Of Modern Media and the Last Cutler Rebuttal

Esteban OlivoContributor IJuly 14, 2009

I am no KC Joyner.

I considered my first 1,000-hit article a huge milestone.

I spend my free time relishing all things Bears, scouring the edges of the Internet for a fix.

What's the word on the logjam at HB? 
Who's the winning the FS battle? 
How's the slot position looking?

I am a fan.

I don't get paid to follow the Bears.  My articles make me zero dollars and more often than not, I promise more than I can deliver in terms of writing commitments.

I am a journalism major.

Whenever I tell people that, they look at me like I've just volunteered to jump into a woodchipper.

Newspapers are dying, and that's being generous, their inquisitive looks say.

There is no place in this world for prehistoric Canadian prints telling of today's tragedies and yesterday's scores.

In this new age of endless media outlets where a column is more likely to be read on a Blackberry than in print, the beacon of hope for all who wish to suckle the media teet has to be the Internet.

If the Internet is the future, then consider me on the frontlines, pounding away on my keyboard, sending my words to a live online script ready to be published with the click of a mouse.


Check that.


Since the Internet is the future, then consider me frightened.

It's scary to see my future withering away before it begins.

You know, the Internet?  The same medium that brings you both Brad Biggs and Jay Mariotti.

If this is the era of Deadspin, ProFootballWeekly, and Mediaite.com, then count me out.


But alas, I am a nobody.  Who cares what I say.  I'll probably be another washup anyway, withering away covering high school sports in some small town in Delaware.

However, as both consumer and producer, I have to speak out with what resources I have.

See, what bothers me the most is not the new era of journalist who covets celebrity more than credibility.

It should bother me that Jay Mariotti left the Sun-Times because he wanted more exposure, but it doesn't.

It should bother me that ESPN will show you what they call an expert but show none of their work, or even reference it. 

No, it's not that.  Or at least, not directly that.


What bothers me are media heads who make a name for themselves by putting out shock headlines, or, as in the case of "The Football Scientist" KC Joyner, perpetuating slippery slope ideas with the intention of generating buzz.

Now he'll be the first to tell you, he's an expert.  He watches as much "film" as anyone in the biz.  He knows what he's talking about. Obey the talking head.

Recently, Joyner reiterated in an ESPN chat room that new Bears QB Jay Cutler "will make Bears fan remember Rex Grossman."

Believe it or not, Bears nation did not take kindly to this in spite of Joyner's condolences that "all Grossman did was take the Bears to the Super Bowl."

Granted, my fan brethren are not the most reasonable in the world, but they know a skunk when they smell it.

We watch the Bears, KC.  That's not all Grossman did.

So what exactly compelled Mr. Joyner to make the Cutler-Grossman comparison?

"His 9.8 vertical YPA was lower than that of 19 other QBs last season, and his 4.6 percent bad decision rate (a bad decision being a mistake by the QB that leads to a turnover or a near turnover) was easily the worst of any QB," wrote Joyner in his blog on the NY Times site.

Anyone with a brain will tell you when you're behind, you're most likely going to be passing.  For Cutler, something to the tune of 616 attempts in 2008 with the Broncos.  A simple, non-scientific look at a calculator will tell you that the 4.6% rate of "bad decisions", from 616 attempts, brings us to 28.33 bad decisions.

Cutler had 18 interceptions last season and 5 fumbles, 2 of those recovered by the opposing side. Joyner is then crediting Cutler with 5-8 near turnovers, per his own explanation of the highly scientific BDR (bad decision rate).

Over 16 regular season games, Joyner's numbers tell us Cutler is credited with about two bad decisions per game, leading to a turnover or near turnover

My numbers, however, suggest that Cutler either did not turn the ball over or did turn the ball over, 100 percent of the time.

With such an alarming bad decision rate, you would think the Broncos offense would be in the bottom of the league in efficiency.

Good thing there are actual number crunchers out there who tell the real story.

Per FootballOutsiders.com, Cutler headed an offense with a .741 drive success percentage, fourth best in the league.

That's about three successful drives out of every four.

