April 06, 2009

Breaking down the Jay Cutler trade

All right, it's not often when a 25 year old Pro Bowl quarterback gets traded, so let's break this trade down here. I would imagine the Bears Nation is jumping for joy, and I think there for pretty good reason. But there are some risks here.

Some questions:

1) How good exactly is Jay Cutler??

I'll start by saying that I think Cutler has been good, and he obviously has a ton of potential with that big arm. If you look at his raw numbers, he threw for 4500 yards last year. That pretty much blows the Bears QBs out of the water. I've seen Cutler look spectacular at times, especially against the Browns last year where he was pretty much unstoppable. ON PAPER, it's a major upgrade at the QB position. And at 25 years old, they are getting him for the prime of his career. He could conceivably be the guy in Chicago for the next decade. In a cold weather city like Chicago, you probably want a guy with a big arm who can make those throws to the sideline right into a fierce wind.

But are we really sure that Cutler is an elite quarterback once you take him out of the friendly confines in Denver?? Some things to take into consideration here.

a) Mike Shanahan - Cutler has played so far for Mike Shanahan, who ALWAYS seems to get great production out of his QBs. Brian flipping Griese put up big numbers for a few years in Denver. Heck, Jake Plummer even threw for 4000 yards one year in Denver. If you play in Denver in that Shanahan offense, he is going to steer you toward some big numbers even if you are not really that great. If you'll notice, both of those guys have stunk since they left Denver. Playing quarterback for Shanahan is like playing baseball in Coors Field.

So now that he is out of Denver and headed to Chicago, what kind of numbers is he going to put up playing for Lovie Smith instead of Mike Shanahan?? Are we sure he's going to be putting up 4000 passing yards in that offense?? One of the scary things about trades and free agency is that you are getting a guy who has spent his whole career playing in a different system. No matter how much you scout a player and study him, you really won't know how he'll play in your system until you see it on the field.

b) INTs - Cutler threw 18 picks last year! EIGHTEEN! He was second in the league behind Favre. That's over one INT a game. In other words, he's a gunslinger. In the modern day NFL where defenses are so complicated, is that really what you want?? Isn't that probably why Josh McDaniels was trying to trade Cutler to get Cassel?? Maybe McDaniels didn't want to deal with Cutler throwing drive-killing picks all year by forcing throws with his big arm. And even though he threw for a ton of yards, Cutler's QB rating and completion percentage are middle of the pack.

Cutler is one of those guys who is in love with his arm. He seems to think he can fire off any pass into traffic and get away with it. That can be a great thing, but it can also be a disaster. The hope here is probably that he'll mature and make better decisions. Obviously, he can make all the throws, but hopefully he doesn't fall into the trap of always trusting his arm over good decisions.

c) Intangibles - The impression that I've been getting is that a lot of the Denver guys weren't exactly sobbing about Cutler leaving. What is the story with this guy?? Is he a jerk?? Is he a prima donna?? Do his teammates like him?? What kind of a leader is he??

The good thing on the intangibles front is that Cutler hopefully got a wake up call with this Denver situation. You would think that the Bears are going to inherit a very motivated and determined Jay Cutler. If so, they'll probably be very happy. But if they are getting a flake with the same immaturity issues, it's going to be a disaster. Cutler is basically out of second chance. He's got to make it happen with the Bears, or he's not going to get another chance to redeem himself.

Don't get me wrong, the Bears definitely got a franchise QB who is only 25 years old. Those types of guys don't grow on trees. He has the ability to be a top 5 QB for a number of years. But I don't think it's an automatic "he'll do exactly what he did in Denver in Chicago" situation. There is some risk here.

2) Did the Bears give up too much here??

Just a thought, but the Chiefs gave a up a second round pick for Cassel and Vrabel. Meanwhile, the Bears have given up two first rounders and a 3rd and Orton. In retrospect, the Chiefs may have gotten a heckuva deal. The Bears got their man, but they gave up A TON to get him. My feeling on a Cutler trade leading up to it was that the Broncos would probably get a 1st rounder and maybe a player for him. But two first round picks and a 3rd?? Wow. I was always under the impression that teams covet those first round picks, so that's quite a price to pay.

I don't know much about the Bears roster, but are they so loaded everywhere else that they don't need a first round pick for the next two years?? What is their line like?? How is their defense?? I know they had a good defense a couple years ago, but aren't a lot of those guys getting a little older?? They've basically forfeited any opportunity to get an impact guy out of the draft for the next two years.

Then again, the Bears may very well have whiffed on both those picks and the 3rd rounder. They know what they are getting with Cutler, and QB is a critical position. I guess the Bears view Cutler as a more valuable commodity than those two picks.

3) Who is Cutler going to throw to??

