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View Full Version : FootballOutsiders on Cutler: How not to throw the ball away


fontaine
12-04-2009, 07:45 AM
Seriously, has anybody seen more lines dedicated to coming up with any reason to explain why a QB, simply, doesn't just throw the ball away when the pass isn't there?

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/cover-3/2009/cover-1-whats-wrong-jay-cutler

Cover-1: What's Wrong with Jay Cutler?
by Doug Farrar

(Note: My apologies for the abridged "Cover-1" this week; I got through most of the Cutler piece just in time for a nasty head cold to whomp me upside the head. Back to normal next week. -- Doug)

It's safe to say that the trade sending Jay Cutler to Chicago hasn't worked out for either the quarterback in question or his new team. After throwing 18 interceptions in all of 2008, Cutler has already tossed 20 through 11 games in 2009. And the Bears, having spent Kyle Orton, two first-round draft picks, and a third-round pick (not to mention the contract extension Cutler signed in October), didn't give up all that scratch for a guy flanked in this week's DYAR rankings by Brady Quinn and Josh Johnson.

After watching Cutler struggle with all manner of issues through his first Chicago season, my original idea was to analyze his footwork and see if mechanical degradation was the key to his sub-par performance. It didn't take long to realize that while Cutler will probably never join the "perfect-plant-and-throw" ranks, his ability to look like a marquee quarterback was pretty far down in the list of problems. The numbers bear that out for the most part; his completion percentage isn't down discernibly from previous years, with one notable exception.

Jay Cutler's Completion Percentage
Year Short Mid Deep Bomb
2009 75% 56% 48% 28%
2008 74% 62% 52% 24%
2007 75% 59% 64% 20%

Where you see the difference is in the manageable deep throws (throws of 16 to 25 yards) that had become a hallmark of Cutler's skill-set -- the big-play ability and downfield arm that made him a very big problem for opposing defenses. The bombs of 25-plus yards or more are generally more about straight line receiver speed and broken coverages unless they're designed plays. (See: Brady to Moss.) What the current Bears donít show at all is the array of effective route combinations common to all great passing offenses. (See: New Orleans Saints. Then, see them again. Wow.)

I had the opportunity to ask Greg Cosell of NFL Films and ESPN's State Farm NFL Matchup where the problem really lies. Cosell believes that Cutler, an idiosyncratic quarterback at best, is falling apart in a system that plays to none of his strengths. "Heís always been a guy thatís struggled with mechanics," Greg said. "Heís never been what youíd call a fundamentally sound quarterback -- heís never been a guy youíd show an instruction tape of as he drops and throws. I think there are a few fundamental differences between Cutler then and now. In Denver, he was dealing with a better offensive coaching staff, a better scheme, a better offensive line, and better receivers. Which, all of that put together, could camouflage and mask his fundamental deficiencies."

"I think youíre seeing the cumulative effect of a lot of things. One is an offensive line that is probably the worst in pro football. As you play more and more games, and there's more and more pressure, a quarterback who is not naturally mechanically sound, will become worse because no one likes to have people in their face all the time. Very often, when quarterbacks take shots early in games, you see them start to lose their mechanics over the course of a game, get rid of the ball too early, start to play too fast."

Those deep throws going all over the place? "He's waiting for the pressure. He's perceiving the pressure now when it's not there because itís happened so often, heís just expecting it to happen. Heís always been a tight window thrower. Thatís one of the things that makes him different and thatís an attribute I think you have to have in the NFL, but he needs receivers who are bigger, who are more physical, who attack the football, who can make contested catches -- he doesnít have one receiver like that in Chicago. And Iím not talking about tight ends, Iím talking about wide receivers. Heís got receivers who are runners. They donít attack the ball; they don't make contested catches."

ďAt the end of the day, every single thing thatís going on with Chicagoís offense, and I havenít even mentioned a running game that is probably also the worst in the NFL, everything is conspiring against Cutler. So now youíve got a decision to make as an offense. Do you try to play the game to throw four yard passes, three-step drops, five-step drops, just so he doesnít throw interceptions?"

