Jay Cutler—and his place in the NFL Quarterback Heirarchy

     As usual per this time of year, ESPN’s John Clayton has released his list of Quarterback rankings.  he usual list of suspects is at the top of his list—-Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers—and there should not be too much debate about thos quarterback’s status among the NFL’s elite signal-callers. However, I do want to rant for a bit about where they put our boy, Jay Cutler—and, mor specifically, some player they put ahead of him.

Jay is listed at #16 out of 32 starting quarterbacks, or as a perfectly average, middle-of-the-road NFL-caliber quarterback. Clayton analysis states:

“Cutler has elite talent, and he’s improved his legwork during the offseason. Thanks to the rule moving the kickoff to the 35-yard line, Cutler will be asked to do more because great Bears returns routinely gave him drive starts past his 30. Now, he must generate drives from his 20 because of touchbacks.  Arrow is pointing FLAT.”


Now some of criticism that has been thrown at Cutler in the past has been warranted—not throwing the ball away and instead losing yards on sacks; taking some unecessary chances; seemingly spending more time yelling at the refs than getting the next play ran.  However, alot of the criticism—like not being tough after being sacked almost 20 times more than any other starting QB in the NFL last season; about not having good “body language”—is probably more attributed to a bad public perception. Not that jay cares. Or should, for that matter. But my issue lies not with the analysis of Jay in this piece, but some of the guys they ranked ahead of him. Namely, the Falcons’ Matt Ryan (ranked #7) and Eli Manning (ranked #9)  of the Giants. So lets look at some stats:

Completion percentage (attempts/completions; percentage):

Eli Manning – 339/539; 62.9%
Matt Ryan – 357/571; 62.5%
JAY CUTLER – 261/432; 60.4%

Now, at first glance, one would say that my argument is already dead in the water. However, a quarterback’s completion percentage has agreat deal to do with a) the offensive style they are playing within; and b)their check-down frequency.  So, on to the next stat:

Average Yards per Attempt:

Eli Manning – 7.3
Matt Ryan – 6.4

So, on average, Cutler is attempting the longest passes; while Ryan is throwing the most bubble screens and dump-offs.  As a result, the next stat should come as no surprise…

TD-INT Ratio (TD passes; Interceptions; Ratio)

Matt Ryan – 28; 9: 3.1:1
JAY CUTLER – 23; 16; 1.5:1
Eli Manning – 31; 25; 1.2:1

So Jay was better than the QB ranked ahead of him with similar-style pass attempts. Now, lets look at what kind of pass protection these QBs had by looking at their sack percentage:

Sack Percentage (Pass Plays; Times Sacked; Percentage)

Eli Manning – 555; 16; 2.9%
Matt Ryan – 594; 23; 3.8%
JAY CUTLER – 484; 52; 10.7%

It is obvious, by looking at this stat, that Cutler BY FAR had the weakest pass protection fo the three quarterbacks listed here, and maybe in the entire league. To be fair, the portection did improve over the course of the season. But Cutler was knocked out of two games, the Giants game and the NFC Championship Game against the Packers, due to hits he took as a result of shoddy pass protection. The final statistics we will focus on are playoff stats:

Playoff Stats (Wins-Losses; Completion Percentage; Yards per Attempt; Passing Yards; Tds; Interceptions)

Eli Manning – 4-3;  58.2%;  6.7;  1,297;  8;  7
JAY CUTLER – 1-1;  50.0%;  8.4;  354:  4;  1
Matt Ryan – 0-2;  65%;  385;  5.5;  3;  4

As you can see—In the playoffs—when you are playing only elite teams, Cutler has a better won-loss than Matt Ryan; and the best TD: INT ratio of the three.  Now, I am not saying that Cutler belongs in the elite group, which I personally only consists of the top 4 or 5 of Clyton’s list.  but I am saying that hehas just as much right to be considered elite—statistically speaking—with some of the other quarterbacks on Clayton’s “Elite” list.

2 responses

  1. lincoln1

    nobody in their right mind thinks that Cutler is an elite QB. Just because he plays for the bears doesnt make him elite. Cutler is a middle of the league QB. He makes a ton of mistakes. yes, he doesnt have the greatest talent around him, but in his case it would not matter

    September 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    • the argument was NOT whether Jay is an elite qb NOW—it was just asking why he is behind Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, etc.

      September 12, 2011 at 8:42 am

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