|12-01-2007, 08:40 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Cutler's promise grows in season's worth of games
A SWEET 16
Cutler's promise grows in season's worth of games
By Lee Rasizer, Rocky Mountain News
A year ago this week, Jay Cutler looked over an assembled horde of media for his initial news conference as a starting NFL quarterback.
He wasn't about to make any promises, especially with all the expectations heaped upon him as the Broncos' No. 1 draft pick.
"I'm going to try not to disappoint," he said at the time.
A full 16 games into his tenure - that's one season in NFL years - Cutler hardly has been a letdown.
He measures up statistically against virtually any quarterback who has entered the league in recent seasons during this fledgling stage of his career, having completed 275 of 437 passes (62.9 percent) for 3,385 yards and 22 touchdowns, with 15 interceptions and an 89.3 quarterback rating.
But with Cutler, the numbers don't tell the whole tale.
He has demonstrated the ability to make all the throws, with zip and touch. Cutler has scrambled and slid in the pocket, showcasing his mobility, even running the option a few times.
He has led comebacks, gotten off the field quickly for scramble field- goal drills and made defenses respect the entire field without committing too quickly to run support.
Most of all, he has been unafraid to make the big play, firing into tight spaces but not haphazardly.
There also have been the mistakes of a young player: misreading defenses and some sloppy footwork, but not nearly enough to dampen the team's excitement about Cutler's future.
"He's had a heck of a first year," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "We wish we would have been better with the win-loss record. But what he's been able to do in his first year, I'll put up against anybody."
Having a five-game head start last season helped. That allowed coaches to use real-game experiences to tutor Cutler on his mechanics and reading coverages, while providing an offensive primer in Denver's system.
That short trial also created a comfort level this season. The Broncos have averaged 31.7 points during the past three weeks, and Cutler's confidence appears to be growing.
"I felt pretty good about where I was going to be, especially with those first five games and getting a pretty good feel for everything," Cutler said. "Obviously, I didn't play as well as I thought I could last year. I expected it to be fast and things to happen a little quicker, and they were. But I just needed to slow down a little bit."
If Cutler is flustered, though, he doesn't show it - if he's excited, you can barely tell.
"Sometimes, I give him a hard time because it's like, 'No big deal. Here we are in the NFL and I'm a starting quarterback,' " safety John Lynch said. "But that's always very much impressed me."
That even-keeled approach helps explain why Cutler is one of only five quarterbacks this season with a rating above 100 on third down, along with the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees.
"A defense that's been playing against him is waiting for something to startle him," receiver Javon Walker said. "But he doesn't show you that."
Cutler responds that he's no robot but works hard to remain calm in what he has referred to several times as "a tough job."
"It's too long of a season to get all worked up," he said, adding, "I love my job. I'm passionate about it. I just don't get excited about it."
The thrill of the moment for the Broncos staff is that Cutler not only is processing where his receivers and hot reads are and what opponents are doing to attack Denver's offense, but he's straying beyond those boundaries.
When his initial reads are covered, he has shown a penchant to buy time with his feet and has looked downfield to make plays.
"Last year, he would have kept retreating in the pocket, waiting for something to happen," assistant head coach/offense Mike Heimerdinger said.
Making plays off-schedule is a key trait Shanahan says separates the good quarterbacks from the potentially great ones - along with third-down success.
One shining example of Cutler making something from nothing came Nov. 19 against Tennessee. Wide receiver Brandon Stokley broke off his route as Cutler left the pocket and found a hole in zone coverage. Cutler fired a laser shot, over a linebacker, across his body to the middle of the field, while rolling right.
The play - Cutler described it then as drawing it up in the dirt - resulted in a 48-yard touchdown, one of 13 completions of 20-plus yards during the past five games.
"In Kansas City, it was the same thing," said Stokley, who scored on a 23-yard fourth-quarter reception Nov. 11 against the Chiefs. "It was a broken route, when he just scrambled around and found me. That comes with experience. And the more experience and more games he's played, the more comfortable he is out there."