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Is Cutler mechanically fixable? And can the system work around him? "Everybodyís mechanically fixable, it all depends on how hard you want to coach a guy," he said. "Thatís the same problem with Tony Romo. Heís mechanically fixable, too, but I donít know how he's coached because he doesnít play as if he's being coached. Thereís a reason Donovan McNabb is a week-to-week quarterback, and you have no idea what his accuracy is going to be week-to-week. Itís because his mechanics arenít very good. Of course that's fixable. Mechanics are always fixable. The next question is 'Will it make a difference?.'"

The more I talked to Greg, the more I believed the Bears would have been better off keeping Kyle Orton and the draft picks. Greg assured me that at his root, Cutler has talent that can't be duplicated. "He is probably the best pure thrower in the National Football League. I'm just talking about throwing a football. Even off-balance, there are throws he makes that are just absolutely remarkable."

"Quarterbacks are always the ones who take ... the people who don't like him to begin with, and believe me, thereís a large group of those people -- we know that -- are just going to say that he stinks. He doesnít stink. Heís an unbelievable talent that needs to be harnessed. Arguably, the two most gifted quarterbacks, in terms of pure, physical gifts, are Roethlisberger and Cutler. No one throws a ball like Cutler. Heís unbelievable."

"Cutler has always been a very accurate guy. You know that heís not himself by the fact that his accuracy has gone away a little bit. You know thereís something wrong. His interceptions didn't come from inaccuracy; his interceptions came from ill-advised throws."

But what happens to that talent if there's no room for it? Against the Vikings, Cutler came out of the box in a way that told me two things: First, the Bears' coaching staff was setting things up to eliminate risk. Second, anything but dink-and-dunk when you're looking at a Jared Allen-Orlando Pace matchup is just nonsensical. On Cutler's second throw of the game, on second-and-3 from his own 42 with 10:58 left in the first quarter, Allen got around Pace with no resistance whatsoever, and Cutler bailed out to Earl Bennett at the line of scrimmage for a loss of two yards. When Cutler hit tight end Greg Olsen for a three-yard out on third-and-five, Olsen could gain only one more yard after the catch because cornerback Cedric Griffin and linebacker Chad Greenway were playing close in, waiting for the short pass, and knowing that the Bears had admitted defeat in a strategic sense. Three quick passes, and a three-and-out.

It was difficult to know what to make of Cutler's mechanics early on -- the guy's obviously talented enough to complete quick outs -- but I was astonished to see Pace get no help with Allen on any of those plays. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner managed to combine the protection leakage of wide sets with the inflexible non-production of a quick-screen-only offense. It was mind-blowing.

On the next drive, Cutler's job was to hand off three times to Matt Forte, which got the Bears another three-and-out for their trouble. In my quest to analyze Cutler's footwork on even medium-length passes, I had to skip forward to the second quarter, when the Bears put together their first productive drive starting at the 14:46 mark. A 44-yard kickoff return by Danieal Manning set the Bears up at their own 46. After four quick passes and an incompletion in which I thought Cutler was going to go all "Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI" and get sacked for a 29-yard loss, he finally hooked up with speed demon Johnny Knox on what seems to be the one repeatable deep throw in the Chicago playbook: Knox on a straight go to a little end zone fade, burning past the cornerback in tight coverage, as Cutler drops back and heaves the ball downfield off a back-foot plant. Thatís how Chicago got a 24-yard touchdown with 12:17 left in the first half. When you're facing a line like Minnesota's, and you have no protection, your only hope is that your deep receiver is faster to the completion of his route than Jared Allen is in knocking your head off. That's a dangerous game to play with an asset you gave up so much to get.


The next deep pass of any note came with 2:51 left in the first half, and here's where it all came to a head: an interception sparked by terrible footwork. Cutler had Knox on the left side this time, with Griffin covering him tight again, and Knox veered to the edge of the end zone as he had on the touchdown. When Cutler released the ball, his left shoulder hadn't opened up yet. Instead of either throwing off his back foot (which he's still better at then anyone I've ever seen) or planting and using forward momentum to drive his throw, Cutler was just alternating from his right to his left foot in a little shuffle. It was almost as if he was trying to take a little off the throw to place it in Knox's vicinity, but the ball was pretty severely underthrown, and Griffin just hung back for the pick.

