This is something I’ve been thinking on for a while, and I wanted to share it with the folks at MHR and ask their opinion. There is a lot of discussion right now, including another thread that started with Cutler being in the current list of the top 5 QBs, something I consider well deserved. What we're seeing from this very young man at the beginning of his third year is truly extraordinary.
As I mentioned once before, he has compiled a 90.0 passer rating while completing 62.7% of his passes with 31 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 22 starts. Those numbers put him in the same class with perennial Pro Bowlers Carson Palmer and Donovan McNabb during the early stages of their respective careers. His season 1 and 2 stats are up there with Peyton, Brady, Marino and, yes, Elway.
Over the past two years, he has the highest QB rating in the NFL when throwing from outside the pocket, tops in the NFL. He has 16 TD passes when throwing from outside the pocket over that period of time, and, again, that's tops in the NFL.
We will see more about his decision making ability as the season goes on. I have the impression that Jay does believe that he can make any and every pass, and since he’s right about 63% of the time, I’m fine with that. I will venture to say that he will probably be up there above 65% by the end of the season.
Cutler has several advantages that John Elway didn’t , or at least not as early, and not the least of these is all Shanahan, all the time. I like what a recent article (Although I didn’t write it down, the link was posted here; I think it was from ESPN):
"The system has been molded to his strengths," said an AFC personnel director. "They feature a lot of bootlegs, waggles and naked passes in the game plan. He is not being asked to read the entire of the field. Therefore, they are not making it tough on him mentally at this point. Cutler has great talent, but the coaching staff in Denver is doing a great job of putting him in a position to be successful."
By featuring a lot of movement passes in the game plan, Shanahan has made the passing game easier for Cutler to read because most of the routes are stacked (receivers are in the same line of sight, but at different levels down the field), and he is only asked to read one side of the field. If he stays within the progression, someone will always be available for a high percentage throw. Despite entering the league with the reputation of being a gunslinger, he rarely makes risky throws in traffic, and his willingness to settle for the underneath throw is atypical of young quarterbacks.
"He has all of the physical tools for sure, but you can't underestimate his intelligence," said a former AFC secondary coach. "Most young quarterbacks struggle processing all of the information on the fly, so the game is like a blur to them on the field. However, if they are ever able to understand the concepts, and how the pieces of the puzzle are supposed to fit, they eventually relax and let their natural talent take over. He is at that point right now."
Another advantage of Jay's is that our young Jim Bates reminds me a lot of Shanahan in the early days before Reeves got uncomfortable and fired him. Bates also reminds me of the mid 90’s model of Shanahan – full of new ideas, sold on his QB, fiery and intelligent. I consider that pretty high praise, too, since Shanahan was, and is, one of the best ever. Look for Bates to follow in Shanahan’s footsteps as a great coach.
Cutler also has three great advantages in Marshall, Royal and Stokely. What great receivers! But Cutler also has an O line that is doing great things, things lots of lines take years to learn and still fall short. Elway suffered with several of his lines, and truly achieved when he finally got some protection.
One thing that I often saw with the younger Elway was that he didn’t have the ‘touch pass’. They came in like rockets, sometimes bouncing off the receiver’s hands, and later in his career he greatly overcame that. Cutler seems ahead of Elway in this category.
Elway had ball handling skills extraordinaire. Cutler is good – but I don’t think that he’s there yet. One to John, IMHO.
Decision making comes with age – we don’t know yet which will be better in the end. Elway, I think, has the edge, but perhaps some would call it even right now? Cutler let himself get rattled for a few minutes in the SD game, but came back and threw two beautiful strikes to enrapture the faithful, nailing an Elway-esque come-from -behind victory that had to have Elway bhimself eaming. Elway's poise was legendary - we're spliting hairs, here, I think, but to me it's point to John.
And we are seeing Cutler bloom at a very early age. John had Super Bowl defeats, but hung in there to achieve 2 SB victories. Is there a fan anywhere that doubts that Jay has Super Bowl potential? I doubt it. It’s as clear as a mountain stream.
The final touch for Elway’s game, the one that brought us over the top to win the SBs was, undoubtedly, Terrell Davis. Cutler doesn’t have that piece yet – unless Torain is everything Shanahan thinks that he is. And Shanahan is, certainly, a fine judge of running backs. But this is only about the QB.
i know that I'm asking you to choose a historical legend versus a young man who is showing the world that he CAN be the best in the game. But the final issue is just two quarterbacks, straightforward, head to head. You can only have one. Would it be John? or Jay?
It’s time to vote. If you were going to pick one player for the ultimate 2 decade fantasy team, would it be Jay Cutler, or John Elway? If you have a different choice, tell us what it is!