Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Dec 2009

Maybe Leading The League In Interceptions Isn't So Bad

Former FO writer Michael David Smith has some good news for Jay Cutler.

Although the Bears' passer has been justifiably criticized for the number of interceptions he has thrown this year (22), so have most of the quarterbacks selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1945. Of the 23 passers selected since that year, 14 of them once led the league in interceptions.

"The only type of quarterback who can throw that many interceptions is one who has the confidence and the skill to keep throwing when things get tough," former running back Marshall Faulk said.

Faulk played alongside Peyton Manning when he led the league in interceptions in his rookie season, 1998, and with Marc Bulger when he led the league in interceptions in 2003.

Posted by: David Gardner on 15 Dec 2009

63 comments, Last at 17 Dec 2009, 2:20pm by Jimmy


by chappy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:46pm

"Of the 23 passers selected since that year, 14 of them once led the league in interceptions."

I don't have the stats, but I find this comment implausible. There have been nearly 60 pro-bowls (apperently there were no pro-bowls around WWII) since that time. That's a minimum of 120 quarterback selections over that time (a lot more if you include back-up). I highly doubt it was the same QB for 5 years running.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:50pm

I don't understand what you're saying, but I think the "23 selected" refers to 23 QBs selected to the Hall of Fame.

The stat about every active passer who has led the lead in picks being a probowler at least once is interesting though. Maybe the Raiders should just let JaMarcus aim for the DBs so he can become a probowler.

Although on reflection if he was aiming for the DBs he'd probably hit his WRs.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:56pm

Now THAT is classic, Al Davis, outside-the-box thinking.

You're hired!

Pick up your head coach ID, clip board, and boxing gloves at the reception desk. But don't bring too much personal crap to decorate your office... just in case.

by S :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:50pm

I read it as "Of the 23 QB's selected to the Hall of Fame since 1945..."; which is still technically incorrect because the Hall of Fame opened in 1963. Every QB in there has been selected since 1945.

I think what they mean is "Every HOF QB who has played since 1945...".

by Malene, Cph (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:54pm

they mean "every qb with a career starting after 1945". Says so in the article.

by Flounder :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:51pm

you might want to re-read.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:34pm

In the article it says, "In fact, of the 23 quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame whose careers started after 1945, 14 of them led the league in interceptions at least once."

Maybe I'm missing something, since there has been disagreement here, but it seems pretty clear to me.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:48pm

On the other hand you could say that on up to 50 occasions in the 64 years since 1945 (haven't checked if any Hall-of-Famers led the league in picks more than once) the league leader in picks thrown hasn't been a Hall of Famer. Which isn't good!

by Flounder :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:57pm

Or you could say 22% of the time since 1945 the league leader in INTs was a future hall of famer (and it's at least 22%. maybe one or two led the league in INTs twice, I don't know).

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:48pm

Then there's Vinny Testeverde, who led the league a bunch of times. Vinny wasn't a horrible qb, but you wouldn't want to trade a decent qb and two firsts to get him.

by Malene, Cph (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:49pm

Hall of Fame selections, not pro bowl games.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:53pm

Are trying to imply that there are actually fewer HOF QBs selected in the past 65 years than Pro Bowl QBs? ;-)

I guess that's SOME good news for all the snubbed linemen!

by Malene, Cph (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:57pm

Although, if we take "Hall of Fame" literally, I guess an extraordinary number of interceptions could give you the amount of publicity needed to claim a place.

For instance, Ryan Leaf has a point if he thinks he's more famous than some HoF selections.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:08pm

My point exactly. It's not the Hall of Excellence, it's the Hall of Fame.

Leaf should be a shoo in.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:00pm

Maybe some investors buy up the old Silverdome, if it's stillon the market, and start a Hall of Infame.

Then Leaf would be a "founding father" along with Marinovich, Mandarich, Hart Lee Dykes, Schlichter, Andre Ware... Oh my God, I can go on....

Leaf needs to understand the diff between famous and infamous. Washington State... figures.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:56am

Can Paul Hornung be in both the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Infame then?

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:34pm

But it's not the hall of infamy.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:47am

Notoriety may not be as good as fame, but it's heaps better than obscurity.

by njjetfan12 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 12:57pm

My first thought reading this was the kind of stuff that was said about Mike Maroth, that pitcher on the Tigers who lost an obscene amount of games, and people rationalized that he had to be the best of the worst in order to get the amount of innings he got on a bad team

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:08pm

It was 21 losses, and really, it wasn't an obscene amount. There's a stigma attached to losing 20 games in a season simply because it's a nice, even number that people can understand quickly.

