If Jay Cutler becomes available, there is no doubt speculation will run rampant the Jets will get involved. This team has no clear solution at starting quarterback and has been a major player when big names have come available over the past two offseasons. Denver trading Cutler is still quite unlikely. Since the Vanderbilt product is under contract, the team has all the leverage. Cutler's only options would be to sit out or play in a minor league like the CFL or UFL. Even if Cutler threatened one of those two, Denver would probably try to wait him out or appease the 25 year old with a new contract. The Broncos are in no rush to create a hole at the most important position on the field. The team has said as much in public. Still, fences have not mended even weeks later, making it a possibility, albeit a remote one, he could be finished in Denver. If this is the case, the Jets would be wise to buck the conventional wisdom. They should not pursue Jay Cutler.
This idea might seem crazy on the surface. Cutler is far more proven than anything this team currently has. He is only 25 years old and is still playing under his affordable rookie contract. He just threw for 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2008. There is no denying Jay Cutler is a talented player. However, more goes into playing the quarterback position than simply stats.
The quarterback has to be a leader. The great quarterbacks in league history are remembered for their abilities in this area as much as what they added to the passing game. Leadership in many instances means keeping one's head in adverse conditons. Cutler has done anything but that during this saga. One can understand how his feelings were hurt.A new coach comes in and reportedly at least thinks of replacing the incumbent with his own guy, Matt Cassel. However, professional atheletes deal with these kind of rumors all the time. Cutler actually seems to be taking it personally. His reaction has to create questions about how he would hold up in New York. The fanbase of the Jets is as impatient and demanding as any in football with the possible exception of Philadelphia. If a simple trade rumor was enough to rattle Cutler, how would he hold up after his own fans started booing him for throwing two interceptions in a game? How can Cutler gain respect as a leader after turning his back on his Denver teammates over something so small?
This is related to a bigger point. The legendary franchise quarterbacks of the game are remembered for carrying their teams in difficult spots, almost single-handedly willing victories in the most adverse of environments. Quarterbacks are unique in that they control so much on the field that they can actually win games by themselves. It is a component of being considered a great leader. The greats never get rattled by adversity. Even an aging Brett Favre showed this quality a few times in 2008. Take his game-tying drive in the final seconds of regulation at Oakland. In the shadow of his own goal post, Brett got the Jets into field goal range and got the game to overtime in the process. There was also his Thursday night epic in Foxborough in which he rallied the Jets twice after the Pats registered what seemed to be devastating game-tying scores. NFL history is littered with these examples. Peyton Manning rallied from 18 down to beat the Pats in the AFC Championship. Tom Brady led a pair of Super Bowl winning drives. John Elway,another famous Bronco, tied the AFC Championship Game by driving 98 yards.
Cutler has not displayed the ability to lead a team, despite his gaudy numbers. He has never put together a winning season. He lost at home to a dreadful San Francisco team with the Playoffs on the line in 2006. He just finished 2008 quarterbacking an epic collapse as Denver blew a three game lead in the AFC West with three games to play. This included a horrific home loss to a Buffalo team in freefall in Week 16 when a win could have clinched the West. Cutler threw 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in these three games. It was a team effort. As quarterback of the team, Cutler has to take a lot of the heat. He did not rally the team when in a desperate situation. It would have been one thing if he had played great, but the defense was the sole culprit. This was not the case. Tell me there is any way Tom Brady or Peyton Manning loses that game to Buffalo or allows their team to suffer a collapse like that without pulling a rabbit out of their hat somewhere along the line.
Cutler still has plenty of time in his career. Perhaps he will reach that point. However, given the performance and off field demeanor on display, there are major reasons for pessimism. Stats provide one measure of quarterback play, not the only measure. Imagine for a second Daunte Culpepper continued playing with Randy Moss and never blew out his knee. He would have put up more monster statistical seasons, but unless he finally carried his team to the next level, he would not have ended up a Hall of Famer like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning will. A franchise quarterback takes a team to the next level. Everybody else is essentially the same. While Culpepper is leaps and bounds ahead of say Brooks Bollinger as a signal caller, neither has that extra ability to carry a team. Since Denver would ask for a king's ransom to give up its quarterback, the Jets must ask themselves whether it is worth selling the ranch for a player who may never reach that elite level and would block the team from searching for that player. Despite all of his positive attributes, Jay Cutler is not worth it.