NFL Free Agency is in full swing. It seems like a good time to talk to the Jay Cutler Hater Association. So much blame is placed at the feet of Jay Cutler. Some of it is justified, other parts of it are not. But the better question is, how could the Chicago Bears do better?
Jay Cutler ranked 21st out of 30 in ESPN’s QBR. There was only one QB ahead of Cutler who was a free agent this year, 15th ranked Mark Sanchez. 24th ranked Brian Hoyer, 27th ranked Austin Davis and 28th ranked Josh McCown were/are also available. Consult some free agent rankings and names like Jake Locker (who retired!), Matt Moore and Ryan Mallet might bubble up. CBS’ free agent rankings don’t have a QB before #83 (Jake Locker) and only two others in the top 100 (#85 Mark Sanchez and #88 Brian Hoyer). Shaun Hill took 569 snaps last season, he is out there. So are Michael Vick and Colt McCoy.
How many truly “elite” QBs are there in the NFL? Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo when he is healthy, and the aging quartet of Manning, Brady, Brees and Roethlisberger, maybe. Guys like Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Phillip Rivers are surely better than Cutler, but all three are with their original team and none of those teams are trading them for anything short of a buttload of draft picks. While on that note, the Washington Professional Football Team is currently seeing what life is like after mortgaging draft picks for an unproven QB. Ironically he is one of the guys that could probably be had for a draft pick. Russell Wilson might be on his way to being elite, and joins Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton as young QBs no team is giving up on yet. Colin Kaepernick already got his extension, which he will either earn or not be worth, so he won’t be available anytime soon unless he stinks. Ditto Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford.
Maybe Ryan Fitzpatrick is available. Kyle Orton retired. Eli, Big Ben and Rivers will all be free agents after this season, but it’s hard to see any of those teams letting any of those franchise QBs walk away if they are still productive if for no other reason than good QBs are so hard to come by. Sam Bradford will be a free agent next summer, but if he is good enough the Eagles will probably keep him.
The kinds of guys who hit free agency and change teams are not the kind of QBs that Bears fans would want. With the exception of Peyton Manning in 2012 here is a breakdown of QBs who switched teams via free agency lately. In 2011 examples are Tyler Thigpen, Matt Moore, Bruce Gradkowski. In 2012 some of them are Matt Flynn, Kyle Orton, Chad Henne and Jason Campbell. In 2013 it was Chase Daniel, Drew Stanton, Matt Hasselbeck, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kolb, Brian Hoyer (and some of the guys from previous seasons). Last season it was the same guys again: Orton, Fitzpatrick, Campbell and guys like Charlie Whitehurst, Michael Vick, Mark Sanchez and Derek Anderson.
Some might point to Drew Stanton, Brian Hoyer and Mark Sanchez. Stanton might fight for a starting job this year, but he will be 31, in his 8th season and has 12 career starts to date. Hoyer will be 30 before Halloween, in his 7th season and has just 17 starts to his name so far. Sanchez won’t be 29 until November and has 70 starts under his belt through 6 seasons, but he has already re-signed with the Eagles so it doesn’t matter.
So who do Bears fans want? Even if the Bears fans use a draft pick on a QB, it seems like a two QB draft. Sure they can dream Marcus Mariota is there at 7, but he won’t be. Worst case for him is that someone trades up to take him. There probably isn’t another QB worth taking in the 1st round. This is the problem with the QB position in the NFL, it might be the toughest commodity in all of the major American sports. A team has to luck into someone in the draft, mostly by having the right pick in the right draft.
So who do Bears fans want?