Jay Cutler: Physical Tools Alone Don’t Make a Franchise Quarterback

Aug 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) exits the field after their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. Chiefs won 23-7. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) exits the field after their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. Chiefs won 23-7. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

As Jay Cutler continues to struggle playing quarterback for the Bears, his inconsistent play throughout the years should serve NFL teams a firm reminder that physical tools can be very misleading when judging a quarterback’s future success.

The  verdict on Jay Cutler’s career is out.  His play throughout the years has teased both NFL scouts and teams looking for a potential franchise quarterback.  The Chicago Bears traded for Cutler back in 2009 in pure desperation, a trade that has hampered the franchise ever since.

The Denver Broncos selected Cutler with the 11th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.  The Broncos, like many teams, believed that in selecting Cutler, they would be getting a potential franchise quarterback.

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It’s easy to see why a team desperate for a franchise quarterback would take a chance on Cutler. Looking back at his pre-draft scouting report, NFL.com recorded his 40 yard dash at 4.77 seconds. Pretty impressive for any quarterback, and to this day, no one has questioned Cutler’s athletic ability. Throughout his career with both the Broncos and the Bears, Jay has been able to move around well when being chased outside the pocket.  Cutler possesses good agility for a quarterback, which allows him to buy extra time in the pocket to make plays for his receivers.

In addition to having impressive athletic ability further analysed below, Cutler also possesses one of the strongest arms in the league.  As stated in his pre-draft scouting report provided by NFLDraftScout.com: (Cutler) has the balance and lateral agility to step up to avoid the pass rush. Despite holding the ball low, he has the arm power and quick throwing motion to get the ball out with velocity on screens … Can buy time in the backfield when flushed out due to his foot quickness … Has a lively arm with a snappy release (but needs mechanical refinement).

Sounds about right in regards to Jay Cutler’s play throughout his career.  His physical tools set him apart from most quarterbacks, but as both the Broncos and Bears have found out, these tools can only take a QB and his new franchise’s so far.

The Broncos traded Cutler to the Bears before the 2009 season began because they saw early signs of trouble plaguing him.  Sure, Cutler put up impressive stats during his three years with the Broncos, but he also began making a reputation for turning the ball over to opposing defenses.  If it wasn’t by throwing crucial interceptions, Cutler was turning the ball over through lost fumbles.

Well, since joining the Bears in 2009, Cutler has thrown 152 touchdowns, to go along with 108 interceptions.  The touchdowns are nice, but the frequent interceptions and lost fumbles during games still haunts him to this day.  And lets not forget about Cutler’s injury history since joining the Bears.  In eight seasons as the Bears’ starting QB, Cutler has only played a full 16-game season just once.  That one season coming in 2009, his first with the Bears.

If the constant turnovers and durability concerns haven’t served as a warning sign to the Bears, (and for any team) that becomes in love with QB’s mainly due to their physical tools, the most significant warning sign Cutler has given teams over the years is through his display of character.  The most successful QB’s in the NFL are beloved throughout the organization and inside their locker rooms.  Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and even young rookie quarterbacks like Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys are well-respected throughout their organizations.  The same cannot be said of Jay Cutler.

NFL columnist Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, reportedly texted with two players on the Bears roster after their humiliating 36-10 loss against the Buccanneers on Sunday, and found out that “most of the locker room has given up on Cutler.”

It’s bad enough when a team completely gives up on their quarterback, but the Bears’ organization should have seen this type of behavior coming a long time ago.  Take it from former Bears’ kicker Jay Feely, who was with the club back in 2014 when Marc Trestman was still the head coach.  Describing Cutler’s leadership skills in 2015, Feely had this to say to ESPN:

"“That’s not who he is. You’re going to have a vacuum there. So you have to know that as a general manager or a head coach, ‘Hey, we’re not going to have that leadership from this position, so we’ve really got to have other guys that are going to step up and are going to be our verbal leaders.”"

Too bad Feely’s comments on Cutler’s perceived leadership came a year after the team signed him to a seven year, $126.7 million dollar contract extension.

Anyways, the point here is that even though Jay Cutler had all the physical tools from Day 1 to succeed in the NFL as a team’s franchise quarterback, his glaring weaknesses uncovered over the years have prevented that from happening.  Aside from the impressive arm strength and athletic mobility evident in games, Cutler’s career has no doubt been hampered by injuries, turnovers, and character issues.

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While the Bears will most likely cut ties with Cutler following this disappointing 2016 season, other NFL teams in search for that “missing piece” at quarterback should take note of Cutler’s career.  If teams have been following closely, they would be wise enough to conclude that: superb physical tools alone do not make a franchise quarterback.