Maroth wasn't anything like the QBs discussed in the article. He was a healthy pitcher on a terrible team, and perhaps just as important, he was a left-handed pitcher. The Tigers had only two other left-handed pitchers start games that season: Nate Robertson was called up from Toledo and was a fixture in the rotation from late August on, starting 8 games and replacing the other lefty, Wil Ledezma, who moved into the rotation in early July and also started 8 games. With only one lefty in the pen other than Ledezma getting any reasonable innings (setup man Jamie Walker), the Tigers needed everything they could get from Maroth in the rotation.

I seem to recall Alan Trammell (the Tigers' manager at the time) talking about the 20-loss thing and acknowledging it, but more than anything else I think it was simply a factor of the team being so bad. 119 losses is a large number to divide among 20 pitchers, particularly considering how baseball assigns losses and how the Tigers struggled to score runs (3.65 per game was more than 0.6 runs worse than the next-worst team in the American League). Maroth wasn't that good, Trammell just made little effort to juggle the losses for cosmetic purposes.

I think a better analogy would be to discuss pitchers who led the league in home runs allowed. Some were like Maroth (guys who weren't that good and rarely threw enough innings to give up that many home runs), and some were like Ferguson Jenkins, Bob Gibson, and Dizzy Dean.

Having said that, I think MDS' logic is backward. The fact that Hall of Fame quarterbacks have led the league in interceptions does not mean that QBs who lead the league in interceptions are therefore Hall-of-Fame-caliber QBs.

Stop me when I've gone far enough: Jon Kitna, Kerry Collins, Jake Plummer, Vinny Testaverde, Joey Harrington, Marc Bulger, Daunte Culpepper, Trent Green ... already? We're not even out of the 2000s yet!

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:08pm

To be fair, I don't reckon you have to go through too many parallel dimensions to find one where Trent Green is a Hall of Famer.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:39pm

Actually, you understand the logic backwards.

"The fact that Hall of Fame quarterbacks have led the league in interceptions does not mean that QBs who lead the league in interceptions are therefore Hall-of-Fame-caliber QBs."

No, it's not evidence that league-leading INT throwers are HOFers. The point is, evidence that league-leading INT throwers aren't conclusively not good, or have any non-negligible chance at an HOF career.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:25am

Kitna: Not great but had a few decent years.
Collins: 2 Pro Bowls, 12th all-time in passing yards.
Plummer: 1 Pro Bowl, once took Cardinals to the playoffs.
Testaverde: 2 Pro Bowls, 7th all-time in passing yards.
Harrington: Not good.
Bulger: 2 Pro Bowls.
Culpepper: 3 Pro Bowls.
Green: 2 Pro Bowls, 20th all-time in passer rating. DVOA loves him.

So... that's a pretty good list of QBs. You've got 1 bad QB, 1 mediocre QB, and 6 Pro Bowlers with 12 Pro Bowl appearances. Sure, these guys aren't Hall of Famers (Green and Culpepper could have been if they had sustained their success for longer- they had HOF-level peaks), but if we can agree that Cutler is better than Harrington and Kitna, he's in a group which would correctly be labeled "multiple time Pro Bowlers."

by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:06am

That's 12 Pro Bowl appearances from the full list...out of 63 total career seasons (with double digit starts made). One out of every five years. I think the expectation was higher than that for Cutler. He'll be 1 out of 3 years after this season. The list lower in this thread is more pessimistic once you're talking about guys who do it in the age 25-27 range over a larger sampling of seasons. That should be the "rising" part of the learning curve on the way to excellence. Agree that it's not the end of the world to be on the same list as many of those guys. As you say, though, it's below HOF caliber.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:47pm

Interceptions fluctuate from year to year more than a lot of other quarterback stats. A certain amount of risk taking is inherent in many great quarterbacks. The discouraging thing about Cutler is the lack of growth in what is usually a prime spot for quarterbacks to make the leap (third to fourth year starting)

by TomC :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 1:51pm

My dad forwarded me this piece from the WSJ, and I'll repeat my response to him here:

Interesting piece --- though I wonder how many of those years were in the QB's career prime rather than his rookie year (like P. Manning in '98) or when he was way over the hill (like Tarkenton in '78). The one that really surprises me is Jim Kelly in 1992, 'cause they were in the middle of their run of 4 straight AFC championships.

(Though that's the year Kelly got hurt & they went through the playoffs with Reich. OK for the Houston Comeback game; not so good against Dallas in the SB.)

