In His Defense: Why Jay Cutler Is Better than You Think He Is

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In His Defense: Why Jay Cutler Is Better than You Think He Is
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I recently read a comment on an article I wrote, which stated that Chicago Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler isn't all that he's cracked up to be.

The guy commenting had no real ill intentions, but I just didn't think his logic was right on, and I actually didn't deem it to be very fair, either.

He commented that Cutler wasn't shaping out to be the type of passer that most "franchise" passers are supposed to be, that his interception total has climbed each season he's been in the league, and that considering his body of work, he wasn't even a lock to be better than Detroit Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Now, that's where I draw the line.

I'm not a Chicago or a Detroit fan. In fact, I'm a Brett Favre and NFL fan. But sometimes you can just smell a defense story that needs to be told.

Just like the person commenting on my article (it was actually on Stafford, by the way) had no ill will toward me, I likewise am not trying to offend or attack them.

But sometimes quarterbacks like Cutler need someone to stick up for them. And damn me if I'm wrong, but this sad little writer at B/R gets the feeling it's got to be him.

I think you have to look at the circumstances surrounding Cutler before you cast that preemptive "he's not what he should be" stone.

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People talk about interceptions—Matthew Stafford threw 20 as a rookie in just 10 starts in 2009. Cutler threw five picks in five games as a rookie (on pace for 16).

Stafford missed the final four games last year and six overall. Just imagine how many picks he would have thrown in six more games. Plenty. He could have had 30 picks, easily.

In his second season, Cutler only threw 14 picks, despite it being his first full season as a starter and tossing up over 460 passes. He also topped 3,400 yards and notched 20 passing touchdowns, while completing 63.6 percent of his passes.

Not bad for a guy who hailed from a crummy school (Vanderbilt) and routinely looked like you stole his stick of gum.

His 18 picks the next season? An increase, true, but that's what happens in a Mike Shanahan pass-happy offense that raised Cutler's second-year 467 passing attempts to a career-high 615.

Few quarterbacks will pass the ball 600 times and not throw 16-plus picks. Ask Drew Brees—ask Peyton Manning.

Last year was a debacle, no doubt. But Cutler was in a new city, a new offense, and without Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler, and even 2008 stud rookie receiver, Eddie Royal.

Instead of bona fide talent to work with, he had a converted cornerback who still didn't know how to play receiver (Devin Hester), a trash possession WR (Earl Bennett), and a guy who came out of nowhere for, what, three or four weeks to end the season (Devin Aromashodu).

That, and he faced the Vikings and Packers twice each, both of whom were top in the league at either forcing turnovers or getting to the quarterback.

All of that, and despite his league-high 26 picks, Cutler still turned it around, threw eight scores to zero picks in the final two games of the season, and ended with the most passing touchdowns in his career (27).

But of course, it's not always just about the numbers. Being a franchise passer is about being a leader, being consistent, making big plays, and winning games.

True, Cutler hasn't reached the playoffs (which means he doesn't have a playoff win). But is he alone in this? Is he the only supposedly "elite" quarterback that is stuck in that young quarterback purgatory?

Not even close. Aaron Rodgers has one playoff appearance and no wins. Carson Palmer has two playoff appearances and no wins.

It took Tony Romo several years to win his first playoff game, and then even he bottomed out in a 34-3 crushing dealt by the Minnesota Vikings.

The point is, Cutler hasn't won much, he's thrown a decent number of picks in the past two seasons, and he plays in a division where the talent at quarterback is so stacked (if Brett Favre returns), that he's arguably only the third-best passer.

But he's not inaccurate. Cutler hasn't completed under 60 percent of his passes since his rookie season, and even then was just a hair under at 59.1 percent.

He's not a horrible decision maker, either, as many would suggest. Sure, he had a few off games, but it was two horrid games against solid playmaking defenses (Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers) that he threw a combined 10 interceptions, which truly led to his woeful turnover numbers.

He's not a bad leader, and he doesn't lack the ability to make big plays. Just take a look at the tape, as Cutler bombed an overtime winning touchdown pass at home against the Vikings near the end of the season.

The numbers don't usually lie, and I'll be the first to admit that. But with Cutler, they kind of do.

Just like Favre's insane career interception numbers would lead you to believe he's the worst quarterback who ever played; that is, if you hadn't actually seen him play.

The same goes for Cutler. And just like the Rodgers, Romo, and so many others, he deserves more than one down season in Chicago and four total seasons in the NFL to prove he's worth being called a franchise passer.

This is a kid with a silky smooth release, the confidence and gusto to match Manning, and a chip on his shoulder no one would truly dare try to knock off.

Martz entering Chicago to turn the Bears into a more explosive, pass-happy offense could be the best or worst thing ever to happen to him.

But if he embraces the change and offense like he did his teammates and abilities during the stretch run of 2009, a lot of people are going to be shocked at what they see out of the pouty kid who temper-tantrummed his way out of Denver.

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