There is not a Quarterback in the NFL whom I would trade Jay Cutler for. That includes Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Go ahead and call me crazy, but those two are in their primes now, and can only go down from here. Jay, on the other hand, is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Sometimes, I watch him play, and just feel really lucky to have been blessed with another soon-to-be-great QB.
There was an asinine DP article by Jim Armstrong today that made the case that Phyllis Rivers is better than Jay. In terms of isolating individual play, it’s pretty clear that he is not. It’s also clear that Phyllis has a much lower ceiling, and is already beginning to bump into it. The best he’ll ever be is an accurate-throwing game manager, which he is on his way to being now, once he improves his accuracy a bit. You put good talent around a credible guy like Phyllis, and he wins more than he loses. Think Phil Simms with the Giants as a good comparison. Simms was a good player who played in an era full of great players.
Jay, on the other hand, is the best combination of athleticism and arm strength to enter the NFL since John Elway himself. I’m a sucker for strong arms, (I still like JP Losman for example,) but Jay’s arm is exceptional. The only arm in the NFL which is comparable is that of JaMarcus Russell, and he is nowhere near as accurate a thrower, or as good an all-around athlete as Jay is. Incidentally, though, he’d be my second choice of young QBs. It’s a shame the awfulness of the Raiders and his bad eating habits appear likely to prevent him from reaching his potential.
I love strong arms because velocity on throws makes a receiver not have to get as wide open. A strong arm also negates the strength of a Cover 2 zone, because with smart pattern design, a QB can throw it where the underneath coverage isn’t (seams or deep outside,) and they’ll never get to it to knock it down. Part of the continued maturation I expect from Jay this season is that he’ll gain more of a mastery of how to defeat the Cover 2. You never hear about a junkballer (to borrow a baseball term) like Phyllis throwing the ball into tight spaces. It’s because he can’t make those kind of throws.
The following is my breakdown of the tiers of young QBs, as of today. I define young QBs as guys who have entered the NFL since 2004, so Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Rex Grossman, et al aren’t included. Among this year’s draft class, I included Matt Ryan, Brian Brohm, and Chad Henne, because I have seen a lot of them, and am comfortable evaluating them. Joe Flacco is not included because I only saw one Delaware game which he played in.
Truly Pro Bowl Caliber
Great Talent But Probably Never Great
Credible Game Managers
Matt Ryan ®
Brian Brohm ®
Chad Henne ®
Probably Not Good Enough to Win With
These rankings are roughly in the order in which I’d take the players. Some will be surprised at the high regard I hold for Tarvaris Jackson’s talent, but you can see it on film. The question is, can he learn fast enough to keep the job. Also, Alex Smith is at the top of the Game Managers list because he doesn’t throw a lot of interceptions, and because he has had the worst offensive supporting cast in the NFL. If you watch him when he is healthy, it’s clear that he can play at the NFL level. He can do all of the things that Phyllis can do, and he’s much more of a threat with his legs.
Above all, I'll take the guy we have here. He will be a great QB, and he will win Super Bowls.