Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Bear truth

I get the Jay Cutler hate. I do.

I get, first of all, that it's more visceral than substantive, more "His attitude sucks" than "He can't play." That perpetual scowl. That don't-give-a-hoot vibe. That famous time he sat out the second half of a playoff game with a bum knee -- even though I'll go to my grave believing he was more sinned against than sinning that day, because in today's NFL the docs' word is law, and if the docs tell you to sit, you sit.

And so that whole "Well, so-and-so would have told the docs to get bent and gone back out there" business was moot. So-and-so didn't play in today's NFL. If so-and-so did, he'd have been sitting, too, if the docs told him to sit. That's just how it works.

Anyway ... I get the Cutler hate. He's not a leader in the way you expect a quarterback in the NFL to be a leader. And so there is the perception, perhaps real and perhaps not, that his teammates don't play as hard for him as they would for someone else.

Someone like, oh, I don't know, Brian Hoyer, for instance.

And so now that Hoyer is putting up by far the best numbers of his beige career, there is a prevailing opinion out there that, once Cutler comes back from his injury, the Bears should ride it out with Hoyer and hand the clipboard to their high-dollar starter. This, of course, assumes Hoyer can keep doing what he did in the first four games, in which he averaged 273.5 yards, threw six touchdowns and zero interceptions and put up a quarterback rating of 108.5.

Those are some impressive numbers. They're even more impressive when you consider the guy putting them up has a QBR of 85.1 for his career, during which he's completed less than 60 percent of his passes and thrown 44 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions.

In other words, he is what he is, a serviceable career backup. And Cutler is what he is -- which is the best quarterback the Bears have had in my lifetime, even if he's hardly their best leader.

I know this is hard to hear, but it's demonstrably true. I've been watching Bears' quarterbacks since Jack Concannon was throwing balls into Lake Michigan. Cutler -- physically and numerically, at least  -- puts all of them in the shade.

Last year, when all you heard was how awful he was, he completed almost 65 percent of his passes and threw 21 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions. That was one interception every 44 throws for the guy some Bears fans, because of his number, call Pick 6. His QB rating was 92.3.

This does not sound like Cutler was awful to me. This sounds like he was pretty damn good, actually.

But, sure. He sucks.

Why, he's much, much worse than the quarterback the Bears had when they won their only Super Bowl. That guy was great. Wasn't he?

Well ... um, no. That guy was Jim McMahon, who threw almost as many picks (90) as touchdowns (100) in a 15-year career. The year the Bears won the Super Bowl, he had 15 touchdowns and 11 picks in 313 attempts, or one pick every 28 attempts. His completion percentage was just under 57 percent. And his QBR was 82.6, almost four points behind Cutler's career QBR.

The unavoidable conclusion: Cutler's way better. At least performance-wise.

I know. I get that you hate that, too.

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