As expected, our team of talented writers here at Windy City Gridiron have already written about the Angelo rankings from a couple different angles. Yesterday Dane made the subject of the afternoon open thread the question of the "return on investment" of the trade.
That piece was an excellent discussion and I encourage reading it, but I wanted to explore Angelo's comments about Cutler's abilities. By this point it would be surprising if you hadn't read the comments yourself but, just in case, here they are one more time and, if you're as familiar with them as I am, you can probably recite them aloud along with me:
Has all the physical tools, but inconsistent in the clutch. Mostly due to a lack of poise. He’s not comfortable reading defenses and consequently locks onto a favorite or pre-determined target, that may or may not be the right choice. The less he’s asked to see the better he is. A better half field general, than a full field one.
Now, many of these criticisms are at least somewhat fair, given Cutler's body of work in Chicago. However, it seems to me that if one were just exploring 2013, as Angelo was for the article, the criticism should have been at least a little bit different.
In 2013 Cutler was on pace for his best season as a Bear and still finished with his highest completion percentage, quarterback rating, yards per game and touchdown percentage as a Bear. Pro-football-reference also credits him with three game-winning drives and/or comeback wins; Week 1 vs. Cincinnati, Week 2 vs. Minnesota and Week 14 at Cleveland.
He hasn't had that many since 2010 when he had four!
As for locking onto a "favorite or pre-determined target," yes, Cutler probably does still look Brandon Marshall's way a little bit more than you would want, but consider that while Marshall was the fourth-most targeted receiver in the league last year (164), according to kffl.com, Alshon Jeffery was only seven spots behind him at 149 targets.
In games in which Cutler started and finished Marshall saw (in order of weeks): 10, 10, 8, 14, 5, 11, 12, and 10 targets. In the Philadelphia blowout Marshall was targeted 9 times but Josh McCown relieved Cutler late in the game, and in the second Lions game when Cutler was yanked in overtime, Marshall was targeted 12 times.
In games with Cutler playing the entire game Jeffery was targeted 8, 5, 8, 11, 13, 5, 6 and 8 times. In the Philly game Jeffery was targeted 9 times, and in the second Detroit game he was thrown the ball 18 times. So, when you compare the game-to-game targets like that, you see that the discrepancy in targets was not that far off between the two.
As a percentage of the team's total receptions Marshall accounts for 26.8 percent in 2013, compared to 41.1 percent the year before. The numbers, therefore, say that Cutler was better at spreading the football in 2013 than in previous years.
And finally, I want to explore the "inconsistent in the clutch" part in a little more detail. What is defined as "clutch" and "poise" is rather subjective, in my opinion, and could vary from one evaluator to another. For my eye test, I thought Cutler was much better in the pocket this season at stepping up and looking downfield. This is likely attributed to an improved offensive line and perhaps the tutelage of Marc Trestman.
However, that's just one fan's opinion so let's look at some numbers. Over his entire career Cutler's numbers in games with a final margin of 0-7 points are (51 games): 1,029 of 1,674, 61.5 percent, for 12,266 yards, 84 touchdowns and 57 interceptions with a rating of 86.4. Last season in the 7 games in which the final margin was 0-7 points he was 133 of 210, 63.3 percent for 1,565 yards, 13 TDs and 8 INTs with a 90.7 rating. So, he jumped just a shade over four QB rating points over his career average in close games while leading three comebacks, as referenced earlier.
When comparing 2012 and 2013 there are also other improvements in his pressure ability. In '12, when the margin was behind by 1 to 8 points Cutler was 38 of 66 (57.6 percent) for 455 yards, with 2 TDs and 4 INTS and a 63.6 rating. He was sacked 6 times in those situations.
In '13 in that same scenario, he was 49 of 85 (57.6 percent, yes the same) but for 651 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs and a 86.6 rating. He was sacked five times. That's at any point in the game when trailing.
Cutler's always been good in the fourth quarter and last season was no different. However, in the fourth quarter when within seven, some of his numbers jumped compared to 2012. In '12 when within seven in the fourth, Cutler completed 65.4 percent of his passes but threw no TDs or picks and was not sacked, and had a rating of 94.3.
Last season in those situations his completion percentage dipped to 64.4, but his yards more than doubled (428 to 209); he threw six TDs, three INTs, again was not sacked, and had a 98.7 rating. His attempts also more than doubled (from 23 to 59).
To me, this shows that when the game was close Trestman trusted Cutler with the ball in his hands to make the right decisions, and Cutler responded by not taking sacks and throwing touchdowns.
The stats would say that Cutler improved in ball distribution and "clutch" performance last season over previous years. Therefore, I think that Angelo might have been somewhat unfair in his criticism of Cutler and, to me, it's more of a case of sour grapes than him setting aside his own personal feelings.
What do you think about Cutler's performance in the clutch last year?