"I'm seeing the field well, and the more you play and the later the season goes, the more things open up and the better you can read things," Cutler said. "And right now . . . I know whether we've got a shot at the play, and if it's third-and-10 or third-and-8, I'm going to try and break the pocket and try to make things happen if we don't get the right coverage."
At times, those kinds of plays are impossible without Cutler sidestepping pressure and buying time.
His "clock in the head" mechanism of knowing when to stay and when to take off was a question mark coming into this season. Cutler was sacked 13 times in his five starts last season. That per-game total of 2.6 has dipped to 1.5 this year.
"It's just getting in there and playing," Cutler said. "It's tough to be off for almost a year and get in there and play five games in tough situations. But going through training camp, going through preseason and going through all the games, that stuff comes, and you get a better feel for that."
It also has been a feeling-out process for Cutler, as far as stepping forward into a leadership role.
Despite being voted a team captain, Cutler wanted to earn that respect first, playing the field general but not barking orders or doling out critiques.
But after a 44-7 loss Nov. 4 in Detroit, a game in which Cutler suffered damage to his left fibula, he was taken aside by Lynch, Rod Smith and others and told that, because of his position, he was being looked upon for guidance and needed to stick his neck out more.
"In leadership, there's a time when everybody has to come out of the comfort zone. And it's not always comfortable or a thing you want to do, because you'd rather just let things go," Lynch said. "But we needed him, and he's done a great job."
Starting to mature
Cutler not only talked the talk, but came back the next Sunday after his leg injury and led the Broncos to a rare win at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I've definitely seen him mature, just in the last three or four weeks," said left tackle Matt Lepsis, an 11th-year Broncos player who has played with every one of Cutler's predecessors after John Elway's retirement.
Cutler had his second 300- yard passing game this season in a loss Sunday at Chicago. And during the past three games, he has five touchdowns and only two interceptions, one coming when receiver Brandon Marshall fell on slick turf.
"I knew he was really good," said backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey, a former first- round pick who has gone through the pitfalls of the first full year as a starter. "But what he hasn't had is just that awful game. I had one that I can recall. But he hasn't had the one game where nothing goes right for him. He fights through it. He knows what to do, and he's an enormous competitor."
The Broncos expect Cutler to gain even more confidence with experience. They also hope he'll develop an even better feel for when to use his big arm to throw passes into tight spaces, something he has done a few times during the past month.
"So many factors are involved in the development of a quarterback. That's why I think it's the hardest position to play in sports," Shanahan said. "But I like the way he's competed. I like the way he studies. I like the way he handles himself on game day. I think this guy's ceiling's pretty high."
Among quarterbacks who have entered the league since 2000, Cutler ranks in the top seven in his first 16 appearances in completions (275), completion percentage (62.9), passing yards (3,385), yards per attempt (7.75), passing TDs (22), TD percentage (5.03) and passer rating (89.3). He's in the middle of the pack in attempts (437, 15th), interceptions (15, tied for 17th) and interception percentage (3.43, 18th).
For Cutler those numbers are fine, but the figure that sticks out is 7-9 - his won-loss record as a starter.
"I've been doing well in everything except that, and that's the most important one," he said.
The other number that resonates is 365.
That's the number of days it has been since he was preparing for his opening start, Dec. 3, versus Seattle. That period has been a hard lesson in not only how tough the NFL is physically, but mentally.
"It seems like that was a long time ago," he said.
Broncos at Raiders
* The game: 2:05 p.m. MST Sunday, McAfee Coliseum (63,132 capacity), Oakland, Calif.
* The records: Denver is 5-6; Oakland is 3-8.
* The series: Raiders lead 53-39-2; tied 1-1 in postseason.
* TV/radio: CBS 4; KOA-AM (850), KBNO-AM (1280-Spanish).
* Who's favored: Broncos by 31/2.
The first 16 games: crunching the numbers
The performance in the first 16 games played of every quarterback who entered the NFL since 2000. Note: Statistics include all games in which a quarterback appeared, even if he did not attempt a pass or played only on special teams. Games started and the record in those games are noted. Players are listed in order of passing yards.
