We know who Jay Cutler is by now. He’s a dog lover, a really excitable guy when his girlfriend is having pictures of her ass taken by multiple males, and little more than a fantasy backup because he’s the eternal enemy of consistency.
How has this monster — this frustrating creature who shows flashes of being an elite fantasy option that are followed by nights of seemingly utter incompetence — been created? Let us count the ways.
Perhaps the largest source of frustration is that despite how lost he looked last night, much of what we saw was out of Cutler’s hands. Even after the additions of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery mental errors still subtracted from his support, and a creaky offensive line still leads to frequent face plants.
After last night’s four interceptions and only 11 completions on 27 attempts for 126 yards, Cutler was what he’s always been, expect this was on the very extreme end of his inconsistencies. Yes, the defense he opposed in Week 1 against the Colts wasn’t on the same level as the unit trotted out by the Packers, and Indy doesn’t boast playmakers like Clay Mathews and Charles Woodson. But the Colts still employ professional defenders on a professional football team, and Cutler was able to be rather efficient against them for 9.5 yards per attempt, a passer rating of 98.9, and a completion percentage of 60.0.
Then he was sacked seven times last night, 3.5 of which came at the hand of Matthews, who now has six sacks over just two games, already equaling his 2011 total. Those rosy Week 1 numbers? They plummeted to a 40.7 completion percentage, a passer rating of 28.2, and 4.7 yards per attempt. Overall both quarterbacks faced a heavy pounding, with Aaron Rodgers also dragged down four times, and until Tom Crabtree’s touchdown on a fake field goal — a gimmick that was an appropriately unexpected contrast to a game that had seen plenty of smash, little finesse, and not nearly enough Celine Dion yet — there was more combined sacks between the two teams (four) than points (three).
But there was a higher level of intensity and frequency to the pressure Cutler faced. He was hurried at least 20 times, meaning on over half of his drop backs planting and experiencing any comfort whatsoever in the pocket was a cozy dream that only other QBs are afforded. You know, the ones who aren’t sacked over 40 times a season. Thankfully, Cutler wasn’t subjected to that pounding again last year since he was hurt for the final five games, but he’s now been sacked seven times through two games this year behind a line that’s watched its QB crumble 105 times since 2010.
It was a night that culminated with Cutler becoming the first QB since 2002 to be sacked seven times in a game while throwing four picks. He also added to his woe at Lambeau Field, where he now has a career completion percentage of 48 percent, and a passer rating of 38.
His third interception was the climax of the evening. He felt forced to do something, anything, somehow. He lifted a ball deep to Marshall through double coverage, and when the inevitable embarrassing outcome came to fruition, Cutler made the most Cutler face he’d made all night. Still, though, to some degree it was difficult to place the blame entirely on Cutler’s arm/shoulder/jerkface smile. As we saw most prominently late in the fourth quarter, he was forced to dance around defenders and sprawled bodies just to get a glimpse at the most mundane, routine throwing lane, and his throws eventually failed due to a drop or mental flub that continued the Bears’ offensive implosion, with Marshall’s end zone drop the most notable. There was no deep option, and often no opportunity to even look deep, as Marshall wasn’t even targeted during the first half, and the Bears wideouts finished with a combined 77 receiving yards.
Three of his four picks were inexcusable, and were the product of either a poor throw or an even worse decision. But on a night like Thursday when the defense he opposed was so dominant and his offensive line beaten so thoroughly, what entity here is more at fault: the pressing, frantic quarterback? Or the system that created him?
Too often, the answer to the above two questions regarding Cutler is just a simple “yes,” with both weaknesses functioning simultaneously to limit him on any given night, game, and sometimes even season. That combination will continue to hold him back from being anything more than good, and a quality fantasy backup.
But hey, that’s the value you expected when you took him in the 10th round. You did take him in the 10th round, right?