This was the play that made me decide to write about Cutler this week -- for all the unusual aspects to his throwing motion when he was bringing it in Denver, I have never seen him so indecisive (or, as Greg might say, he's never played so fast). That's the word that comes to mind when I watch Jay Cutler now, and while I have no clue what's going on in his head, the tentative throws I'm seeing indicate a shell-shocked player in a situation that doesn't work for him at all.

fontaine
12-04-2009, 07:48 AM
So let me get this straight. Cutler doesn't have the "right" type of WRs that fight for the ball? How many QBs do?

So he doesn't have enough time against guys like Jared Allen?
Which QB does?

So because he's the "best pure thrower" of the ball he can't just throw it away instead of forcing it?
Like every other good QB does?

Much more frail QBs like Warner who've been sacked/concussed/injured can hang in the pocket to make plays yet Cutler, built like a big safety, get's all jittery because he's been sacked a few too many times in just 11 games?

You could pretty much take the entire piece above about Chicago and replace it with his days in Vanderbuilt. Except there he played a lot better. Either he's not good enough to adjust to a new offense or he's simply too stubborn.

Tombstone RJ
12-04-2009, 07:56 AM
Last time I checked, Cutler doesn't even play for the Broncos. I guess I'm confused on why anyone gives a ratzz azz about this crap.

fontaine
12-04-2009, 08:02 AM
Last time I checked, Cutler doesn't even play for the Broncos. I guess I'm confused on why anyone gives a ratzz azz about this crap.

I gives a ratzz azz till game 16 is over for Chicago and Cutler can continue to play as poorly as possible till then so that I have something to laugh about when we pick in the first round.

TheElusiveKyleOrton
12-04-2009, 08:03 AM
So let me get this straight. Cutler doesn't have the "right" type of WRs that fight for the ball? How many QBs do?

So he doesn't have enough time against guys like Jared Allen?
Which QB does?

So because he's the "best pure thrower" of the ball he can't just throw it away instead of forcing it?
Like every other good QB does?

Much more frail QBs like Warner who've been sacked/concussed/injured can hang in the pocket to make plays yet Cutler, built like a big safety, get's all jittery because he's been sacked a few too many times in just 11 games?

You could pretty much take the entire piece above about Chicago and replace it with his days in Vanderbuilt. Except there he played a lot better. Either he's not good enough to adjust to a new offense or he's simply too stubborn.

Or he was simply a workout warrior at the combine and nobody took into account that all these problems existed at Vandy.

Be honest: How many of you even knew who Jay Cutler was before the combine?

Tombstone RJ
12-04-2009, 08:06 AM
I gives a ratzz azz till game 16 is over for Chicago and Cutler can continue to play as poorly as possible till then so that I have something to laugh about when we pick in the first round.

I can see why you might be interested in The Bears draft pick but to me it looks like your focusing on Cutler.

I love it as much as anyone that he's stinking it up. But c'mon dude, get off Cutler.

jhns
12-04-2009, 08:07 AM
So let me get this straight. Cutler doesn't have the "right" type of WRs that fight for the ball? How many QBs do?

So he doesn't have enough time against guys like Jared Allen?
Which QB does?

So because he's the "best pure thrower" of the ball he can't just throw it away instead of forcing it?
Like every other good QB does?

Much more frail QBs like Warner who've been sacked/concussed/injured can hang in the pocket to make plays yet Cutler, built like a big safety, get's all jittery because he's been sacked a few too many times in just 11 games?

You could pretty much take the entire piece above about Chicago and replace it with his days in Vanderbuilt. Except there he played a lot better. Either he's not good enough to adjust to a new offense or he's simply too stubborn.

This guy had a great breakdown of Cutler and that offense. He didn't say he just didn't have time against Allen. He pointed out that they were leaving a bad Pace one on Allen with no help. There is a big difference. I don't think the receiver excuse is a good one though. The way the plays are being designed is a great excuse. The lack of coaching and the lack of talent are great excuses. If you are being at all objective, I don't get how you can say that stuff doesn't affect a QB...

Chicago needs to get an offensive Coordinator that knows how to run an NFL offense. They also need to get a guy with some balls that will get on Cutler and make him learn instead of treating him like he is perfect. This trade will never work out for them if this doesn't happen. It is a waste to get a young QB if you have no ability to help them get better. Cutler was far from perfect when he left here. He is onky going to continue getting worse if that situation stays the same.

Kaylore
12-04-2009, 08:07 AM
Or he was simply a workout warrior at the combine and nobody took into account that all these problems existed at Vandy.

