NFL Handicapping: Jay Cutler Will Be Bears Bust
by Robert Ferringo - 8/17/2009
The Jay Cutler Situation is the reason that I will always be able to make money betting on the National Football League.
Four years ago I was writing on this very site that Dante Culpepper was the most overrated quarterback in the NFL. As you might expect, this statement was met with a waterfall of vitriol and was nearly as popular as Rick Pitino at a Birther's rally. After all, Culpepper had been to multiple Pro Bowls and was coming off a year in which he threw for 4,700 yards. He was the man, right? Well, not to me. And over the past four seasons Culpepper has played in just 22 games with four different teams and posted a 5-17 record. Oh, and he's a charter member of the Fantasy Football Hall of Shame.
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Heading into the 2005 season I also wrote an article about how overrated Michael Vick was and discussed some off-field incidents that I thought were huge red flags. Same thing: people pointed to Vick's Pro Bowl invites as proof that my theory was absurd. However, Vick played two more years of mediocre football (15-16 team record, passer rating never above 76.0) before he was sent to the pokey for torturing, maiming and mutilating defenseless animals.
So it looks like I'm 2-for-2. So now let's go for the trifecta: Jay Cutler is one of the most overrated players in the NFL and he will never be a consistent winning quarterback in the NFL.
In a matter of full disclosure, I am a lifelong Bears fan. But the only thing I love in football more than the Bears is winning money for my clients and myself. And what I think we have here is a classic case of unsubstantiated hype leading to inflated expectations. The media touted Chicago's trade for Denver's young quarterback as the solution to decade's worth of quarterback problems. And while the Bears Nation quickly placed its collective face in the lap of the rather unaccomplished 26-year-old, my first reaction was the same it is always is: skepticism in the face of a seemingly unfounded popular belief. And after some analysis I feel fairly confident in proclaiming that Cutler will be the next Bears bust. So when Reality wraps its callous, cold-blooded fingers around the throat of this hype and everyone is stunned you can't say that I didn't warn you.
"But he went to the Pro Bowl last year!"
That's the first argument that blind loyalists of Cutler will throw out there so we will address that issue first. Yes, Cutler made the Pro Bowl. However, so did Jason Peters even though he allowed the most sacks of any left tackle in the league. I'll also point to Culpepper and Vick here, as their Pro Bowl selections did nothing to prevent their collapse.
But beyond that, there is no way that Cutler should have been in Hawaii. And the idea that he is headed for a career where he is a perennial Pro Bowler, one of the top handful of quarterbacks in the league, and a true "franchise quarterback" is, to me, laughable.
Below are the 2008 statistics for five quarterbacks. Only one of them made the Pro Bowl, and that was Cutler. See if you can tell which line is his:
17 TDs, 15, INTs, 59.9 percent, 3,301 yards, 80.1 rating
21 TDs, 11 INTs, 63.4 percent, 3,693 yards, 89.4 rating
34 TDs, 11 INTs, 65.3 percent, 4,009 yards, 105.5 rating
25 TDs, 18 INTs, 62.3 percent, 4,526 yards, 86.0 rating
19 TDs, 7 INTs, 67.4 percent, 3,653 yards, 97.4 rating
So, which was the Pro Bowler? Here are the actual quarterbacks with their statistics:
Ben Roethlisberger - 17 TDs, 15, INTs, 59.9 percent, 3,301 yards, 80.1 rating
Matt Cassel - 21 TDs, 11 INTs, 63.4 percent, 3,693 yards, 89.4 rating
Philip Rivers - 34 TDs, 11 INTs, 65.3 percent, 4,009 yards, 105.5 rating
Jay Cutler - 25 TDs, 18 INTs, 62.3 percent, 4,526 yards, 86.0 rating
Chad Pennington - 19 TDs, 7 INTs, 67.4 percent, 3,653 yards, 97.4 rating
It's pretty obvious to me that Rivers, Cassel and Pennington each had better statistical seasons than Cutler. Also - more importantly - all four quarterbacks guided their teams to better records. And that's why I included Big Ben's numbers; if there is anyone out there that would suggest taking Cutler over Big Ben I will tell you that person knows as much about football as I do about the types of plant life on the sea floor of the Indian Ocean. Big Ben has two rings. Pennington finished second in the MVP voting and took a 1-15 team from 2007 and turned them into a division winner. Rivers posted a rating nearly 20 points higher. Yet, somehow, Cutler got the nod for the Pro Bowl.
