Jay Cutler can become a more consistent QB in 2012.
With quicker decisions and some help from his teammates, expect Cutler to continue his winning play through the rest of the year.
Cutler is probably the poster boy for the dubious group of quarterbacks who just cannot seem to string together three good weeks of football. Given his love for sacks, I must admit, I was shocked by Cutler’s 140 QB rating on Monday Night Football, considering the presence of DeMarcus Ware.
Cutler was sacked just twice for a total of eight yards and lost a fumble—a relatively excellent performance, really.
Here are four ways he can maintain this level of play.
Clay Matthews made success impossible for Jay Cutler.
The frequency that Jay Cutler is sacked may be the most well-documented aspect of his entire professional career. It’s hard to overstate the impact sacks and pressure have had on his performance.
For his time in Chicago, my correlation test revealed that sack yardage is tied to 21 percent of the variability in his QBR.
Finding responsibility for sacks is one of the more challenging and inexact common football assessments. Allowing one may be the greatest “team failure” in football: pre-snap adjustments were not made, one or more people missed their blocks, receivers could not get separation and the quarterback was unable to scramble or throw the ball away.
My eyes tell me that Cutler needs to be quicker to release the ball, but surely inept play from his offensive line must have something to do with the 123 sacks for 806 yards Cutler has endured since 2009.
How many time has Cutler been hurried, had his passes batted at the line or made unwise decisions because of pressure, be it real or perceived?
The situation, as usual, needs to be improved moving forward. Chicago has allowed 13 sacks in 2012 (sorry, Nick Saban).
Matt Forte can be a difference-maker for Jay Cuter.
Like any quarterback, Jay Cutler is made more effective by a respectable running game.
In terms of QB rating, two of Cutler’s best years in the NFL were his first two full seasons in Denver. His second year in Denver in 2008 was particularly great, as he compiled a 72.3 QBR, which ranked No. 4 in the NFL.
What do 2007 and 2008 have in common? Cutler was supported by the best running games of his career. The Broncos averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2007, 4.8 in 2008—both top five in the league.
The two years have something else in common, but that’s for the next slide.
Chicago’s average of 4.3 yards a rush in 2011 was the third-highest total of Cutler’s career. Although he only played in 10 games, Cutler did produce his fourth-highest season QB rating.
If Matt Forte and Michael Bush can remain healthy, Cutler may be able to surpass his early-career success.
So far, though, so bad. Chicago has averaged 3.4 yards per carry—the worst run support of Cutler’s career. It’s no coincidence that his current QB rating (75.3) and QBR (43.3) would both be single-year lows if the season ended today.
Brandon Marshall can make quarterbacking easy.
(Brandon Marshall, Brandon Marshall)
Of course, the second thing that 2007 and 2008 have in common is the presence of Brandon Marshall, who just so happened to have the two best years of his career while Cutler was at the quarterback position.
Marshall looked like the 53rd-best player in the NFL on Monday night. He showed us great versatility and confidence. Even more importantly, we saw something out of Marshall that athletes too rarely exude: Joy.
Maybe it’s because Cutler and Marshall can share tales of unfair media treatment, but it is fully apparent that they have one of the best receiver-QB relationships in the NFL.
You don’t really need statistics to show how good they are as teammates, but…
In games in which Brandon Marshall has six or more catches, Cutler has an average QB rating of 89.8, compared to 79.1 when Marshall has five or fewer. That rating jumps up to 97.6 when Marshall snags seven-plus receptions.
Lance Briggs looked like the world's biggest running back on Monday night.
Of all the good things we saw from Chicago on Monday night, this was the most impressive element of their win over Dallas and the most significant reason for Cutler’s success.
Frequent takeaways, good starting-field position and time with the lead will allow Cutler to play with a less pressured backdrop.
Since coming to Chicago, Cutler has finished a game with a QB rating of 90 or better on 21 occasions. Fourteen of these have come in games in which Chicago allowed fewer than 21 points.
Note: Any reference to a better attitude or different mannerisms was very much intentionally excluded from this article. Mentioning these things is lazy and there are no reasons to substantiate such claims considering neither the slew of people who typically suggest such things, nor I have spent intensive time with Jay Cutler in team meetings, during the offseason and/or after practice.