It's time for Bears to move on from Jay Cutler
For the sake of the Chicago Bears, it’s probably time we all move on from Jay Cutler and stop waiting for the epiphany that never comes.
10 years into his career, there is no point talking about potential, arm-talent and upside. Cutler is what he is: A QB with immense physical tools destined to never come close to making best use of them. If you want to think of that as unfulfilled potential, then that’s fine, but it’s surely best we stop trying to coax that potential from him. It’s not going to happen.
Much the same way the league ultimately gave up trying to craft a good quarterback out of Jeff George’s arm, it’s probably time Cutler had the same treatment.
After a decent performance on opening weekend against Houston — a game that is looking more and more like some kind of QB accident given the play of Cutler and the Texans’ Brock Osweiler since — Cutler was playing horrendously against the Eagles before being hurt, and this week he sank to even lower depths. He was back to his worst football, orchestrating a disaster against Tampa Bay and having the kind of performance that just gives the team no chance to win the game.
Cutler was directly responsible for nine Tampa Bay points in the game, tossing a pick-six to safety Chris Conte, and then later in the game trying to extend a play inside of his own end zone, fumbling the ball while getting sacked and seeing it knocked out of the back of the end zone for a safety. From that point he had to orchestrate two scoring drives — one of them a touchdown — just to get back to breaking even for the day.
The safety was the second turnover of the game caused by Cutler trying to extend the play with seemingly no feel for the impending contact, and his fourth of the game. He turned the ball over three times in the first half and his biggest play of the day – a 50-yard touchdown pass – was a Hail Mary late in the game that required a lucky bounce to land in the hands of his receiver. His biggest contribution to those numbers was basically being able to throw a ball 50 yards in the air.
Take that play away and Cutler was 15-for-27 for 132 yards and two interceptions. That’s a passer rating of 37.9, or worse than if he had just dropped back and thrown the ball at the ground every play. This at a time when the Bears have discovered a player in running back Jordan Howard who can carry the offense and ensure that Cutler doesn’t have to make miracles happen for them to score points. Against the Bucs, Howard had 100 rushing yards on only 15 carries. That’s his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the season — in each of the two weeks he failed to hit that mark since assuming a serious workload back in Week 4, he had 15 or fewer carries.
Against Tampa Bay, Howard didn’t have a carry of over 15 yards, and gained 62 of those yards after contact, yet rather than load him up and have him shoulder the burden, the Bears allowed Cutler to drop back and pass 35 times.
Just looking at the first two Chicago drives tells you all you need to know about that dynamic. Chicago began the game alternating between Howard carries and Cutler passes. The first time the Bears had consecutive passes, they were forced to punt. On the next drive Howard gained 15 yards on first down before Cutler was sacked, threw one pass for 13 yards and then tossed an interception. The drive after that lasted one play — Cutler throwing the ball to the Bucs for six points.
When they ran the ball, it worked. When they passed the ball, Cutler happened.
Even after all of that they were just seven points down and it took until the third quarter for the game to get out of hand to the point you would say they needed to chase points and it probably needed to happen through the air.
Usually even the worst Cutler performances are punctuated by impressive throws — the glimmer of potential shining through the layers of crud that keeps coaches hanging on and chasing the prize at the end of the rainbow — but in this game there really wasn’t anything. He had only a handful of positively graded plays all game, and one of those was nullified by a penalty.
This was as bad as Cutler gets, and it’s likely that he won’t play at this level for the remainder of the season, but the Bears were getting better QB play out of Brian Hoyer before he got hurt. They’re likely stuck with Cutler at least until Hoyer is eligible to return from IR — because for all Cutler’s faults, he still isn’t worse than Matt Barkley — but whatever happens over the remainder of the year, they need to be looking for a new signal-caller for the 2017 season.
Cutler is being paid $16 million this season, and an average of $18.1 million per season over his current contract. He is now the 31st-ranked QB at PFF, sandwiched neatly between Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Fitzpatrick, both of whom have been backups at points this season.
Among the QBs performing better than he is right now are his own teammate Hoyer (who is earning just $2 million this season), three rookies, and Eli Manning — who is having his worst season since his rookie year.
Cutler may still have physical gifts, but it’s time we gave up the forlorn hope they will ever be a bigger part of his game than terrible plays. If he had just marginal arm talent, Cutler would have been cast aside years ago as a player who makes too many poor decisions to be a viable NFL quarterback. That evaluation doesn’t change just because he can unleash a howitzer at any moment. He had his chance to develop and weed the poor play from his game, and it hasn’t happened.
QBs that can’t score are problematic for an offense, but not nearly as problematic as those who score for the opposition. It’s time for Chicago to move on from Cutler.