Player, team Year Starts Record Att. Comp. Pct. Yards Yards/Att. TD INT Rating
Marc Bulger, St. Louis 2002-03 16 13-3 545 347 63.7 4,262 7.82 28 19 90.3
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati 2004-05 16 9-7 529 332 62.8 3,683 6.96 26 20 84.0
Derek Anderson, Cleveland 2006-07 13 7-6 482 278 57.7 3,551 7.37 27 19 83.1
Jay Cutler, Broncos 2006-07 16 7-9 437 275 62.9 3,385 7.75 22 15 89.3
Drew Brees, San Diego 2001-02 15 8-7 504 308 61.1 3,173 6.30 15 15 76.8
Patrick Ramsey, Washington 2002-03 12 5-7 463 246 53.1 3,169 6.84 17 14 74.5
Rex Grossman, Chicago 2003-06 15 11-4 455 253 55.6 3,152 6.93 18 16 75.8
Matt Leinart, Arizona 2006-07 15 6-9 476 267 56.1 3,094 6.50 13 15 71.9
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh 2004-05 15 15-0 327 219 67.0 3,093 9.46 21 11 104.7
Jason Campbell, Washington 2006-07 16 7-9 468 266 56.8 3,032 6.48 19 13 78.4
Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville 2003-04 14 6-8 454 257 56.6 2,966 6.53 15 18 71.0
Chris Weinke, Carolina 2001-02 15 1-14 541 293 54.2 2,931 5.42 11 19 61.9
Tom Brady, New England 2000-01 14 11-3 416 265 63.7 2,849 6.85 18 12 86.1
Quincy Carter, Dallas 2001-03 16 6-10 429 230 53.6 2,805 6.54 13 16 68.6
Philip Rivers, San Diego 2004-06 12 10-2 390 249 63.8 2,748 7.05 17 7 91.7
Billy Volek, Tennessee 2001-04 7 2-5 381 238 62.5 2,745 7.20 21 9 92.7
Charlie Frye, Cleveland 2005-06 14 5-9 453 279 61.6 2,737 6.04 13 17 72.5
Joey Harrington, Atlanta 2002-03 14 4-10 514 258 50.2 2,730 5.31 16 19 61.0
A.J. Feeley, Philadelphia/Miami 2001-04 11 5-6 446 240 53.8 2,673 5.99 17 21 65.0
Eli Manning, New York Giants 2004-05 14 6-8 422 210 49.8 2,603 6.17 19 14 70.4
David Carr, Houston 2002 16 4-12 444 233 52.5 2,592 5.84 9 15 62.8
Chad Pennington, New York Jets 2000-02 9 6-3 334 225 67.4 2,591 7.76 16 6 99.0
Chris Simms, Tampa Bay 2003-05 12 7-5 386 233 60.4 2,502 6.48 11 10 78.1
Michael Vick, Atlanta 2001-02 11 6-4-1 341 181 53.1 2,334 6.84 9 5 77.5
Alex Smith, San Francisco 2005-06 14 4-10 373 207 55.5 2,295 6.15 10 17 63.9
Vince Young, Tennessee 2006-07 14 9-5 375 195 52.0 2,277 6.07 12 14 65.8
Josh McCown, Arizona 2002-04 9 3-6 356 206 57.9 2,223 6.24 9 12 70.7
J.P. Losman, Buffalo 2004-06 11 2-9 312 164 52.6 1,947 6.24 10 10 69.2
Kyle Boller, Baltimore 2003-04 14 8-6 333 178 53.5 1,910 5.74 9 14 62.0
Brooks Bollinger, Minnesota/N.Y. Jets 2004-07 9 2-7 307 178 58.0 1,884 6.14 7 7 74.1
Bruce Gradkowski, Tampa Bay 2006-07 11 3-8 352 190 54.0 1,791 5.09 9 10 65.0
David Garrard, Jacksonville 2002-05 7 4-3 282 158 56.0 1,680 5.96 8 4 77.1
Mike McMahon, Detroit 2001-02 7 1-6 262 115 43.9 1,545 5.90 10 10 60.1
Doug Johnson, Atlanta 2000-03 5 2-3 192 108 56.3 1,302 6.78 9 9 73.3
Seneca Wallace, Seattle 2005-07 4 2-2 167 95 56.9 1,100 6.59 9 8 74.9
Tim Rattay, San Francisco 2000-03 3 2-1 163 101 62.0 1,090 6.69 9 2 94.9
Sage Rosenfels, Miami/Houston 2001-06 2 0-2 148 81 54.7 1,041 7.03 9 7 77.6
Tony Romo, Dallas 2004-06 3 1-2 138 64 46.3 816 5.91 6 4 67.8
Matt Schaub, Houston 2004-05 2 0-2 119 56 47.1 667 5.61 4 4 61.9
How Cutler ranks
Jay Cutler finished his 16th game - one full season - as Broncos starting quarterback with a 62.9 completion percentage for 3,385 yards, 22 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and an 89.3 passer rating. A look at how his numbers stack up against his contemporaries who entered the NFL since 2000:
Category Cutler Rank
Starts 16 tie 1st
Attempts 437 15th
Completions 275 7th
