If someone was asked to sum up the career of former Denver Bronco and Chicago Bear Jay Cutler in one word, that someone would be wise to describe him as polarizing.
As a resident in the Chicagoland area throughout the duration of Cutler’s 8 year career, I can assure you that very few talking heads had an opinion of him that wasn’t on the extreme end of the spectrum. Cutler has been the poster boy for the “you either love him or you hate him” cliche. What bothers so many people in the Cutler fan camp is how he has been labeled in the national media as some sort of lackadaisical, incompetent individual. What bothers so many Jay Cutler haters is how people continue to stand up for him and his natural athleticism and talent, while seemingly ignoring that his arrogant persona effects his and his teammates performance. There is only one thing people can agree on when talking about Jay Cutler, and that is that nobody can agree with each other about him.
Jay Cutler is over a decade removed now in his career from the innocent, naive gunslinger who was just getting his feet wet as a professional with the Denver Broncos. While some of his negative habits from Denver have persisted while his willingness to change those habits hasn’t, the 4,500 yard pro bowl passer from 2008 isn’t coming back. The he coulda, shoulda, woulda been argument for Jay Cutler has come to a close, while he has been a surefire impact starter in this league, at almost 34 years old the dreams of Jay Cutler the pro bowler have become just dreams. Having said that, there is a reason that there was a he coulda, shoulda, woulda, argument for Cutler in the first place, as he has had a string of strange, unfortunate circumstances occur over his tenure in Chicago.
Over Jay Cutler’s first five seasons in Chicago, in games that he started and finished, he accumulated a 39-25 record. While the Bears still had a cast of defensive stalwarts in Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, and Julius Peppers, Cutler was employed with a cast of misfits at receiver and offensive line, and his top weapon Greg Olsen was traded away after Cutler’s second season. He only had one playoff appearance but between 2011-2013 He went 22-10, only to watch his backups go 4-12 while he was sidelined with head, thumb, and hamstring injuries. By the time the Bears added Brandon Marshall, a healthy Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett, and a respectable offensive line in 2013, the Bears had the worst scoring defense in the league and gave up more rushing yards per game than any team in league history.
Over the last three years the Bears have been forced to tear down and rebuild an aging and poorly constructed roster, but Cutler’s new contract extension and lack of quarterback depth in recent drafts had forced the Bears to keep Cutler as a stopgap. While many have forced blame on Cutler for the team’s lack of success, the numbers prove he was far from their biggest problem. In 2014 he threw a career high 28 touchdowns, in 2015 he posted career bests in quarterback rating and touchdown to interception ratio while missing just one game. Last season, a broken thumb and a torn labrum forced him to miss 11 games where he was forced to watch Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley combine for a 2-9 record.
While Cutler now comes with a laundry list of injuries, he has been fully cleared medically and is now looking for a new team. Now while Cutler has been blackballed by the media for his attitude and perceived disinterest for the game, dozens of his former teammates publicly defended him after his release. The fact that so many of his former teammates, both current bears and former/retired teammates, spoke up on his behalf when they didn’t have to goes to show how wrong many people have been when describing Jay Cutler as a person.
Cutler has proven he can win with competent weapons and good defenses, something that both the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans have. Both teams have been rumored to be interested in Tony Romo, a quarterback who has been criticized for mistakes on the field very similar to the mistakes Cutler has become famous for. Romo is three years older and has broken his clavicle three times over the last 20 months, and considering Jay Cutler has made $103 million over the last 8 season, it’s fair to assume that Cutler won’t be looking for a fortune in free agency.
At 34 years old with a wife, kids, and a boatload of money Jay Cutler might feel the time is right to call it quits. But if he wants one more shot, then Houston should pick up the phone.
(Update: Tony Romo has decided to walk away from football. The Cowboys are expected to release Romo shortly.)