The defense of Jay Cutler

Most people comment on sports stories to say mean things.  Except when it comes to Jay Cutler, then suddenly everyone comments to defend him.  This latest one was in response to Steve Rosenbloom’s article on the Trib:

Bill Lapinskas ·  Top Commenter
Doom and gloom rosie, cutler is lucky to have everything still attached after playing behind that o-line…

Or this one in response to Dan Pompeii’s article about new QB coach Matt Cavanaugh:

Paul Trout Sr ·  Top Commenter · Benjamin Logan
it sounds like the new head coach is going to improve the o line to protect cutler so he should have a much better year so he can shut the cutler bashers up for good.

By the way, I think Bill is one of the best of the site’s frequent commenters and I’m just using his quote to illustrate a very frequent response to anything negative written about Cutler.  Pompeii generally gives what I consider to be balanced coverage of Cutler, highlighting both the good and the bad, and commenters typically want to crucify him, saying he “hates Cutler” for personal reasons.  I think he’s just doing his job, and I think he does it well.

Why does everyone feel they need to defend Cutler?  We traded two 1st-round picks and gave him a big contract to be a big-time QB, and he hasn’t been.  Normally, Chicagoans HATE guys that they see as not earning their paychecks and guys with sour attitudes.  Cutler fits both criteria yet everyone wants to defend him.

Three reasons I can think of:  1) He’s still the best QB any of us have seen in our lifetime.  That’s far more an indictment of the Bears than praise of Cutler, but it’s a fact.  2) Cutler had some success before coming to the Bears so there’s a precedent that he can succeed.  3) The support around him is seen as sub-par, particularly the offensive line.

I’m sorry to do this to the Cutler-defenders, but he doesn’t deserve your defending him the way you do. Occasionally, someone posts a hate message about him, and he doesn’t deserve that either.

Cutler defenders will probably dismiss what I’m about to write, but I’ll write it anyways:  1) The offensive line isn’t THAT bad, at least it wasn’t last year.  Prior years, ok, yeah, it was awful but 2) That doesn’t get Cutler off the hook.  It doesn’t get him off the hook for throwing interceptions at an alarming rate, sometimes as many as 4 per game.  It doesn’t get him off the hook for having lousy body language and facial expressions at times.  I’m not arguing the guy should be lighting it up with a bad o-line and mediocre receivers but I will argue that an “elite” QB should play better despite that.  That’s what the great ones do.  Cutler is not a great one and time is running out for that to change.

1. The offensive line isn’t that bad:  I’m going to focus on pass blocking.  Football Outsiders ranked the Bears 24th in the NFL in adjusted sack rate and Pro Football Focus ranked the Bears’ pass blocking as 25th.  Now that’s not good, but there are still 7-8 teams worse.  Hardly the worst pass-blocking o-line in the league.  Interestingly, the 2 sites vary on their overall view, FO had GB and SF near the bottom where PFF put them near the top.  For what it’s worth, both sites had the Bears’ run blocking as about average.

2. Here’s the bigger point.  Aaron Rodgers got sacked more than any QB last year but still put up monster numbers and kept his INT’s down.  Rodgers also didn’t have Cutler’s run game to rely upon.  Now, Rodgers is possibly the best QB in the game and a future Hall of Famer, but if you want to call Cutler a great QB, that’s where the comparison starts.

“Just give Cutler a decent o-line and some good receivers and you’ll see” is the argument many commenters like to present.  Well, if you have a solid o-line and good receivers, won’t most legit QB’s succeed?  Hard to call a guy a “franchise QB” if needs great talent around him to succeed.  The idea by Jerry Angelo (curse his name) is that Cutler would elevate the play of those around him.  Does anyone see that happening?  It’s something that the great ones like Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady do all the time.  It’s not something Cutler does.  I was about to write “not yet,” but he’s about to turn 30, he’s a veteran, not a kid.

