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Jay Cutler: He Is Who We Thought He Was

Cutler

Just over two years ago, I wrote this piece on Jay Cutler.  I analyzed his mechanics and pointed out things he needed to improve on. We’ve all heard the excuses made for Cutler during his tenure with the Bears. “He needs a better offensive line, then he will be good.” “If the Bears could just get him some weapons, then he will be good.” “The Bears need an offensive minded coach who can help set up Cutler for success – then he’ll be good.”

General Manager Phil Emery was listening and made the supposed necessary changes. He traded for Brandon Marshall, drafted Alshon Jeffery and signed Martellus Bennett to give him weapons. He drafted Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, signed Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson to protect him as well. In 2013, Emery even hired Marc Trestman, who was deemed “The Quarterback Whisperer” to set up the offense.

In 2013, Chicago was second in the NFL in scoring offense with Cutler and Josh McCown being forced into action due to Cutler’s injury. But 2014 was going to be a career year for Cutler with all of those weapons back. Well, flash forward to a 5-7 Chicago Bears team that has Cutler leading the NFL in turnovers with 20. I’m going to use a Dennis Green line to show you, “Jay Cutler is who we thought he was!” But I’m not letting him off the hook, unlike Marc Trestman and all of his followers who continually make excuses for him.

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I’m going to point out eight plays from the second Green Bay game because they’re the most important opponent on the Bears schedule every season. It’s the very first drive of the game with a first and ten. The Bears scheme worked well here with Martellus Bennett (yellow circle) wide open in the flat and Alshon Jeffery (red circle) open as well. Jeffery appears to be the initial read for Cutler and the offensive line provided ample time for the throw.

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A split second later, Cutler didn’t pull the trigger and turns his attention to the middle of the field. The problem is Chicago doesn’t have a receiver in the middle of the field. No rush is in Cutler’s face either, so I’m not sure why he even looks there. The next read in the progression should’ve been Bennett (yellow circle), yet Cutler doesn’t even glance at him.

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From a different angle, you can see that Cutler has plenty of time to make a proper throw or maybe run for a couple of yards. Again, what in the world is he looking at?

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A couple of seconds later, Clay Matthews is closing in on Cutler. When he had multiple seconds to throw the football, Cutler decided the best decision in all that time was to throw at Jeffery’s feet.

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The second play I want to look at is after the Packers scored their first touchdown of the game. It’s again first and ten, multiple seconds into the play and the Bears are max protected. Josh Morgan (yellow circle) is running a deep post, Marshall (red circle) is finding a hole in the zone in the middle of the field, and Jeffery (orange circle) is simply there for spacing to stretch the defense. Cutler is staring down Morgan and Green Bay safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (black circle) is following his eyes across the field.

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Only a split second later, Cutler is about to throw to Morgan (yellow circle) and it’s a tight window. However, look at Marshall (red circle) in the middle of the field. He found a hole in the zone and he settled into it. That would be an easy reception because the safety has already turned his hips to follow Morgan deep. Understanding concepts and taking what the defense gives you doest look to be a strength of Jay Cutler.

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This may be the ultimate play to reveal Cutler is indeed holding back the Chicago offense this season. It’s again first and ten with Green Bay up by 14 points early in the game and making a big play would be, you know, very important. Jeffery (yellow circle) smoked Sam Shields off the line. The best part is the safety (black circle) is rotating to the middle of the field.

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This is only a second later, but Jeffery has more than a step on Shields and Cutler is looking right in his direction. The safety is now in the middle of the field making this is an easy pass and completion for that much needed big play for the Bears. Jeffery gave Cutler plenty of room to throw this football away from defenders and not being near the sideline for the completion. Cutler could throw a laser to Jeffery, loft it in front of him, or lead it over his outside shoulder.

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Instead, Cutler makes a poorly underthrown pass and Jeffery has to literally stop to work back to the football. He also threw it on the inside towards the safety – this is one of the worst possible scenarios.

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From another angle, you can see Jeffery almost comes down with it between two defenders because he’s a special player. However, the end result is an incomplete pass, after what appeared to be a very promising start. I know what some of you are thinking – Cutler must have had defenders in his face.

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This is the pocket surrounding Cutler on the throw and it’s extremely clean. He could even step up in the pocket to get more on it.

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Instead, Cutler fades away and if you compare the previous image to this one, he worked backwards when throwing the football. His feet are in a less than parallel position, indicating a fade away motion as well. One defender is falling to the ground a yard away from Cutler, but otherwise he has no reason for this. Otherwise, this is just another example of Jay being Jay.

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Cutler has a clean pocket on this play and is throwing the ball to Marshall (black circle). As you can see, the defender is undercutting the route and Marshall isn’t open. However, Jeffery (yellow circle) is wide open running an out with his defender having already opened his hips to turn and run. Bennett (blue circle) is open on a check down as well. Not quite sure why Cutler wouldn’t scan the field and throw it to an open player.

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Here it’s third and goal and Cutler is going to throw it to Bennett (black circle) on a combination route with Marshall getting in the way of the only defender who can stop Bennett to the end zone. Cutler’s feet (blue circle) are terrible when he has time in the pocket – this forces him to make the throw just a little wide and high off of Bennett’s hands. Now it’s possible for Bennett to catch this, but with better accuracy it was an easy touchdown. I also want to highlight Josh Morgan (yellow circle) breaking wide open across the field, while his defender still hasn’t made a move inside. Having two players open and not getting a touchdown is unacceptable.

