Defining what an elite quarterback is can be tricky business, but in this case, it's not a difficult call to make.
As a general rule of thumb, the word elite gets thrown around all too freely when talking about NFL quarterbacks. If it means anything, though, I should think that to be called elite, a player must be one of the top five in his position.
So, where does Cutler rank among the best quarterbacks in the NFL?
Total Yards, Yards Per Attempt and Completion Percentage
One of the ways to measure how effectively a quarterback is playing is to take a look at his total yardage, yards per attempt and completion percentage. This gives us a good understanding of whether or not a quarterback is making the most of his opportunities.
Eli Manning leads the NFL after Week 7 in total yardage with 2,109 yards on 265 attempts (7.96 yards per attempt, No. 5 in the NFL) and has completed 63.8 percent of his passes (No. 12 in the NFL). There's no doubt that Manning is one of the top-five quarterbacks in the NFL—especially when considering his ability to come through in the clutch.
Rookie Robert Griffin III has thrown for 1,601 yards (No. 16 in the NFL) on 189 attempts (8.47 yards per attempt, No. 1 in the NFL) and has completed 70.4 percent of his passes (No. 1 in the NFL). While Griffin is playing like an elite quarterback, he deserves some more scrutiny before I'm ready to anoint him.
Cutler has thrown for 1,359 yards (No. 27 in the NFL) on 187 attempts (7.27 yards per attempt, tied with Sam Bradford for No. 19 in the NFL) and has completed 56.7 percent of his passes (No. 28 in the NFL).
Cutler is nowhere near the top of the list in these three categories. He's an inefficient quarterback who needs a lot of opportunities to make something happen.
Another way to measure how effectively a quarterback is playing is by looking at their touchdown-to-interception ratio. This gives us a clear picture of how the quarterback affects his team—both positively and negatively.
Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with 19 touchdowns and has only thrown four interceptions in his team's seven games. That's a touchdown-to-interception ratio of almost 5:1.
Tom Brady has thrown 12 touchdown passes to just three interceptions—a ratio of 4:1.
Peyton Manning is also one of the best this year in this category, throwing 14 touchdowns and four interceptions—a ratio of 3.5:1.
Jay Cutler, on the other hand, has thrown eight touchdowns and seven interceptions—a ratio of just 1.1:1.
Cutler is just as apt to hurt his team as he is to help it, making him far from elite in this category.
Wins and Losses
In this category, Cutler has risen from mediocrity to the top this season, as his team is 5-1 thus far. Only one quarterback can boast a better record this season—Matt Ryan, who has yet to lose a game.
That said, Cutler's career record before this season was 41-37—hardly the numbers you'd equate with an elite quarterback.
Cutler is proving to be just good enough to keep his team winning right now, but he's not close to being considered among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
He isn't an efficient quarterback and has problems with turnovers.
Right now, RG3 is closer to being counted among the best signal callers in the NFL than Cutler is and the gap between the two is extremely wide.
Let's just put all this "Cutler is elite" talk to rest, shall we?