Look, I WANT Cutler to succeed and I think Cutler gets unfairly bashed all the time.  I can’t believe his toughness has ever come into question, as I see a guy who’s as tough as they come.  I also don’t care if he told Martz to f—off or walked away from Mike Tice, way too much is being made of that stuff IMO.  But you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think he has something to prove.  He’s got great talent, no question about that, and he once threw for 4000 yards but that doesn’t mean he’s a great QB.  All the great QB’s have 2 things in common and arm strength is not one of them:  1. Great accuracy  2. Great decision-making.  Cutler is accurate when he has time but when he’s under pressure, his mechanics go to shit and he floats the ball all over the field.  Cutler's decision-making has always been in question.  I’d love to see him just throw the ball away in pressure situations but that’s not what he does.  When Aaron Rodgers is under pressure, he still makes accurate throws or throws the ball away.

I’ll also say, the Bears do need to upgrade the o-line.  There aren’t too many QB’s that can succeed with a bad o-line.  Even Tom Brady gets rattled when he gets hit – see his last 2 Superbowls for evidence.  Peyton Manning gets rattled too.  They all do.  Joe Flacco started lighting it up last year once the line started blocking better for him.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same out of Cutler.  Let’s hope so, because Cutler is still the best shot the Bears have.

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  • While I agree, Cutler needs to step up, as does everyone on the offensive side of the ball, comparing his stats and Bears O-line stats with other teams doesn't tell the whole story.

    Green Bay has no running game so teams know they are gonna pass and can dedicate more pass rush when playing GB. Additionally, Rodgers has played in the same system since "forever". Cutler is yet again getting a news system and new O-coordinator. The Bears O-line may statistically be better than some believe but they also had to max-protect (keeping 7 blockers) far too often, which limited the number of targets available to throw to AND most often didn't give him much time either. (ESPN was discussing & this a few days ago.)

    I won't even go into the receiver corps. but saw we need a speedster to replace Knox (& the Hester Experiment).

    Cutler threw for 4K which doesn't happen by fluke.

    Cutler definitely has room for improvement but he is far from the main problem(s) on what has been a horribly inconsistent offense.

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    Continuity is a variable most everyone forgets about. Cutler has been through how many coordinators now in Chicago? (Answer is 3. Turner, Martz, Tice and is on his 4th with Kromer/Trestman). Not only is constant change a mitigating factor but also play calling and creation. Tice was ATROCIOUS at OC. The offensive line can be upgraded just by play calling and play selection and I believe Trestman knows how to do that. That being said, if Cutler shows no sign of improving than it may be time to move forward but I give Jay the benefit of the doubt though.

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    Cutler's offensive line is still terrible. Not bad. Not "average last year". but terrible. Check a data driven site like Pro Football Focus. They ranked the Bears 30th. And Pro Football Focus doesn't give ANY member of the line a positive grade. So, you are most certainly, unequivocally wrong to say the line was not bad last year. Sack numbers went down during the 2nd half of the season but the Bears have to severely handicap their offensive game plan in order to keep the sack #'s down.

    Also, Cutler has not thrown INTs at "an alarming rate". In fact he has been pretty much mid pack in int's for the past 3 seasons. Aside from 2 bad pic games in the last 3 years (4 against the Pack and against the Skins in '10) he has averaged .76 INTs per game in the last 3 years.

    It is as if you think you are going against the grain in bringing levity to a situation here but really you are doing the opposite with your false assumptions.

    DP specifically focused on Cutler's curse of Martz and wrote an article that said "QBs that curse at their OCs are not leaders". That eliminates virtually all QBs in the history of the game. Double standards like this are rampant with Cutler to the point of being pedantic. He is judged on a different standard. It's a little bit like Obama. There are legit criticisms out there to make but most of these guys jump on Cutler for fanciful exaggerated BS. I think they think he is a goshdarned Kenyan Muslims too.

  • In reply to Lee Pendarvis:

    Thanks Lee. My initial Google search for Pro Football Offensive Line Rankings got me a list that had the Bears at 24th. I looked again and that listing was from mid-season -- from there the Bears offensive line ended season at 30th, including 28th in pass blocking but 30th in penalties. That does explain why a lot of folks, including yourself, feel the need to come to Cutler's defense.

    There is no question the Bears need to get better on offensive line and that any QB would have a hard time in Cutler's circumstance. They haven't give Cutler a great chance to succeed, but he still has the burden to prove something.

    I hope the Bears find an offensive line upgrade in free agency plus 1-2 in the draft, but it seems like I want this each and every year.

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