Ryan Tannehill’s torn ACL forced Miami Dolphins brass to make a decision on their 2017 quarterback situation: A retiree who threw four touchdowns and five interceptions in an injury-shortened 2016, or a young, dual-threat player who tallied 16 touchdowns in the air against four interceptions and two rushing touchdowns?
Miami is going behind Curtain A. Head coach Adam Gase will reunite with his former quarterback in Jay Cutler after the ‘Phins convinced the recently retired Cutler to give it one more go in a new setting. Behind Curtain B, Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned.
Cutler – who retired after things fell apart badly with the Chicago Bears – joins a Dolphins team that had a red hot second half of 2016 to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs. Miami’s strong 2016 appeared enough to convince Cutler to quickly backtrack on his retirement after Gase and the Dolphins reportedly ‘recruited’ the gunslinging quarterback to suit up for at least one more season.
In his introductory press conference, Cutler downplayed the fact he was in retirement mode this offseason without preparations to start for a playoff team in the fall — a serious factor for the Dolphins. They are now hitching their post to a version of Cutler that was banged up and ineffective in Chicago for the past several seasons.
— NFL (@NFL) August 7, 2017
“The good thing is I play quarterback so I don’t really have to be that good of cardiovascular shape,” Cutler said, per NFL.com. “But I’ll be fine. [Dolphins head coach Adam Gase] knows kind of what I’ve been up to, so we’ll figure it out along the way.”
Cutler did note how the quick decision to return to a starting quarterback role will come with drawbacks in his press conference: Most notably the change from preparing for a new career with FOX in the booth to quickly prepping for an assumed job as Miami’s Week 1 starter in early September.
“It was hard. It was hard. It was definitely hard,” Cutler said. “Like you said, the last four months, I’ve been in a different mode, different mindset, getting ready for the Fox deal. It was really pretty good with where I was in my life. I was around the kids a lot and felt pretty content. So wavered back and forth on this. I’d probably say my wife, Kristin, talked me into it more than anyone else could.”
“I think everyone probably in the room forecasts what they’re going to be doing. A week from now, couple weeks, a month. You kind of have that in your mind of what’s going to happen. We’re going on vacation this week. Then you start the Fox thing. You have to do the preseason games. [My son] Jaxon’s birthday is tomorrow. There were things you just kind of have planned in your life. To get something like this thrown, it takes a little bit to kind of process and figure out what direction you want to go.”
Cutler’s lack of a proper offseason regiment for 2017 will be the most prominent, lingering question in the Dolphins decision to take a roll of the dice on a player who threw for more interceptions than touchdowns in five games last season.
Even more concerning for Gase and the Dolphins is the fact Cutler hasn’t started a full 16=game season since 2009. Not exactly the type of statistical backing you want when signing a one-year rental to stay in the AFC Wild Card picture.
Cutler’s layoff and supposed lack of focus on getting ready to play this season will also surely fuel the discontent amongst fans and writers who are eager to see Colin Kaepernick get his rightful opportunity and sign with a team for the 2017 season.
There is perhaps no player left who could elicit the type of outrage in getting a chance over Kaepernick as Cutler, a player who has struggled mightily for years and put almost zero interest in even playing this season.
That alone has to annoy those who still feel Kaepernick is a viable starting quarterback. If a player who is admittedly out of shape and iffy on playing football is Dolphins top choice over Kaepernick in an emergency situation, what will it take for him to get a job?
NFL: "Kaepernick must prove he's committed to football!"
Cutler: "I'm out of shape and had to be talked into this"
NFL: "Here's a jersey!" https://t.co/JrhL3NBbXq
— Alexander Goot (@AGoot18) August 7, 2017
Based on 2016 alone, there is little doubt that Kaepernick would provide Miami with the best chance to make the playoffs again this season over Cutler.
Kaepernick – actually healthy unlike Cutler – threw for a tidy 16 touchdowns with just four interceptions and provided his typical production on the ground for a woeful 49ers team under Chip Kelly.
In six less games than Kaepernick, Cutler threw more interceptions and continued to display the exact same issues that plagued him over the final years in Chicago, Banged up and a shell of his former self, Cutler’s gunslinging comes back to haunt him and his team time after time.
A change of scenery can fix some of Cutler’s problems in an improved system with improved offensive weapons, but wouldn’t a team want to go with the more athletic and more conservative passer in Kaepernick over Cutler in this situation? If anyone was to be the caretaker of a team that has enough pieces around him on offense and a defense built to take a team into the playoffs, it would be Kaepernick.
Kaepernick’s entire NFL boom period with the 49ers was based on this very setup, a player with athletic tools and the foresight to not take costly risks that would cost his talented 49ers team victories.
That makeup is infinitely more valuable than Cutler’s upside as a gunslinger and would give the Dolphins their best chance at success.
In fact, Kaepernick rode that exact formula to four playoff victories with Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers when he replaced Alex Smith to guide his team to an NFC Championship and sustained success in San Francisco.
You can argue Cutler is more familiar with the system Gase puts in place, but Kaepernick has long proven to be the more dependable field general of the two. If the proof is in the turnover ratio, Kaepernick is the guy you want in the pocket. Not Cutler, who has proven to be a turnover prone malcontent who can’t stay on the field.
However, the pairing of Gase and Cutler is what the Dolphins wanted and familiarity breeds comfort. Gase has his old quarterback and Cutler has the only opportunity that would bring him back to the league. A chance to make the playoffs and put his dismal fall from grace in Chicago awaits Cutler on a Miami team that put its faith in him to guide them to the promised land.
There are football reasons for this move and they are legitimate as the Dolphins wanted the calculated risk of something they know rather than the potentially wiser gamble on the more talented Kaepernick.
The hope for the Dolphins is that Cutler can turn back the clock and prove the critics wrong. If that doesn’t happen and the Dolphins struggle, we will all be looking back at their decision to pass on Kaepernick come January.