I was actually taken aback while reading Peter King's MMQB column:
Offensive rookie of the year? This morning, it’s Chicago guard Kyle Long. The human sack machine, Jay Cutler, has been sacked three times in three games.
King may be right but he knows as well as anyone that a right guard is not going to win Rookie of the Year. I'm not a savvy enough analyzer of offensive lines to tell you why Long is better than Jordan Mills, never mind the rest of the rookie class, but King's statement is a clear indication the national media got it wrong on draft night with their misguided criticism of the Long selection.
The comment got me thinking about something I usually don't spend ten seconds on: awards. While I don't know if Long has been Offensive ROY to this point, I do know that no player, none, not even Peyton Manning, has been more valuable to his team through three games than Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Now before people start with the Peyton Manning is blah and Tom Brady is blah blah and Calvin Johnson is so much blah blah blah, stop. Take a breath. Maybe a sip of Courvoisier. If weed is your thing, smoke some. I am not arguing Jay Cutler is the best player in the sport. I am not arguing Jay Cutler is the best quarterback in the sport. Hell, I'm not even arguing Jay Cutler is the best player on the Bears. He's none of those things.
What I am arguing is Cutler's value to the Chicago Bears through the first three games of the 2013 season has been greater than the value of any of other player in this league to his team. The reason is not his solid statistics or even his consistent overall performance. (Both are of course factors.) The reason, the primary reason, is actually something out of his control: circumstance.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bears needed six from their quarterback in the fourth quarter to keep from dropping their home opener. “That was a laser,” Phil Simms said just after Cutler hit Brandon Marshall in the front left corner of the end zone. (The Packers needed the same against the Bengals Sunday. Their QB could not deliver.)
3rd and 10. Minnesota Sixteen yard line. Sixteen seconds remaining. Cutler knows he has two throws to beat the Vikings. Two throws to beat a division rival at home. He only needed one, a textbook back shoulder end zone toss to Martellus Bennett. 2-0.
The Bears didn’t NEED a touchdown from their QB against the Pittsburgh Steelers - just a few first downs as they nursed a 27-23 lead. Nobody watching the game with around nine minutes remaining believed the Bears could keep Pittsburgh from scoring essentially at will. The game was on the offense. On the quarterback.
After two failed runs, third and ten. Cutler stepped up from pressure, ran to the stick and lowered his shoulder to cement the first down.
Three plays later, on another pressure-packed third down, he launched a beautiful, back-shoulder bomb to a shrouded-by-Ike Taylor Brandon Marshall.
Three plays later, on yet another angst-addled third down, Cutler and Earl Bennett executed one of the best throw-and-catch moments of this young NFL season for the decisive touchdown. Music City rejoiced.
Circumstances. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Russell Wilson and Drew Brees haven't faced the same pressure week in and week out. Should a quarterback be rewarded for not blowing out his opponents? It is an argument worth having. But who would you vote for in the World Series MVP race? The guy who hit 7 home runs in the series or the guy who hit four home runs to break ties in the ninth innings of the wins? Isn't the difference between the current three-game seasons of Cutler and Manning the reason both MVP and Offensive POY exist?
Circumstances have determined Cutler be held under the bright light for questioning. They have determined he have the ball in his hand with the game on the line. And every single play the Bears have needed from their quarterback to win or cement a win he has made. Mark Potash Tweeted:
The Closer? In the last 5 pass plays of the #Bears' 3 games, Jay Cutler has a perfect 158.3 passer rating: 12-of-13, 208 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT.
Sure, call him the closer. It fits our little baseball motif. But with all due respect to the ball hawking defense and Matt Forte, you should also be calling him what he is: the reason the Bears are off to a 3-0 start. And in my opinion that makes him the league's most valuable player heading into the fourth week.