Greg Cosell: The Perception/Reality of Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler has been a lightening rod for criticism since his arrival in Chicago.

Over the last few seasons, no quarterback in the NFL has endured more criticism than the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler. He was labeled a crybaby after forcing his way out of Denver (Never mind the fact that he and his agent were both told they were NOT attempting to deal him by the Broncos’ front office. The initial lie told by then head coach Josh McDaniels is what initiated the split to begin with).

He was roundly panned by analysts and even fellow players for exiting the 2010 NFC Title Game with a torn PCL. The Bears as an organization failed him in that instance by labeling his return as “questionable” when they knew all along the extent of his injury. NFL teams are notoriously guarded and shady when it comes to announcing injuries and in this case, it lead to the perception of a lack of toughness on Cutler’s part.

He has had his personality, body language, and sideline demeanor picked apart by the media. His aloof nature has lead to him being labeled as  moody, arrogant and incapable of being a true leader of a football team.

All of this his clouded one simple fact – Jay Cutler is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks this league has ever seen. NFL Films’ Greg Cosell relied on – what else – game tape to paint the picture of a quarterback whose negative perception within the media has cast a shadow over his talents.

It was Cutler’s first season in Chicago, 2009, that has likely tainted Cutler’s public perception. He threw 26 interceptions, the most in the NFL. He threw 15 of them in four games, three of those games nationally televised. In addition, six of those 26 interceptions came in the red zone, which also led the league. That season painted a negative portrait of Cutler as a reckless, careless, irresponsible quarterback who lacked the necessary control and discipline to play at a consistently high level.

Let’s drill down a little deeper, separate reality from perception and evaluate Cutler after five full seasons as an NFL starter — focusing solely on the measurables of his play and not subjective observations like body language or press conference demeanor. Cutler is one of the best pure throwers in the NFL. His elite arm strength gives an offense every dimension in the pass game. He throws the deep digs (about 20-22 yards between the numbers) as well as any quarterback in the game. He has deceptive movement skills, with the ability to make throws down the field on the run. There’s little hesitation to his game; he intuitively turns it loose.

I remember Cutler’s first playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2010 season, when the Bears were NFC North champions. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. He was controlled, disciplined and aware — not turning over the ball once. Seemingly forgettable plays like an eight-yard scramble on third-and-2 on a third-quarter touchdown drive showed his understanding of game situations and his ability to manage them. I don’t hear many people reference that game when discussing Cutler. My sense is it doesn’t fit the pre-determined narrative.

Cosell concludes his piece by stating that, “Cutler is a “wow” passer with the ability to carry an offense, and a much better player than he’s perceived to be.” He doesn’t post the numbers of a Tom Brady. He doesn’t pick you apart with a Swiss Army Knife of weaponry that Drew Brees does. But when you look beyond the tired media tripe of “bad body language/poor demeanor”, what you are left with is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. Now that he has been equipped with the necessary players (wide receivers Brandon Marshall and 2nd round draft choice Alshon Jeffery) to run a consistent and competent offense, I fully expect Cutler to silence both his harshest critics and haters with a Pro Bowl caliber 2012 season.

Greg Cosell: The Perception and Reality of Jay CutlerW&L: Analyzing a Quarterback

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