Is Cutler a Difference Maker?- Comparison to QB Greats

Myself, SackMan, and T.Moore got into what I thought was a great debate on Cutler.  Unfortunately its buried on an old game thread, so I thought I'd summarize and continue it in a fresh FanPost so everyone else can comment also. 

Almost everyone on WCG has lost faith in some aspect of the coaching staff and agrees that our offensive line could use some upgrading.  But some on the site feel that Cutler was NOT as good as advertised, and is not a franchise QB, the difference maker we all hoped he would be.  He doens't make the right decisions on the field, and the 'miscommunication' problem between himself and the receivers falls squarely on his shoulders.  He is not a competent leader of this football team.  He has never been on a winning team in college or in the pros, and is therefore a loser.  He is no Peyton Manning or Brett Favre, and never will be. 

Well, I don't agree.  It is too early to tell if he will be the savior most of us hope he is.  And he may not be like a Peyton Manning of today.  He lacks both the experience and supporting cast Peyton.  We have gone over ad nauseum whether or not the lack of running game, pass blocking, poor coaching, or inexperienced receivers contribute to the actual Cutler we see on the field every Sunday vs. the imagined Cutler we saw in our minds all summer. 

So I decided to compare Cutler's first years to the first years of some of the top QBs of the past 2 decades, to see if development and supporting cast make a difference.  The QBs I compared him to are Steve Young, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, and Brett Favre.  I have the complete stats of each player for their first 4 years, but it is so much info that I decided not to post it.  Let me know if anyone is interested in seeing the complete stats.  Instead, I've compiled the averages of each QB's 1st year, then their 2nd year, etc.  This allowed me to compare their progression with Jay's. 

Here are the results:

Year Tm WinPct Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Rating
Cutler 2006 DEN 0.40 59.1 1001 9 6.6 5 3.6 88.5
2007 DEN 0.44 63.6 3497 20 4.3 14 3 88.1
2008* DEN 0.50 62.3 4526 25 4.1 18 2.9 86
2009 CHI 0.38 62.1 3023 19 4.2 22 4.8 75.2
Average 0.43 61.8 3011.8 18.3 4.8 14.8 3.6 84.5
Year Tm WinPct Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Rating
Other QBs 1st Yr n/a 58.0 2299.0 14.6 4.2 12.8 3.5 77.0
2nd Yr n/a 60.5 3217.5 21.8 4.6 15.1 3.3 82.7
3rd Yr n/a 62.2 3533.5 22.6 4.7 13.6 2.9 88.8
4th Yr n/a   62.2 3704.4 28.3 5.9 15.4 3.2 92.4
Average .584 60.7 3188.6 21.8 4.8 14.2 3.2 85.2

*I tried to throw out any years a QB had if less than 8 games started.  Otherwise, Young's #s would be skewed.

What we see is that Jay's are actually similar or BETTER than the franchise QBs we are comparing him to for the first three years of his progression.  Then we see a decline in his fourth year.  What happened?  He changed organizations, coaching staff, playbooks, and supporting personnel.  In my opinion, for the worse.  There is no other marquee QB on that list that had such a drastic change in scenery, so I cannot compare it with someone similar.

What we can gather from these numbers is that Jay Cutler's numbers are similar to HOF QB numbers.  The difference has been the change from Denver to Chicago.  I believe that is what has made him regress a bit as a QB.  Hopefully, he'll be able to right the ship and continue his progression next year. 

The last thing I'll mention is that the QB's I've compared him to had organizations that surrounded each with talented teammates and coaches who knew how to build a winner.  Each of those QBs had progressed, in part, because the talent got better around them, or in the case of Tom Brady or Steve Young, were inserted into a talented core.  Our franchise had better do the same, or we will see Cutler's talent wasted, similar to what happened to Steve Young in Tampa.  He had year after year of poor records and depressed stat lines until he was traded to the Niners. Cutler can't will us to a win, especially at this early point in his career.  Not many QBs, if any, could either. 

SackMan also argued college win/loss stats as a valid indicator of QB intangibles and leadership that translate to wins and losses.  I reject any college comparison or stats for this reason: a successful college QB doesn't make a successful NFL QB.  Anybody want to relive the sorrow of the Mirer trade?  Or wish we had drafted the most successful (arguably) college QB of the past 50 years, Tommy Frazier?  I don't think so. 

I don't want SackMan to think I'm calling him out or anything.  I hope he is the first one to comment on my post and give his side of the argument.  As always, I'm sure it will be logical and well thought-out.  Heck, he could probably cut and paste some of his arguments into some new posts if he so desired.

<em>This FanPost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.</em>

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