty relationship between he and Josh McDaniels, the ultimate root of the failure comes from the signing of head coach who was in way over his head.

    Chicago’s Best Quarterback
    Jay Cutler is the best quarterback in the history of the Chicago Bears.

    It may be a difficult sentence to comprehend but the truth is often uncomfortable and unsettling.

    Cutler possesses Bears franchise records for: Completions (2,020), Pass attempts (3,271), Passing Yards (23,443), Touchdowns (154) and the Passer Rating (85.2).

    He led the Bears to a division title in 2010 and a conference championship appearance against the Green Bay Packers that could’ve seen a considerably different result if not for Cutler spraining his MCL in the loss.

    Unfortunately, losing to their bitter rivals and narrowly avoiding a Super Bowl appearance would be the ‘high point’ for the Culter-led Bears, as they would register only one season of ten or more wins after that date.

    In defence of Cutler, since he arrived, few organisations have done a worse job of scouting talent on either side of the ball than the Bears.

    Of their first round selections since 2011, only Kyle Long has proven to be an upper echelon player at his position, but their inability to establish a half-way competent offensive line means even he hasn’t reached his full potential, and has instead been used to plug whatever the biggest need is on the offensive line depending on the season.

    Cutler worked wonders with Brandon Marshall when they were reacquainted in the Windy City, but received very little help anywhere else.

    The Bears traded away would-be pro-bowl tight end Greg Olsen, banked on an exciting yet injury prone Alshon Jeffery and ditto for 2015 first round pick Kevin White.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when your quarterback’s best weapon in his eight seasons was receiving running back Matt Forte. No disrespect to Forte, but there’s only a certain ceiling a quarterback can reach when his best offensive outlet is restricted to screen passes, dump offs and motion routes with the running back.

    But what may have been the biggest contributor to Cutler’s downfall were those paying their hard-earned money to witness eight underwhelming seasons at Soldier Field.

    By this stage, Bears fans are jaded and somewhat delusional. They occupy the biggest market for a single team in the league and possess arguably the most iconic NFL team of all time, the 85′ Superbowl-winning Bears.

    They’re the ‘Superbowl Shuffle’, they’re William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry, they’re not just one but two and three eras of dominant linebackers, they’re Walter Payton, they’re one half of the oldest rivalry in professional football.

    But they’ve also been largely irrelevant for the better part of 30 years.

    Yet year in, year out they believe they’re entitled to better, quite simply because they’re ‘Daaaa Bears’.

    So despite Cutler coming to Chicago and providing them with quarterback play well above what they’ve been accustomed to, his laissez-faire attitude combined with this bloke up in Wisconsin called Aaron Rodgers dismantling the league meant Bears fans probably expected too much from their quarterback.

    Now, I’m not saying Cutler was infallible during his time in Chicago, and after three straight last place seasons in the NFC North, there’s no better time to seek your next face of the franchise.

    But for Bears fans to discount the Cutler-era as an emphatic, emotionally driven failure is not only unwise, it’s also uneducated as to just how poor the Bears have been under centre for the better part of two decades prior to his arrival in Chi-Town.

    Jay Cutler: The person
    No doubt the biggest factor influencing Cutler’s legacy is his likability as a person.

    It’s hard to imagine, but there was once a time where this wasn’t the case.

    In his first few seasons with Denver, Cutler was involved in a number of verbal spouts with division rival and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and much of the football world had his back. After all, this was a handsome young quarterback with a big arm, who carried also-ran college program Vanderbilt for years en route to becoming the 11th overall pick.

    Rumblings of Cutler’s personality deficiencies picked up steam when he was floated as a potential trade candidate in 2009 by Josh McDaniels. What could possibly prompt the hottest young offensive mind to trade away arguably the most promising young quarterback in the league?

    Cutler’s long rumoured leadership traits (or lack thereof) were on display far too frequently in Chicago. Demonstrative displays and an indifferent attitude when faced with adversity were part of the package for a guy the Bears signed to a two-year $30 million dollar extension in his first season with the team.

    His surly nature became somewhat of a punchline for the later part of his career as his production dwindled but his apathetic approach to football remained.

    In a blue collar town like Chicago, Cutler displayed an inability to show any passion or fire in the face of adversity, quite the opposite, he routinely crumbled in a flurry of interceptions, swear words and shoulder shrugs.

    Will Cutler succeed in the booth?
    Perhaps the most perplexing thing about Cutler’s surprise move into the media sphere is that he lacks one of the key ingredients to a successful on-screen personality, that aforementioned likeability.

    Unfortunately, it isn’t something that can be crafted overnight and for some, his on field transgressions may be insurmountable and forever prevent any credibility to prosper as a broadcaster. But personally, I believe there are already enough “aw shucks” broadcasters and there’s room for a genuine heel commentator.

    I’m not saying Cutler needs to play the constant contrarian a la Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler in WWF circa 1998, but to have a man who clearly cares so little for his public perception calling a football game could prove fairly entertaining.

    And the fact that he played the most difficult position in sport at the highest level for a decade and graduated from one of the United States preeminent education institutions says he’ll likely have something to contribute from an analysis standpoint as well.

    It could go one of two ways with Cutler.

    If he were a humble, country boy who attended church on Sunday and married his high school sweetheart instead of an MTV personality, we could well look at his career in the same vein as Tony Romo. Injury riddled and never blessed with a competent team around him when healthy.

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo

    (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

    But his approach to football meant he wasn’t afforded many of these sentiments and as a result, will likely go down as one of the great, untapped talents in the modern era of the NFL.

    That is of course assuming he is done with football.

    My prediction? Injuries occur, reality hits, and Cutler will be on a roster by week one.

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • May 11th 2017 @ 5:41pm
      no one in particular said | May 11th 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

      Cutler wasn’t as bad as he was made out to be. He was a mid-level QB, no where near as good as the best, but far better then the worst. Off the top of my head he would start in 8 teams in week 1 – CHI, SF, LAR, CLE, NYJ, BUF, JAX & HOU. maybe one or two more

      The issue was how much he was paid, he never really lived up to his salary. But for him to earn that there always needs to be someone stupid enough to pay it

      • Roar Pro

        May 12th 2017 @ 8:24am
        Ned Balme said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        Agreed. He didn’t capitalise on their early success when he was paid a handsome amount.

        On the back end of his career he wasn’t paid a crazy amount compared to other QB’s (mostly because the money for a starting quarterback has become ridiculous), but it’s difficult to defend a player who doesn’t look like they want to be there.

        He’s an incredible arm talent but didn’t have that gunslinger mentality like Favre, or even modern day Derek Carr/Andrew Luck. Those guys test every throw available to them, sometimes they throw interceptions but it seems to only drive them to make up for it, whereas Cutler would crumble.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 9:17am
        bear54 said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        It’s astounding Cleveland haven’t given Cutler a go???? He’s a first ballot Hall or Famer compared to the platoon of muppets they’ve employed at QB since Bernie Kosar. He would at least win 4 or 5 games a season and for the Browns that’s a highly successful year.

    • May 12th 2017 @ 5:03pm
      Fivehole said | May 12th 2017 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

      Tend to agree with all of the article Ned – well done

      • Roar Pro

        May 13th 2017 @ 10:30pm
        Ned Balme said | May 13th 2017 @ 10:30pm | ! Report

        Cheers mate,

        Never an easy task trying to reasonably defend a relatively unlikeable personality, but glad you agree!

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