Comp pct.* 62.9 6th
Passing yards 3,385 4th
Passing yds/att.* 7.75 4th
Passing TDs 22 4th
Interceptions* 15 tie 17th
Passer rating* 89.3 6th
* Minimum 300 pass attempts.
|12-01-2007, 11:48 AM||#2|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Aug 2006
Cutler's performance this year has blown my expectations out of the water. I think that Ramsey made a great point saying that Cutler hasn't had a terrible game as a pro. He's had some down games, and made mistakes, but he has always bounced back and made plays in the same game.
I am amazed at how little recognition he's gotten outside of the mane. I keep hearing the pundits use words like "stuggling", and I'm thinking, what games are these guys watching. They're clearly looking at the record, and assuming that Cutler's performance has been mediocre. With any amount of defensive support (and I mean ANY)this team would own the AFC West, and be in the discussion for the best teams in the league behind NE and Indy.
Indy's injury issues pale in comparison to ours, and it's crippled the Mighty Manning. But we never hear anything about the injuries to the Broncos. It's laughable, but in the end I have no doubts that we'll be the ones laughing.
|12-01-2007, 01:22 PM||#3|
Draft Defense Early&Often
Join Date: Oct 2004
Denver is going to be very good next year. With another year experience under this young offense's belt they'll be among the best in the NFL next year.
|12-01-2007, 02:36 PM||#5|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Sep 2004
I just cannot imagine why the media is so ignorant about Cutler outside of Denver and the well-informed hereon. I realize he was not the media darling at the draft, but the stats are there to see. Not that stats mean a hella lot because much of those are dependant upon the rest of the team. But even so, they are compelling to at least pay some attention to the young man's play. No matter, though, because as the D gets better and the wins come, he will be placed in a spotlight. I am sure he would say that the spotlights will not mean much until the team wins the big bowl together.
Would you say that Cutler is a great recruiting tool to keep Stokley around for a while? I think the O will be great with no injuries, but I believe there is room for a top RB. I don't know if Henry is "it", and I am not sure about the others. There is a difference between the journeymen backs and the top back. The Broncos can make it with a journeyman back, and work on the D and STs, but I would love to see a new TD come around......
|12-01-2007, 05:28 PM||#7|
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Villa La Angostura
Man, when this season ends we'll have to wait EIGHT MONTHS to watch the offense and Cutler again. Now THAT will suck.
|12-01-2007, 05:55 PM||#8|
Join Date: Aug 2005
Next year we will have an amazing offense.....I only hope we continue to improve on special teams and we address LBs, DT, and SS in the off season.
|12-01-2007, 06:05 PM||#9|
Join Date: Sep 2007
If you want to crown him, then crown his ass!
lol jk, Cutler to Marshall will be epic here in a few years.
|12-01-2007, 07:05 PM||#10|
Draft Defense Early&Often
Join Date: Oct 2004
|12-01-2007, 07:49 PM||#12|
Anybody want a peanut?
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ceti Alpha V
Anyway, he always does good stuff and this is no exception. I will say that I won't count "16" until after the Raiders game. The Lions should not count.