But it doesn't stop there. Last year Cutler played nine games against teams with defenses ranked No. 23 or worse and 12 of his games were against defenses in the lower half of the league rankings. Nine of his games were against pass defenses ranked No. 21 or worse. He played two Top 10 defenses - Tampa Bay and New England - and in those games he went 1-1 with an average of about 200 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. His last six games of the season produced just six TDs and seven INTs. Oh, and his teams' record was 2-4 to close the year. (And let's not forget that 49.8 QB rating in a 21-point loss AT HOME to Oakland in December.) Not exactly the stuff legends are made of.
Cutler falls into a similar situation to why I knew that Culpepper wasn't anywhere near as good as his numbers suggested. Both Cutler and Culpepper were blessed with exceptional skill players and a system that virtually guaranteed him putting up numbers. With weapons like Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokely and Tony Scheffler, along with a sturdy offensive line, the Broncos were going to score points and move the ball almost regardless of who was under center. It just happened to be Cutler. And while he did have a very good season, statistically, that doesn't mean that he is destined to be a good quarterback.
One of the key components of what makes a great quarterback is decision-making and judgment in situations that would make lesser men crumble like the Mayor of Gomorrah. Yet, time and time again Cutler has shown that he lacks those decision-making capabilities. Through the first 37 games of his career Cutler has already committed a whopping 61 turnovers (37 interceptions, 24 fumbles) compared to just 57 touchdowns while posting a record of 17-20. By comparison, in 36 games in his career Rex Grossman has committed 54 turnovers (35 interceptions, 19 fumbles). When you are even more of a turnover dispenser than The Sex Cannon you are in serious trouble.
My contention is that Cutler is a poor man's Kerry Collins. Think young, drunk, reckless Kerry Collins. Think Carolina and New York Giant Kerry Collins. Think about the turnover-prone mess with a cannon arm and big-play potential. That's Jay Cutler. Nothing more, nothing less. And that's OK. Collins lost a lot of games but the guy also went to a Super Bowl and played in another NFC Title Game. Not a bad resume. But the idea that Cutler is a franchise quarterback is, to me, a total farce. Cutler is closer to the Culpepper-Jake Delhomme-Collins mold than he is to any elite signal caller. And I think that's his ceiling.
Further, Cutler's judgment is just in question in regards to turnovers. There has been a longstanding knock on him from NFL insiders that Cutler has a problem reading defenses and adjusting to new material. And then there is the myriad of incidents in his career that make me think that he's a whiny little bitch. There was his decree that he has a stronger arm than John Elway. There was his getting dominated by San Diego and trash-talking Philip Rivers. There was his crying and whining after new Denver coach Josh McDaniels expressed interest in bringing his former quarterback, Matt Cassel, to the Broncos with him. (The exchange that led to Cutler's ouster.) There were rumors that Cutler had actually demanded a trade before that whole incident anyway. Also, he made a point to take a shot at Denver fans once he made it to Chicago. And after a terrible, terrible interception in his first preseason game with the Bears (5-for-10, 64 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 30.8 rating) Cutler chose to take a shot at his receiver for not making a play on the horribly underthrown ball. This came after telling the media that he wants to have input on Chicago's personnel decisions concerning the wide receivers.
Now, any one of these incidents you might be able to push aside. However, when you step back and look at them as a whole it paints an unflattering picture of a guy that's supposed to be a "franchise quarterback". Instead, it reminds me of all of the negative issues with Vick (Ron Mexico, flipping off fans, flipping out on local media, getting busted with pot in an airport) that were major red flags before the ultimate bomb dropped. Now, I don't expect to hear that Cutler is maiming small children or animals. But the bottom line is that someone's character always finds a way out in the things that they do.
In summation, I believe that Jay Cutler is terribly overrated and that he isn't nearly going to be the savior that Chicago Bears fans desperately want him to be. He is careless with the football. He is not great at reading coverage and tries to rely on his arm strength to bail him out of trouble. Chicago grossly, grossly overpaid to bring Cutler to the Windy City and in the end he is not going to be the difference maker that folks believe he will be.
I will be there to collect the cash betting against him the whole way.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and you can purchase a full season's package of his football selections for just $25 per week! Click here for details.
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