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:18pm

Exactly what I was thinking. Bradshaw led in his rookie year, and Sonny Jurgensen in his first two years as a starter. Otto Graham led during his peak, but he also led in touchdowns the same year. Both Blanda and Namath led a number of times in their prime, but that was a different era.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:37pm

Cutler shouldn't be in his prime yet, that 28-32 for most QBs.

by Jeff Fogle :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:19pm

Sorry, but these kinds of articles drive me nuts. Can we PLEASE point out that:

*Jay Cutler is currently a 26-year old quarterback in his fourth year as a starter...in the wheelhouse on the career arc for stars establishing themselves.

*Peyton Manning was a 22-year old rookie the year he led the league in interceptions.

*Terry Bradshaw was a 22-year old rookie the year he led the league in interceptions.

*Brett Favre was a 24-year old second year starter the year he led the league in interceptions.

*Fran Tarkenton was a long-past-his-prime 38-year old scrambler playing in the final season of his career when he led the league in interceptions.

*Joe Namath was 32 years old with shot knees when he led the league in interceptions.

*Otto Graham was playing in a 12-team league where only three teams passed a lot when he led the league in interceptions (the three guys who passed a lot led in all the passing categories, good and bad).

Leading the league in interceptions is bad if you're an experienced 26-year-old in good health.

Anyone have any similarity score-type methodology they can run on guys who started their career with Cutler-type numbers to this point (career, not just this season)? How many Hall-of-Famers are on that list. Might be some because Cutler throws downfield a lot, and the Hall of Fame has guys from an era where that was common. Probably a lot of disappointments on the list too.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:08pm

*Brett Favre was a 24-year old second year starter the year he led the league in interceptions.

The first time. He also led the league in INTs at age 36 with Green Bay, and at age 39 with New York.

by Jeff Fogle :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:17pm

Sorry, you're right...Namath was also there earlier too. Tried to post this as an edit a few minutes ago, but got a "not authorized" message...so I'll post it here.

Edit: Found the page at pro-football reference that lists the annual leaders: It's: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/leaders/pass_int_year_by_year.htm

Noticed that Favre and Namath were multiple winners. Shouldn't have stopped earlier at the first year I found. Favre did it young and old. Namath did it young and after his knees were shot.

25-26-27 year olds on the list since 1960:
Eli Manning
Joey Harrington
Marc Bulger
Daunte Culpepper
Jake Plummer
Kerry Collins
Vinny Testaverde
Dave Krieg
Richard Todd
Joe Ferguson
Jim Plunkett
Sonny Jurgenson
Charley Johnson

Probably a decent similarity score list there for current age, ability to go deep, but a tendency to throw picks. Some longevity with a few guys obviously. Not a list of stiffs...but not many sustained star careers either (depends on how you define "star").

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:18pm

Marino wasn't exactly on the scrapheap when he did it in 1989.

There really isn't likely to be a sensible historical comparable for Cutler. Young quarterbacks who have been as good as he was up to the end of 2008 almost never change teams. Factor in the transition from probably the best offensive line in football to arguably the worst and, well, even if you can find stats which suggest someone might have had a similar career, they're probably wrong. One thing we can say for sure is that Cutler is probably not the sort of quarterback you want if your offensive line can't pass-block worth a damn, but then few players are. Imagine what Kurt Warner would look like in Chicago. He's a great player, but put him in Cutler's situation and the only reason he wouldn't lead the league in picks is because he'd get injured too fast. I still think the most similar player I can think of to Cutler (subjectively) is Brett Favre. So far as I know, Favre never had to suffer in that kind of clusterm'kay of an offense. I don't suppose it would have been pretty if he had.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:35pm

Tarkenton may be the only qb who consistently turned in good stats, especially with regard to interceptions, behind bad offensive lines, paired with mediocre to bad defenses, for a number of seasons. That's why a reasonable case can be made for Tarkenton as the best qb ever.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:04pm

Purple people eaters?

