Dear Tennessee Titans fans,
You don’t want Jay Cutler as your starting quarterback.
When a general manager or head coach evaluates an NFL quarterback, be it through free agency, trades or the NFL Draft, a dozen different qualifications must be addressed.
With the exception of a strong arm, Cutler doesn’t have a single one.
Physically, Cutler has the arm strength (1) that NFL teams have always desired. But other than that, he has been hurt frequently (2) throughout his career and no longer has the mobility (3) he displayed in college. Cutler hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2010, missing six games in 2011, five games in 2013 and the second half of the most important game of his entire life (more on this later).
From an accuracy standpoint (4), Cutler has been average his entire career. His career 61.7% completion rate is 12th among all active passers, behind Matt Schaub and Ryan Tannehill. His poor precision is better illustrated with his inability to protect the football (5). Cutler is leading the NFL with 18 interceptions and leads the NFL with 12 fumbles this season. He’s thrown multiple interceptions in seven of his 14 starts this year.
Only once since his rookie season has Cutler thrown fewer than 12 interceptions in a season and has led the league twice in the category. He has a career 3.4% interception ratio (interceptions/attempt) — which 68th in NFL history behind Joey Harrington, Josh Freeman, Charlie Batch, Chad Henne and David Carr. His career TD:INT ratio is 1.4.
By comparison, his archrival Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL all-time with a career 3.9 TD:INT ratio, a career 105.8 QB-rating and a career 1.7% interception ratio. For the record, Rodgers has thrown more than 11 interceptions once in his entire career.
That said, turnovers can be overcome if you produce (6) at a Brett Favre-type level, but Cutler isn’t doing that either.
In the modern era of passing football, throwing for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns has become a normally accessible benchmark of success. Over the last four years (including 2014), a quarterback topped 4,000 yards 38 times. Basically, the top third of the NFL throws for at least 4,000 yards each season. Jay Cutler has topped 4,000 yards in a season once ('08) and has never thrown more than 28 touchdowns in a season.
It's not like he's devoid of supporting playmakers either. Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett make the Titans roster look more like a Sun Belt team than an NFL squad.
From a leadership standpoint (7), various players from around the NFL have been outspoken about his influence in the locker room or huddle. They “don’t like Cutler as a teammate.” He pouts constantly, publicly berates teammates and has arguably the worst body language of any quarterback of this generation.
He’s terrible with the media (8), and has had an interesting off-the-field track record (9) — mostly dating back to his college days (search: phone booth). Let’s be honest, he’s the second most famous member of his own marriage (to Kristin Cavallari). He’s simply doesn’t qualify as a “face of the franchise.”
Again, most of these deficiencies will be overlooked if a QB can “just win baby.” But Cutler is anything but a winner (10). In nine seasons as a starter, Cutler has posted a winning record just three times and he’s never won more than 10 games in a year. He was 17-20 as the starter in Denver, is 44-37 in Chicago and is 61-57 overall as an NFL starter. Matthew Stafford has won at least 10 games as many times as Cutler (twice) and he’s played only four full seasons as a starter… FOR THE LIONS!
More important than winning in the regular season is winning in the postseason (11). Cutler has led his team to the postseason once in his nine-year career and never took his college team (Vanderbilt) to a bowl game — he was 11-35 as a starter in college. He did win his first playoff game at home against Seattle in 2010 before losing to Green Bay at home in the 2010 NFL Championship game.
In the most important game of his entire career, he completed six passes for 80 yards, no touchdowns and one interception in the embarrassing loss to their archrival with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. He missed most of the second half with an injury as teammates questioned his toughness.
How about what it will take to acquire (12) Cutler? To obtain this mediocre signal caller, a team would have to give up some package of draft picks — which might not be too hefty a price considering Cutler’s lack of production — and then would be on the hook for a huge contract. Cutler hits the cap between $16-17 million per year for the next four seasons before it rises to over $20 million in 2019-20. Cutler would be 38 when his contract runs out in 2020.
If the Bears were to cut Cutler, then at least there is some logic in signing the player, but trading for him with his current contract seems idiotic.
So why are Titans fans seemingly obsessed with bringing in Cutler?
He has a strong arm, is available and is better than Zach Mettenberger? He played his college football in Nashville and has a famous wife?
Sure, he’s more experienced and proven than Mettenbeger by a wide margin. But really, the Titans rookie QB is just a dramatically cheaper version of Cutler — a big armed passer with an “interesting attitude” who isn’t all that accurate and hasn’t really won much of anything. At least, Mettenberger has upside.
It’s no sure thing, but why not draft a rookie superstar with huge upside — Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston — and package him with Cutler 2.0 (aka, Mettenberger) and go to battle in 2014?
No, Nashville, you don’t want Jay Cutler in a Titans uniform.