To put that into perspective, the Bears had 198 drives to the Broncos' 168 in 2008.

Back to Joyner though.

Further mucking the scientific waters of Joyner's methods is his failure to discriminate interceptions. 

Who among us would blame Cutler should Rashied Davis drop a dart right into the defender's hands?


Where it gets absurd, however, is the Grossman litmus.

In 2006, Grossman had 20 interceptions(two more than Cutler), 8 fumbles(three more than Cutler) and he lost five of those(three more than Cutler).  Mind you, that was on 491 attempts, considerably less than Cutler's 616.

Already, Joyner is a bit hyperbolic, and we're not even bringing the science of BDR into this.

Whats more, Grossman had a vastly superior defense to work with.  The Bears finished 2nd overall in defense that year, 1st in takeaways, and 2nd in scoring defense.

In contrast, the Broncos ranked 29th in overall defense, 30th in scoring defense, and dead last (32) in takeaways.


The dagger in the argument, however, cannot be found in the numbers.  Joyner claims that Cutler is getting special treatment from Bears fans solely because they believe he is the answer.

"The only reason I can come up with as to why Bears fans are reacting like this is that the quarterback position has been such a headache for them over the years that they will do just about anything to make it go away."

"Grossman was on fire during the first part of Chicago’s Super Bowl season, and yet as soon as he had the bad game against Miami, it seemed the entire city turned on him," Joyner writes.

"It didn’t go that much differently for Orton. He had a tremendous start to the 2008 season, but when he struggled down the stretch, the populace seemed to say goodbye and good riddance without much of a second thought."

Too bad those are both awful and total fabrications.  As a part of the fanbase, fully entrenched in the vicarious spoils of victory and agony of defeat, I can say with 100 percent scientific certainty that the faithful starting turning on Grossman way before 2006. Many wanted to end his Bears career after his third serious injury in as many years.

Of course, numbers will not tell you that.


As for Orton, Bears fan were excited about the prospect of QB stability.  It was obvious Orton was limited as a passer and there were certain things he just couldn't do, but he was our guy.  He was a noodle arm, but he was our noodle arm.  Who cares if he can't consistently hit wide receivers outside the numbers.

Enter Cutler.

Joyner continues, "If (believing Cutler is the answer) means ignoring (his) shortcomings so that at least one off-season goes by without having to wonder if their quarterback’s play will measure up, they’ll do it just for the temporary peace of mind.

"I do admire that kind of team passion and loyalty, but I’d admire it a bit more if it were done by hoping that Cutler could improve his game rather than by backing his mixed bag of performance history."

No KC.  Bears fans believe Cutler is the answer because he passed for 4,500 yards last season, had 25 TDs, and he is only 26 in his third year, his second as a starter.

Those would have been team records for the Bears.

Bears fans also will not be reminded of Grossman because Grossman could not avoid the rush, did not have the instincts or mechanics to be a consistent performer, really did not have a polished route repertoire outside of the bomb, could not handle a simple snap from center, was injury prone, and most of all, could not handle the simple task of managing the game.

Grossman was given the world, and he fumbled it. Literally.

Cutler, in his short time, has shown the ability to win shootouts (17-1 when the defense holds under 22 points), create while escaping the rush(100+ passer rating when outside the pocket), and most importantly, has accuracy Grossman never had. 

For all the talk of arm strength, no one mentions Cutler's accuracy through his arm strength.

Where Grossman was intercepted because of a bad read or simple inaccurate misfire, Cutler is intercepted because of stubbornness and supreme confidence in his arm.

That's a huge difference.  One, you can reign in.  The other is a fatal flaw that gets you not to Hawaii, but to third place on a depth chart that features Michael Vick's backup and a win less Lions QB.

KC Joyner does indeed bring to light Cutler's liberal decisions with the ball, and one that must be considered going forward.  However, the appeal to ethos rather than pathos was very wrong, and one that ultimately sullies his credibility in my eyes.

I am not KC Joyner.  I am not a football scientist.  But I do know that Jay Cutler does not remind me of Rex Grossman.


Email me at estebano@vzw.blackberry.net


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