Didn't Fran have a good D in the early-mid-70s. If I try I could pull out more names than Jim Marshall and Paul Krause because my brother was a big fan (followed Fran from the Giants and when Fran retired, went back to being a Giant fan, the weenie), but I thought their D was pretty stout up through 76 or so.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:59pm

Bobman, Tarkenton started with the expansion Vikings in '61. They stunk, as most expansion teams do. By the mid 60s, they had added some talent, but were still bad overall. He gets traded to the Giants before the '67 season, in a trade which, ironically allows the Vikings to definitively close their talent gap, except at qb, of course. The Giants are on a deep decline when he arrives, and he single handedly keeps the competitive for a season or two. He gets traded back to the Vikings in '72, and is finally surrounded by talent. He is also now in his 12th year, his career about 2/3 over, and well past his physical prime, especially since he never had a cannon. If you look at his td/int ratio, it is remarkable, given the era, and what he had to work with for the first 11 years of his career.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:06pm

Thanks, Will, my memory of the Vikes and FAT (love those initials) goes back to about 70. That summary helped.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:38pm

Peyton Manning has made due with some rather mediocre line the past few years.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:05pm

Good Lord, I wish there was some objective way to measure that. Going back here about five years, Stan has been hammering on the Indy OL daily while I was an avowed apologist (probably since I only saw about 6 games a season). Last year sealed it for me--among the most hit but least sacked QBs. Plus the horrid run game as Addai and co were hit three yards deep every time. For Addai in 2008, getting 0 yards was actually getting three after being hit. Getting positive yardage was Herculean.

In short: I agree.

by Jeff Fogle :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:27pm

If Denver had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last year, then Cutler's performance in 2008 was dismal regarding interceptions.

*2nd in the league in interceptions behind Favre
*Engineered the worst turnover differential in the league at the team level
*While playing the 30th ranked schedule according to Sagarin.

Cutler was mistake-prone last year vs. a soft schedule. He's not transitioning from a great year to a horrible year. He's transitioning from a mistake-prone year to an even more mistake-prone year.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 5:41pm

Hence I, as a Bronco fan, was glad to see him go.

He's phenomenally talented, really. I understand that. But he also just makes ridiculously bad decisions. I will be fair and admit he's in an awful situation in Chicago that accentuates his flaws and doesn't allow his talents to show. In fact, if it were anyone else (except [Vikings QB]), I would feel sorry for him.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:59am

Great line + good receivers + historically awful defense (and they were - just not quite as bad as the Lions the same season, so people didn't notice) = strong production but lots of picks as a result of constantly forcing it in an effort to stay in the game.

Chronically terrible line + mediocre receivers + bad defense = clusterm'kay

I'm not saying Cutler isn't the sort of player who's always likely to throw his fair share of picks. I'm saying that in the right environement he is capable of being a great or near-great interception-prone player, closer to Favre or Warner than Plummer et al.

by MJK :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:43pm

Interesting note about Manning's rookie year. Despite leading the league in INT's, he STILL managed to post a positive (+4.5%) DVOA that year. Which implies that, while he made his share of mistakes, he was doing a lot of good things, too (probably a really lot, to balance out all those INTs). And he did this while playing on a horrible, horrible team.

Cutler this year...not so much (DVOA -17.6%).

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:27pm

While hard to quantify some consideration has to be given to the "type" of interceptions. There are tipped balls, great defensive plays, misreads where one can make allowance.

A good many of Cutler's interceptions are just BAD. As in stupid throws. Or poor throws that have no chance. Cutler leads the world in galactically stupid throws. There have to be living rooms all over greater Chicago with dents in the wall form Bears fans beating their heads after a Cutler toss gone Scud.

He's Jeff George The Sequel. I don't know why folks refuse to accept this with Cutler. He could take your team through the first round of the playoffs but eventually the flaws will surface and the season will end. That was George.

That is Cutler's "density".

by TomC :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:18pm

He's Jeff George The Sequel. I don't know why folks refuse to accept this with Cutler.

Because the statement has no support beyond your rather uninformed opinion.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:35pm

I am not ready to definitively declare Cutler a citizen of Jeffgeorgiastan, but it ain't wild speculation at this point, especially if Angelo doesn't get him some help, stat, since a qb can get ruined with too many years with a bad o-line, and what may become a chronically mediocre defense. Of course, since Angelo is the guy who cut off the primary path to obtaining Cutler the needed help, because Angelo was so anxious to land Mr. Rocketarm, firing Angelo may be the required first step.

by Joe T. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 2:31pm

To throw 22+ picks in a season, you have to be good enough to continue to get starts and be considered better than the bench alternatives. You have to have upside to offset your propensity to throw picks. Couple that with a gunslinger mentality, the developing decision making skills of QBs in their youth, and the pre-current pass defense rules and its not surprising that so many HoFers topped the interception charts at one time or another in their careers.

