Nobody has figured out the Jay Cutler Puzzle yet. Somebody out there is sure he can. But the truth is, Cutler is a square peg who throws passes into a black hole.
Fortunately for Cutler and his bank account, there never will be an end to football coaches who believe they can make him fit. Cutler looks like a prototype and has great physical skills. And one coach after another is just sure that those skills can be developed, with some personal genius, to turn Cutler into the next Brett Favre.
So Cutler is now a 31-year-old quarterback for the Chicago Bears, having turned his fourth offensive coordinator in six years in Chicago into an idiot. He has accomplished absolutely nothing and transformed the Bears into the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchise. One more thing: He is the highest paid offensive player in the NFL, making $22.5 million this year.
Cutler is a career prospect. And you can laugh at that and say no one will ever be like him, but take another look. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is the same player as Cutler. He’s also a career prospect. Only he is 34 years old, and it looks as if someone has finally figured out the Tony Romo Puzzle. It looks that way, anyway. It was due in part to brilliant coaching and brilliant ownership by Jerry Jones – two things in short supply in Chicago.
But I think there is also a bigger force at play here: Randomness. Some things just happen. Despite all the years spent tinkering with Cutler and Romo, I can’t get past the feeling that this year, Romo just happened. Last year, Cutler was happening, maturing. Romo was bad. No one remembers hits. Now, they’ve flipped.
Dallas is America’s Team again. The Cowboys have won their division again. Romo is in the discussion for league MVP. Most of that talk is coming from Dallas, but at least it can now be said with a straight face. More amazingly, Jones, who had been turning into an Al Davis-like clown the past few years, is probably the NFL’s Executive of the Year.
The quarterback position is just that important. Meanwhile, in Chicago, the coach, general manager, offensive coordinator and probably Cutler himself are all about to be thrown out of town. If randomness had hit the other way, all those geniuses and idiots on both teams would be flipped, too.
Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer anonymously ripped Cutler to NFL.com – and later admitted, tearfully in front of the team, to doing so. The story said that Cutler was killing the offense by not checking out of bad running plays. It also said the Bears have buyer’s remorse on Cutler. How could they not?
Next thing you knew, Cutler wasn’t checking out of bad running plays on Monday Night Football. The crowd was booing, and Cutler looked over to the sideline. And this is just a theory: He did it on purpose to stick it to the coaches for blaming him.
During the game, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden was tearing into Cutler mercilessly (and correctly). At one point, he called for coach Marc Trestman to go to backup Jimmy Clausen because, “It’s just not happening for Cutler.”
That was an accurate assessment. What struck me as curious was that Gruden never seemed to tear into Trestman, who has been coaching the team at half the pace it is playing, always coming in way too late, as if he’s just slammed a bottle of cough syrup.
Trestman used to work for Gruden in Oakland, and – another personal theory here – you had to assume that before the game Trestman talked to his old boss and did the same thing the offensive coordinator did: blame the whole season on Cutler and save his own job.
Then Trestman benched Cutler this past week.
Look, right around this time last year, Trestman was still considered a top offensive mind. Cutler was looking good. The Bears thought they had figured out the Cutler Puzzle. GM Phil Emery gave him a seven-year, $126 million contract, though only $54 million of that is guaranteed.
Surveying the damage, Trestman has gone from top offensive mind to cough-syrup casualty. He’s going to be fired. Kromer, who was considered a possible head coach some day, is going to be fired. Emery, the guy who gave Cutler so much money? He’ll be fired, too. And Cutler will probably be cut, even if the Bears do have to eat $15 million of his pay next year.
Meanwhile, everyone is a genius in Dallas. And all because one quarterback rose while another fell. Randomness. Some things just happen.
Now, Mike Shanahan is saying that Cutler is still a franchise QB. I wonder why? Could it be that Shanahan wants to coach the Bears? And NFL.com is reporting that Tennessee is looking into getting Cutler for next season, one of the first teams lining up for what the site calls the Jay Cutler sweepstakes.
The Jay Cutler sweepstakes. Think about that. The guy is leaving his franchise in ruins, yet his arm strength, height and weight are just so tantalizing that NFL minds are willing to take another chance on him. Somewhere out there, someone believes they will be the one to solve the Jay Cutler Puzzle. They just can’t help themselves.
And who knows? Maybe Cutler could be the next Romo. Tony also has a contract of more than $100 million and just one career playoff win.