Why in the world are people so high on Jay Cutler?

Jay-Cutler-Sacked

(Jay Cutler)

This morning on the Herd, Peter King scoffed at the idea that Jay Cutler would take “only” $12-15 million a year to stay with the Bears. King said this would place Cutler among the top dozen or so quarterbacks in terms of pay and it was self-evident to him that Cutler would never go for that. King may be right about Cutler’s perceived value and about Cutler’s assessment of his own worth.

But for the life of me, I cannot figure out why he’s regarded as an elite quarterback. Going back to 2009, his first year with the Bears, Cutler has ranked 21st, 16th, 13th, 20th and, this season, 15th in quarterback rating. That averages out to 17th over a five year period, a shade below the midpoint of the league. The advanced metrics don’t make Cutler look any better, either. Oh by the way, he’s also tended to be quite interception prone, which is perhaps the most important of the components of the QB rating. And it’s not as if he’s generally known for his elusiveness and running ability.

In sum, he’s played to a thoroughly mediocre performance over a long period of time. Amazingly, after eight years in the league, commentators still gush over his arm strength, as if that has meaning independent of his actual performance. As I noted a few weeks ago, he still gets called a “gunslinger,” a term that generally only gets applied to white quarterbacks, a way to signal that the QB is a risk-taker (as opposed to a bad decision maker). I know there’s a constant lament about a dearth of good quarterbacks in the NFL these days. But you know what – it was ever thus.  When I was growing up in the 1970s, the Bears’ starting QB was the eminently forgettable Bob Avellini.

As I’ve written before, I consider Eli Manning to be a wildly over-rated and overpaid player. But Eli does have a trump card to play – he’s won two Super Bowls. What’s Cutler ever won? In his first seven seasons in the NFL, his teams have made the playoffs in exactly one season. I really don’t care at all how the Bears spend their money. But Cutler’s value is not obvious from the stats, from his leadership, however you want to measure that, or in his team’s performance.

I don’t get it at all.

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