Bad QBs typically don't put up the raw numbers because they just don't get the playing time.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:20pm

let's be honest. is there any realistic level of play so low that jay cutler would have lost his job this year? Other than cutler throwing 50 interceptions, is there any way Caleb Hanie takes over the bear offense this year after the management paid so much to get cutler in the building already? Plus, it's not like management doesn't realize how awful the rest of their offense is. Anyone who watches the games can see that nothing is working.

I live in chicago, and I was forced to watch the bears last year and this year week in and week out. Cutler isn't the problem just like kyle orton wasn't the problem, though orton's ankle is another story. Absolutely everything about the bears offense is broken and mismatched. I'm not here to defend cutler so much as point out that I don't think we can know what the bears have in cutler so long as things remain the way they are with that team.

The receivers are a dizzying combination of inexperienced, tiny, non-physical, and just plain bad. Maybe if this team were running more of a timing tempo offense that would work, but they're running an offense that badly needs bigger stronger receivers who can win battles over the middle and in the air against smaller cornerbacks.

The offensive line is phenomenally bad. The other o-line that gets mentioned in that level of badness is the redskins who have the least vertical passing game around because their qb gets pressured after about 2 seconds every play. If the bears were going to run that kind of offense, cutler would probably throw fewer interceptions, but they like to push it downfield, and cutler gets hurried and makes mistakes. The best players in football, no matter their pedigree, start to make mistakes and throw picks when their timing is off and the protection isn't holding up and they are ending every play on their backs. A guy like peyton manning has the crutch that when his o-line is faltering he knows that offense back to front and he knows exactly what his receivers will do and when and how to get the ball to them in an instant. Cutler is in a new system breaking in young receivers and has no comfort level whatsoever.

The bears may have the worst rushing offense I've ever seen. To borrow a bit from basketball terminology, matt forte is the sort of runner who can make shots but doesn't have the talent to consistently create his own opportunities. He's not very explosive, so if there's no hole to hit he's got nowhere to go. He reminds me a lot of jamal lewis earlier in his career. He can do a lot of really good things for you, but he's just wasted running behind the sieve that chicago calls their line.

by Alexander :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:05pm

I've said it all along.

There is a reason Matt Forte played at Temple, and its the same reason I didn't take him in any fantasy league this year.

by bbb (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:38pm

Tulane not temple

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:39pm

The same reason Tomlinson played at TCU?

by Jimmy :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 2:20pm

Or Walter Payton played at Jackson State?

by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 3:48pm


I know you are a Bears fan so I will ignore the insult as to my qualifications to make any assessment. I don't things so seriously as to attack a poster's credibility versus having a discussion on the topic.

But in broad strokes surely you can see the origins of my comment. Big guy. Big arm. Shaky rep. History of outbursts. When he's bad he's horrid. Can pull his team out of a bad spot which keeps folks excited.

Not saying Cutler is a bad guy. Just that unless a team does something radical he will likely follow the Jeff George route which did include some playoff appearances. Because for a season George could be really good.

Long-term? Meh.

But if you prefer to insult me feel free.

by TomC :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:08pm

I apologize for saying your opinion is uninformed, as I don't have any proof of that.

I also prefer to have discussions. But saying "I don't understand why you can't just accept statement X" is not conducive to having discussions. Rather the opposite, in fact; it's saying: "There is no discussion to be had, because I am right, and you should just accept that."

The statement: "Cutler has made lots of horrible decisions leading to interceptions this year" is logically supportable. As is the statement: "Cutler has at times behaved like an ass-hat." But the statement: "Cutler is Jeff George and will never lead a team deep into the playoffs" is, at least in my opinion, pure speculation and not supportable.

by RickD :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 4:48pm

Jay Cutler is not going to the Hall of Fame.

A lot of the QBs on that list either had huge INT numbers before their prime (Manning 1998, Favre 1993, Bradshaw 1970) or after it (Namath 1975, Tarkenton 1978, and, arguably, Unitas 1966). Cutler is supposedly in the prime of his career but already has more picks this year than some of the QBs on that list had in 16 games.

Many QBs are in the HoF despite having had a single bad year either at the start or end of their career. This is a classic situation where "the converse does not hold". Having a bad season does not a HoF QB make.

Consider this run of INT leaders:
1985 Tommy Kramer (30) 26 MIN
1984 Dave Krieg (26) 24 SEA
1983 Lynn Dickey (34) 29 GNB
1982 Joe Ferguson (32) 16 BUF
1981 Brian Sipe (32) 25 CLE
1980 Richard Todd (27) 30 NYJ

None of these guys is heading to Canton anytime soon.

