Jay Cutler’s success in Denver has been blown way out of proportion, and new coach Josh McDaniels was right to have questions about the fourth-year quarterback.
Cutler earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2008 based on his 4,526 passing yards. But in more important metrics, namely wins (8-8) and TD-to-INT differential (25-to-18), Cutler came up short.
Many of Cutler’s biggest yardage games ended up in the loss column -- the Broncos were 3-4 when he threw for more than 300 yards. Denver’s turnstile defense upped the tempo of the game and gave Cutler plenty of opportunities to gain yards in between the 20s, even if those yards didn’t do much to help the Broncos win.
Cutler also benefited from a defensively challenged schedule last season. Thanks in large part to his porous AFC West competition, Cutler faced defenses that ranked in the NFL’s bottom 10 in a majority of his games. The highest-ranked defense he faced all year was No. 9 Tampa Bay. Cutler may think twice about wanting to leave Denver when he looks at the schedules of the teams interested in him.
Cutler also might find life tougher outside of Mike Shanahan’s offense. Shanahan’s offense regularly landed near the top spot in total yardage throughout his years in Denver. Cutler gained more passing yards than his predecessors, but that’s mainly because all the injuries to the Denver running backs over the last two seasons forced Shanahan to go to the air more than he would have liked. While Cutler did a decent job in that offense, Shanahan probably could have found a lot of quarterbacks capable of putting up big numbers.
McDaniels may be young, but he’s been around a fantastic quarterback his whole career and knows what it takes to succeed at that position. If he wasn’t sold on Cutler, that should make other teams around the NFL nervous. For all the highlight-worthy passes Cutler made, McDaniels had to wince at the mental mistakes and forced throws that burned the Broncos last season.
It’s probably not an accident that the teams reportedly interested in Cutler all have iffy track records when it comes to evaluating the position -- take, for example, the Bucs, 49ers, Jets, Lions and Redskins. Big arms or big stats have fooled all of those teams in the recent past. Now, as they try to put together the right offer to land Cutler, they’re lining up to make the same mistake again.