Be honest: How many of you even knew who Jay Cutler was before the combine?

I knew and I liked him better than Leinart (though I thought VY would be a good player in the NFL).

BlaK-Argentina
12-04-2009, 08:10 AM
Seriously, way too many Cutler threads.

vancejohnson82
12-04-2009, 08:13 AM
Or he was simply a workout warrior at the combine and nobody took into account that all these problems existed at Vandy.

Be honest: How many of you even knew who Jay Cutler was before the combine?

I knew who he was because I'm an intense SEC follower....however, his days in Vandy are a lot of what he does now...when he was in college the game was always on his shoulders and his teams typically didnt have a snowball's chance in hell at winning the game...hence, the coaches would just pat him on the back and let him sling the ball around all he wanted....if he threw a pick, it was just because he was trying to make a play and attempting to give his team a chance.

he took that attitude into the NFL and Shanny let him do so...he has not conquered the ability to simply manage an offense and he's been unable to shrug off the "this game is all about me today" type of attitude....its great to have that in the last two minuts of a game when you need a score because if you throw a pick, whatever, you needed to make some plays or you wouldnt win anyway....but its a terrible mindset when you are at the 17 yard line in the first quarter and you are looking to force throws on 3rd down....

JHNS is right....he needs a coordinator or a coach to come in and change his attitude about the position

jhns
12-04-2009, 08:13 AM
I can see why you might be interested in The Bears draft pick but to me it looks like your focusing on Cutler.

I love it as much as anyone that he's stinking it up. But c'mon dude, get off Cutler.

This is also true. People keep using this draft pick excuse. Yes, how Chicago does this year is relecant to the Broncos. Is it more important to the Broncos than what the Broncos are doing though? Cutler is talked about here more than any Bronco player (other than maybe Hillis) and seems to be talked about more than this team in general.

fontaine
12-04-2009, 08:29 AM
I can see why you might be interested in The Bears draft pick but to me it looks like your focusing on Cutler.

I love it as much as anyone that he's stinking it up. But c'mon dude, get off Cutler.

Point taken.

Rest assured, this will be my first and last thread about Cutler this season!

I guess, Tombstone, in a round about way, I like examining Cutler's play in Chicago this season (not the flame wars) because it makes me appreciate Orton more as a QB and how he's able to play up to his talent.

Orton has improved every year in the NFL and he's on his way to having a career best season. I can't wait to see how well he does next year with a full year under the system and another off season working with our WRs and McD.

fontaine
12-04-2009, 08:32 AM
This guy had a great breakdown of Cutler and that offense. He didn't say he just didn't have time against Allen. He pointed out that they were leaving a bad Pace one on Allen with no help. There is a big difference. I don't think the receiver excuse is a good one though. The way the plays are being designed is a great excuse. The lack of coaching and the lack of talent are great excuses. If you are being at all objective, I don't get how you can say that stuff doesn't affect a QB...

Chicago needs to get an offensive Coordinator that knows how to run an NFL offense. They also need to get a guy with some balls that will get on Cutler and make him learn instead of treating him like he is perfect. This trade will never work out for them if this doesn't happen. It is a waste to get a young QB if you have no ability to help them get better. Cutler was far from perfect when he left here. He is onky going to continue getting worse if that situation stays the same.

Cutler, like any other QB in the NFL, needs to adjust to different WRs, different OLs and coordinators. It's the nature of free agency, injuries etc etc.

The QBs that can and do adjust are the ones that make their franchise better. At this point Cutler has no choice for the next few years but to adjust because Chicago don't have much of a draft class next year, and it'll take a few years for future draft picks like WRs/OL to develop.

McDman
12-04-2009, 08:37 AM
SO it seems the only way to have success with Cutler is an amazing offensive line, great WRs, and a very good run game?

Looks like Cutler made the wrong decision when he started pouting this last off season. I can't see him getting too much better because of Chicago's situation. They may make a couple splashes in free agency, but it won;t be anything significant and they're not going to be able to do anything with their draft.

As much as I dislike him as a person, I just wish we had seen his potential on this team with McD as his coach. We could have seen great things.

jhns
12-04-2009, 08:44 AM
Cutler, like any other QB in the NFL, needs to adjust to different WRs, different OLs and coordinators. It's the nature of free agency, injuries etc etc.