To be fair, I should mention that Joe Namath led the AFL in INTs a few times, too. But Namath has possibly the worst career numbers for any HoF QB.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:43pm

I think it's hard to find an example of a QB on a team with so little help around him. Especially one who is supposed to be as good as Cutler is.

The o-line is such a mess it's really hard to explain it to other people. I haven't watched much of the past two games, but prior to that I could literally count the number of holes the line has opened in the running game on one hand.

by peachy (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:44am

I present to you "Vanderbilt 2002-05."

by c_f (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:40am

So Cutler went from having an awesome Clady-powered OL to a porous line featuring the broken-down Pace and Kreutz. He went from having Marshall, Royal and Scheffler to having a bunch of decent complimentary receivers (Hester would be an okay #2 and Bennett and Knox would be quality #3s) and TEs, better than Orton got last year.

The protection has been bad, but Peyton succeeded with an unreliable OL.

The receivers aren't garbage, but they are still a weakness. Brady and McNabb have succeeded with anonymous wideouts.

Even Kyle Orton, who is no HoF-er, had a solid 2008 with a better line and much worse WR play.

What happened? Why is he throwing away his fundamentals? Why is his pocket presence so bad? Why does he seem to have every faith in his arm?

Is it ego? Is it the pressure? What happened to the young franchise quarterback?

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:05am

Let's not forget that the Broncos offense has declined considerably this year, despite a much better RB situation and few other changes beyond the Cutler/Orton swap. I actually suspect that Orton's limited arm strength is substantially responsible for the dramatic fall-off in the running game.

Peyton has had unreliable OLs. Cutler has a reliably abysmal OL. Peyton may also be the greatest quarterback of all time, and has had a long career over which to develop immaculate pocket awareness. "Not as good as Peyton Manning" is praising with faint damnation.

by MJK :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:57pm

Part of that could be schedule. The Bronco's schedule this year was CONSIDERABLY harder than it was last year. I know DVOA tries to take that into account, but I'm not sure it does so strongly enough in extreme cases.

However, I do agree. I have yet to see Orton consistently prove that he can throw deep crossing patterns and deep (~15-25 yard) comeback and outs accurately and quickly enough to take advantage of receiver separation, and that's going to be a thorn in the offense's side once defenses get enough tape to realize it (as happened this year after about six games). You can play with smoke and mirrors (WR screens, short routes coming out of bunch plays, shallow crosses) for a while, but sooner or later you're limited. It's basically the same problem that plagued the 2002 Patriots, when that's all Brady was throwing. If Cutler can do as Brady did, and work on his deeper balls and improve them, then he has promise as an eventual career starter. If he's hit a hard physical limit, then the Broncos had better keep looking for a QB upgrade.

by MJK :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:53pm

I haven't watched enough Cutler to definitively say, but I'd be surprised if he ends up being more successful than say, Drew Bledsoe. There's a lot of similarities between the two. Both were very strong-armed QB's with a great deal of throwing ability and the ability to get the ball accurately into small spaces. Both make pretty good decisions if their line gives them time, but get easily flustered and mistake-prone if you can pressure them or if they play behind a bad line. Both had a lot of success early in their career throwing to an incredible receiving talent (Marshall for Cutler and Coates for Bledsoe). Neither is particularly mobile. Cutler is maybe a hair more mobile than Bledsoe was, but I think Bledsoe's decision making was slightly better when under pressure, so that probably balances.

If the Bears can protect Cutler and get him some receiving talent, I think he'll be similar to Bledsoe...have some years with gaudy numbers, maybe a shot at a SB ring, and a solid career that tails off into mediocrity when age and starts to blunt his physical skills. If they can't, then he could end up in Jeff George land, or worse. If he ends up in a very favorable situation (unlikely given the way Chicago currently runs things, but possible), then he has the tools to make a shot at being an all-time great, but I just don't see it as very likely.

by TomC :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:18pm

MJK, where do you get the idea that Cutler isn't mobile? He was great throwing on the run in Denver, and the few times that he's decided to keep the ball and take off running with the Bears, he's been very successful. He's not quite Steve Young, but he's certainly no Bledsoe.

by Chucky Margolis (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:47pm

more apologia for Cutlers' suckitude. they show up weekly somewhere in the sports blogosphere.

franchise QB? HoF?? please, call me when he actually posts a winning record somewhere. I mean since H.S.

by TomC :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:16pm

Good point about that won-loss record. I sure do wish the Bears had Craig Krenzel and his career .600 winning percentage back.