By: Kenny Doyle
Jay Cutler has signed a deal with the Miami Dolphins to be their starting quarterback after Ryan Tannehill tore his ACL at a practice a few days ago. Tannehill was coming off a career year under head coach Adam Gase, helping to lead his team to a playoff berth until getting injured and missing the rest of the season. Despite last season, it wouldn’t be accurate to call Ryan Tannehill’s tenure in Miami is success. Until last year Tannehill hadn’t had a single winning season in the first 4 years in the NFL.
With Tannehill out for the season, the Dolphins turn to Jay Cutler. Cutler has gotten more scrutinized than just about any other quarterback in the NFL over the last 4 years. He’s one of the biggest jokes to fans all around the NFL, unfair or not. Cutler certainly hasn’t played well in the last handful of years, but Tannehill hasn’t been much better. The blame for the Bears lack of success can’t be placed entirely on the shoulders of Jay Cutler. Ever since Brian Urlacher left the Bears defense has been an absolute mess. They’ve had constant turnover at their head coaching spot from Lovie Smith to Mark Trestman to John Fox, and Cutler has had a different offensive coordinator in every season since 2014.
With Adam Gase, Jay Cutler thrived. In his 2015 season with Gase he put up a career high passer rating and he had single digits in interceptions until a horrible meaningless week 17 game, at which point the Bears were already out of playoff contention. In comparing Cutler and Tannehill’s seasons under Adam Gase, Cutler had more touchdowns, less interceptions, and a better QBR than Tannehill despite having just lost his #1 target from the year prior, Brandon Marshall.
Cutler’s career in Chicago hasn’t been all bad. He led the Bears to the NFC championship game in 2010 back when their defense wasn’t a complete trainwreck. In Miami, Jay Cutler will have the best supporting cast of his career. Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, along with the best pure runner he’s ever had behind him in Jay Ajayi, and the best defense he’s ever had.
In his last few years in Chicago the team had to rely too heavily on their offense and it pushed Cutler to force throws that he otherwise wouldn’t have to. Having Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery as your wide receivers can be great, but it also means your gameplan is going to consist of throwing up a lot of 50/50 balls. With the Dolphins Cutler will have Jarvis Landry as a consistent possession/underneath option, something the Bears never gave him. The Miami defense will allow Cutler to be more comfortable running the offense than he ever was in Chicago. By no means is Cutler going to blow doors in Miami, but he can be a step up from Tannehill.
It was clear to the Dolphins and the rest of the NFL from the very beginning that Ryan Tannehill was a project coming out of Texas A&M after switching from WR to QB while he was there. If Tannehill was going to be good he was going to require patience on the part of the Dolphins. Drafting him 8th overall made it clear, the Dolphins were willing to wait. That being said, they have been too patient. It’s been clear for some time that Ryan Tannehill isn’t going to be the next great quarterback in the NFL. Look around the league. There are far too many quarterbacks better than Tannehill to believe you can win a Super Bowl with him as your quarterback. The perfected version of Tannehill is Alex Smith. That doesn’t get you far enough in the NFL.
After suffering 2 major injuries without even playing one NFL game in between, it might be time for the Dolphins to move on from Tannehill for good. One of Tannehill's best skills is his ability to run. That will not be the same after his ACL tear. Without it, he becomes an even less appealing QB than he was before. Jay Cutler isn’t the long term answer in Miami, but he can bide time until the Dolphins find a different quarterback they like in the draft, but the Dolphins playoff dreams are far from dead in 2017. If you asked me to pick between a healthy Ryan Tannehill and a healthy Jay Cutler for this season, I’d still pick Jay Cutler. The Dolphins aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be in the playoff hunt come December.
Photo: (CCNN Live) (Chicago Tribune)