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Its second and 18 late in the game and Cutler will check down to Matt Forte (black circle) for a short gain. This makes it a more manageable third down, I understand that. But Cutler has no pressure thanks to a clean pocket. Why is he rushing to throw a check down? If he would keep his eyes downfield, he would see Jeffery (yellow circle) breaking wide open as his defender still has his hips turned and running downfield – this would’ve resulted in at least 5 more yards and a much shorter third down opportunity.

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It’s fourth down and goal, Cutler is going to throw to Jeffery (black circle), but he hasn’t made any separation from his defender and isn’t in the end zone. Now what sense does it make to throw to a covered receiver short of the goal line on fourth down? However, Marshall (yellow circle) is running a wide open slant backside and is in the end zone.

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This is Cutler’s body language and feet after throwing it Jeffery’s direction. Shields should’ve intercepted this pass and returned it for a touchdown, but Cutler got lucky. Instead, he just turned the ball over near the goal line because he threw to a covered receiver.

As a Bears fan who watches this happen every week, I’m sick of it. In my opinion, Cutler will not be anything except a below average quarterback in the NFL. He is still going to not progress through his reads to find the open receiver. Cutler will continue to feel uncomfortable in the pocket and not step into his throws when no defenders are pressuring him – this will force inexcusably inaccurate passes and miss open receivers. Lastly, he will always turn the ball over costing his team wins. It would be in Chicago’s best interest to move on from Cutler because he’s not going to lead them to anywhere but mediocrity.  He’ll likely do the same to your dynasty team.

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Nick Whalen
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Matt
7 years ago

Thanks for the article Nick. I drafted Cutler in our 2QB start-up this year. I got him in the 9th and picked up Rivers in the 10th. If Rivers hadn’t had the season he has I’d be pulling my hair out and likely not in contention for the finals this year. I’d hate to have to figure out if it’ll be a 3 TD or 3 picks week if he was my QB1!

I’m wondering who you’d be looking to swap him out over the off season knowing that I’ll be poised to make a title run again next year? I have Bortles on my bench (hoping he’ll develop, but have my reservations right now) and unfortunately couldn’t get any other owners to bite on a trade for the likes of Brady or Big Ben later in the part of the current season (understandably as they were turning it up at that point). I’m hoping their prices will calm down again in the off season when everyone goes back to undervaluing them, but wondering if another QB2 could be had for cheap and would carry more consistent lines that Jay ie. Romo, Dalton, A.Smith? They obviously all have their issues too.

Nick
7 years ago

I use a couple of different factors in picking middle tier QBs in a 2 QB league. How good are the weapons around them? In that area, Bortles could be sitting pretty next year with Robinson/Hurns/Lee. They could resign Shorts and Blackmon may return. Alex Smith shouldn’t be startable because he doesn’t have weapons and they don’t pass. However, Cutler has amazing weapons, but he’s so up and down. Sometimes I will want a QB on a losing team so they get garbage points and have to throw.

One guy i’m looking to grab for very cheap is Sam Bradford. He’s been injured often, but when he’s produced well when he’s played. I don’t think he’s had an even above average supporting cast, yet he’s had 35 TD 17 INT in his last 23 starts. He’s barely played with Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey and not at all with Britt. If he did, I would expect fairly good numbers. The good news is that Bradford is an unrestricted free agent after the season. He could sign with anybody and that is a great possibility. Houston Texans- Bradford throwing to Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins with Foster or Cleveland Browns with Josh Gordon or Buffalo with Sammy Watkins or Arizona with Fitz, Floyd, Brown or Tampa with Evans, Vjax. He could land in one of those spots and offer good FF production. We don’t know how good, but it’s a very good gamble right now for cheap.

Matt
Reply to  Nick
7 years ago

Yikes! Bradford worries me, as the NFL has far more David Wilson stories than Gronk like recoveries. But Bradford does have a great ceiling when playing and probably costs little to nothing right now, so I’d agree he probably makes for a good role of the dice once our trading period reopens in a couple weeks.

Thanks again for the thoughts!

demystifier
Reply to  Nick
7 years ago

That is optimistic on Bradford to me. Not only has he finished 3 of his first 5 seasons early due to injury and missed his final year at college due to injury (which is very troublesome for a QB, typically a less injury prone position), I think he is just as likely to end up in a quagmire situation like Washington or the Jets over Houston (plus, as much as I like Sammy Watkins and Josh Gordon, I don’t know if either of those situations are stellar for QBs at the moment).

Though his PPG was top-12 in 2013 (based on 7 games), he’s never thrown more than 21 TDs, never hit 4000 yards, isn’t durable, and likely will have to learn a new offense for a yet to be specified team. He is a lotto ticket with modest talent, in the best case scenario.

7 years ago

I hope they trade him to Washington. They deserve each other.

Robert
7 years ago

Like Matt, above, I went into the WK14 playoffs with Cutler and Rivers (& Sanchez lol) as my QB options.
I think I’m a definite underdog, but injuries (Ellington, RJennings, Marshall, Deangelo (I have Stewart)) have conspired to improve my chances to the point I have at least SOME hope (I just LOVE crunch time!):

As last night’s CHI/Dallas kickoff approached, I increasingly wondered if I could win without a big game from Cutler, or if I should stay with the “steadier” Rivers — who is capable of a big game himself.
After deciding on Rivers and putting the matter to rest, I switched to Cutler only seconds before kickoff;
Cutler’s last-minute INT ended the roller-coaster ride with a satisfactory, if disappointing, 26.5 points.

With the assumption that Desean Jackson is inactive, I now have an equally depressing decision to make about my Flex starter; my choices are LeGarette Blount, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Allen & Trent Richardson.
Talk about a group of low-floor options! Any and All opinions and suggestions would be awesome…

Nick Whalen
7 years ago

Robert: I might roll with Blount there hoping he continues to play well and get a GL TD.

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