Share this article

print logo

McDermott calls Cutler 'one of the top quarterbacks around the league'

The words are easy to brush aside as an over-the-top attempt to soften the upcoming opponent.

Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott didn't simply call Jay Cutler a good quarterback.

“He’s one of the top quarterbacks around the league, I would say," McDermott said Wednesday.

Let's slow down there a bit, coach. For the record, Cutler ranks near the bottom of the NFL in most statistical categories. Pretty much no one else, in discussing NFL quarterbacks, would put Cutler in a category that includes the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or even young Carson Wentz. You'd be hard-pressed to find a whole lot of fans of the Miami Dolphins who are happy Cutler is their quarterback.

The fact is, if everything had gone as planned for the Dolphins, Cutler wouldn't even be wearing one of their uniforms, let alone filling it at the most important position. He likely wouldn't be wearing the uniform of any team in the league. Cutler would be spending his Sundays doing what he intended after retiring as a player after last season: broadcasting NFL games for Fox Sports.

Granted, it's fair to say that he has helped manage to keep the Dolphins afloat after their No. 1 quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, suffered a season-ending knee injury in a training-camp practice in August. Dolphins coach Adam Gase was desperate for a replacement, and found the one guy who knew his offense as well as he did from when Cutler played for the Chicago Bears and Gase was their offensive coordinator. Here's a 1-year, $10 million contract for your trouble, Jay.

In 11 games (he missed two with injury), Cutler has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,100 yards and 18 touchdowns, and has thrown 11 interceptions. The Dolphins remain in the playoff hunt with a 6-7 record, just a notch below the 7-6 Bills.

Still, you can't help but wonder whether McDermott allowed himself to get a bit caught up in what he saw Monday night, when Cutler completed 25 of 38 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in a 27-20 victory against 10-3 New England. On the way to one of his better performances of the season, Cutler showed the sort of commanding presence that one would expect from a 12-year veteran and worked some of the Patriots' own strategy (empty backfield formations and deep routes by running backs) to perfection.

“Strong arm, extremely versatile in what he can do," McDermott said of the QB in that game not named Tom Brady. "Obviously, (he's) moving with the ball in his hands, (he has good footwork) in the pocket and great vision for the field and pinpoint accuracy. He’s as good as there are out there, and you saw that Monday night."

Bills players saw it, too.

They aren't necessarily as effusive in their praise of Cutler as their coach, but they can't help but recognize how well he has performed in what was supposed to have been the start of his post-football-playing life. Even with his thorough understanding of Gase's scheme, Cutler had virtually no time to prepare for the season.

"You think about it, he didn't go through any spring workouts, no training camp, and was able to come in that quickly and grasp the concept of the playbook, grasp the whole verbiage," defensive end Jerry Hughes said. "And now he's out there, like a second coach, and it shows you how dangerous he is just by him being that savvy vet. Just the way he's commanding the offense, he's moving the guys, he seems to really have a lot of control over it. He's making checks. Whatever he sees as far as what the defense is revealing, he's able to adjust to put the offense into the right play to be successful."

"He's filled in well," said linebacker Preston Brown. "They don't do a lot of the zone-read stuff they did with Tannehill and stuff like that, but they still find ways to do the RPOs (run-pass options) and find ways to get the ball behind the defense. So I think he's doing a pretty good job."

Safety Micah Hyde faced Cutler six times while Hyde played for the Green Bay Packers and Cutler was with their NFC North rival in Chicago. Hyde has studied him as closely as any quarterback in the NFL. He has a strong feel for his strengths and weaknesses, and all of his tendencies.

Hyde has been sharing that deep understanding of Cutler with his fellow defenders this week.

"He's going to give you chances," said Hyde, who is tied for third in the league with five interceptions. "That's Jay. "He's going to throw it off his back foot every now and then. He's going to throw some balls up in the air that gives the defense some time to close on it, but at the same time, he'll make those easy throws — get the ball in his weapons' hands and let them work."

Cutler ranks among the NFL's top 50 in several all-time passing categories and his numbers rank in the top 20 among active quarterbacks. However, there are two statistics from his career on which the Bills' defense is focused: his 157 interceptions and 90 fumbles.

"I think (tackle) Kyle (Williams) has one of (the interceptions, which came in 2014)," Brown said. "So hopefully we can get some more."

Nevertheless, the consensus among the Bills is that there isn't a whole lot of difference in Cutler now than his days with the Denver Broncos (2006-2008) and Bears (2009-2016).

"I don’t think much has changed over the years," McDermott said. "I really don’t see much of a difference. I think he’s playing at a high level."

As far as Hyde is concerned, Cutler looks like the quarterback he saw in 2013, the safety's rookie season in Green Bay. Back then, Cutler was working with a dynamic supporting cast that included running back Matt Forte, wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, and tight end Martellus Bennett. As those weapons vanished from the Bears' roster, Hyde saw Cutler's performance suffer.

Now, Hyde sees Cutler thriving with weapons such as wide receivers Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker; tight end Julius Thomas, and running back Kenyan Drake.

"He'll get pressure in his face, he'll throw like a fade-away pass," Hyde said. "He'll get pressure to the side, he'll scramble a little bit, throw it sidearm. It's Jay, man. He's a gunslinger and we understand that."

There are no comments - be the first to comment