Who are the #1 and #2 receivers for the Bears?? Hester?? Is Muhsin Muhammad still there?? Who is Cutler going to throw to next year?? If he's going to be productive in that Bears' offense, isn't he going to need some receivers??

That's where this move is a little confusing to me. It would be one thing if the Bears were close and had a talented offense that just needed a quarterback to push them over the edge, but it seems like there's not much to work with around him. Then again, the Bears went 9-7 last year, so maybe they are a lot closer than I realized.

4) How did Denver make out on this trade??

Seems like a lot of people are killing Denver all of the sudden, but I think they made out like bandits. Two first rounders, a 3rd, and Orton? That's a haul. I did not expect them to get that much. They can use those first rounders to build up the line or the defense, or they could try to draft a young QB. This trade gives them the foundation to restock their team in the way that McDaniels wants.

Honestly, I know everyone considers him a throw-in piece for this deal, but I kind of like Kyle Orton a little bit in Denver in that McDaniels/New England offense. He played at Purdue where you are mainly making short throws that require accuracy. Look at the receivers he's working with. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal is pretty strong. Couldn't you see him doing pretty well out there in that offense?? I think so. Maybe not at Cutler's level, but I think he could be productive while the Broncos search for a long term option.

Quarterback is a critical position obviously, but only if the guy is a perfect fit in that offense. Roethlisberger would probably not be as effective as he is now if he was playing for a different team, but he's perfect in Pittsburgh. Same with Tom Brady in New England. Maybe Cutler wasn't the right fit for McDaniels. If he knew that right from the start, it was a smart move to trade him while his trade value is still really high.

I know there is some talk that the Broncos are going to try to maneuver in this draft to get Mark Sanchez. I know people are falling in love with Sanchez, but color me skeptical of him. I guess they have a lot of picks to work with, but this trade won't look so good for Denver if they draft Sanchez and he turns out to be a bust.


In many ways, this trade is a win-win for both franchises. The Bears get a franchise QB who immediately makes them a threat to win their division (if not more). They gave up a ton, but maybe they just felt like the value of getting Cutler to be the face of the franchise was worth the price. Let's be honest, the Bears have been a mediocre and somewhat boring franchise for a couple years, so maybe they felt like they had to make this move to give their franchise a little bit of pizazz. Maybe it will be a complete disaster and Cutler turns out to be a whiner and an interception machine. But chances are that he'll at least be an above-average player who can make all the throws in the league, and the Bears are getting him in his prime.

As for the Broncos, McDaniels seems to be getting a ton of heat, but I actually like what he has done there. It's sort of a Parcells-ian approach to building a franchise. He didn't come there to mold guys to his system. He came to Denver to blow things up and build the franchise the way he wanted to do it. I think that's the way you have to do it in the NFL. Parcells has traditionally done the same things at every place he has been. He runs the bad apples and bad fits out of town, and then goes about building the team with the guys he really wants. For whatever reason, he did not like or trust Cutler. Maybe McDaniels is completely wrong about Cutler, but I admire his guts. With a total of four first round picks in the next two drafts, he has a huge opportunity to build the Broncos the way he wants. They might have some QB issues for a year or two, but it's better to make a move on Cutler now if you don't think he's the guy for your franchise.


Jeremy said...

Jerry Angelo probably had to make this move to save his job, so I guess I can't fault him for pulling the trigger, but he gave up a TON to get a QB who's only been in the league a few years. People in Chicago so easily brush off the 1st rounders by saying that the Bears have never drafted well in the 1st round. So because they've had a rocky history, its ok to just throw those picks away?!?! Unbelievable.

Another thing to consider - Cutler has had some nice weapons to throw to in Denver. Now he comes to Chicago where his best "receivers" are TEs that defenses lock onto and can cover easily. Hester would be a nice option as a 3rd WR, but not as a #1.

Cutler may turn out to be a franchise QB down the road, but I think right now, you have to give the Broncos a win on this trade.

Jimmy said...

I agree with you Jeremy that the Bears (Angelo) had to make this move. Potential franchise QBs don't come along often. In the long run, the Bears could be the big winner, but looking at it right now, I think it's unquestionably a win for the Broncos. The fact that ownership basically said "Get rid of him" should have given teams a little more leverage in lowballing. But the Bears wanted to "win" the Cutler sweeptakes bad enough that they threw the kitchen sink at Denver. Denver gets out of a very sticky situation with two 1's, a 3 and the lynchpin - Kyle Orton, who's serviceable at best, but has a great upside being paired with McDaniels. Orton has had an intersting on-the-job experience in Chicago, but emerges knowing how to win and lead a team. That's all McDaniels wants. I think he'll really come into his own with those weapons at his disposal.