The QBs that can and do adjust are the ones that make their franchise better. At this point Cutler has no choice for the next few years but to adjust because Chicago don't have much of a draft class next year, and it'll take a few years for future draft picks like WRs/OL to develop.

I really don't think the receivers are the problem though. They do need a real number one, but they have talent there. I think it is only the o-line that needs fixed when it comes to talent.

That being said, they would all be better with a real offensive coordinator. Their current one does not put his players in a position to succeed. At least that is true with the type of offense they are trying to run this year. It seems to be a pass happy offense run from a ball control, run first, scheme. The need to either commit to the run and limit Cutlers passes (to 20-30 rather than 50 a game) or they need to bring in a coordinator than runs a pass first offense. I bet some here on this forum could run that offense better than they currently are, which should be considered the ultimate insult.

_Oro_
12-04-2009, 09:26 AM
SO it seems the only way to have success with Cutler is an amazing offensive line, great WRs, and a very good run game?

Looks like Cutler made the wrong decision when he started pouting this last off season. I can't see him getting too much better because of Chicago's situation. They may make a couple splashes in free agency, but it won;t be anything significant and they're not going to be able to do anything with their draft.

As much as I dislike him as a person, I just wish we had seen his potential on this team with McD as his coach. We could have seen great things.

\puke

baja
12-04-2009, 10:21 AM
I gives a ratzz azz till game 16 is over for Chicago and Cutler can continue to play as poorly as possible till then so that I have something to laugh about when we pick in the first round.

Not me I'm going to follow his career and relish in every failure.

DenverBrit
12-04-2009, 10:36 AM
SO it seems the only way to have success with Cutler is an amazing offensive line, great WRs, and a very good run game?

Looks like Cutler made the wrong decision when he started pouting this last off season. I can't see him getting too much better because of Chicago's situation. They may make a couple splashes in free agency, but it won;t be anything significant and they're not going to be able to do anything with their draft.

As much as I dislike him as a person, I just wish we had seen his potential on this team with McD as his coach. We could have seen great things.

Cutler would have gone into full pout as soon as McD got in his face.

I doubt he would have survived TC without an epic meltdown.

Trading him when they did assured the Broncos would get full value instead of waiting until there was no choice but to move him out.

azbroncfan
12-04-2009, 10:54 AM
I have always wondered why the butler's here thought that Jay threw such a good deep ball? Sure he can chuck it 100 yards down field but what good does that do if you can't get it within 10 yards of a WR?

Lolad
12-04-2009, 04:18 PM
Cutler has inexperienced WR's I've seen his guys give up on routes when he's scarmbling and not come back to the ball or stop short of a route and often times it gets picked. I would say at least 8 of cutlers picks are on his WR's

UberBroncoMan
12-04-2009, 05:31 PM
I gives a ratzz azz till game 16 is over for Chicago and Cutler can continue to play as poorly as possible till then so that I have something to laugh about when we pick in the first round.

Agreed. Cutler and the Bears remain relevant until their season ends.

cutthemdown
12-04-2009, 05:40 PM
Cutler had said going into the year he really liked his receivers. He was excited about Bennett because he said he knew him so well from college. Hester he said was fastest guy he ever threw to etc etc. Hell they have a good TE as well right?

The main problem is Cutler isn't that great and either or those wr. The result is a medicore offense.

kappys
12-04-2009, 06:02 PM
Cutler has proven that he's not a great QB this season to be certain.

That said he still is a QB that has a lot of strengths - none of which are highlighted by this offense. I don't think Kyle Orton is a great QB but I think McD has crafted a system with him that highlights his strengths. While the offense hasn't been spectacular Orton has looked better and better as the two refine the issues that do arise.

For Cutler I think the idea of running a spread offense - which essentially puts the onus on him to make good presnap reads of the defense and quick progressions is a recipe for disaster. These are clearly his weaknesses.

Although a max protect scheme is difficult to run in the NFL it would be a lot better. I think for Cutler long term a more run heavy play action scheme with a lot of roll-outs and movement will be his best option. His accuracy on the run is terrific and that type of offense somewhat limits his needs to go through a long progression of reads in identifying the open receiver. Such a scheme probably wouldn't win him a championship but it would generate a much better W-L record than he currently enjoys in Chicago.