At this point, you likely have a fixed opinion of Jay Cutler. That’s what happens with polarizing athletes, after all.
Now 34, Cutler wasn’t even supposed to be playing this year; the quarterback retired last year and was headed to the FOX broadcasting booth. It’s been a typically up-and-down season for Cutler with the Dolphins, a flawed team that has indisputably been much worse offensively for games Cutler has missed via a broken rib and a concussion.
A few weeks ago, Cutler delivered in primetime in a losing effort against the Raiders, and last night he came through against the heavily favored New England Patriots, clearly outplaying Tom Brady as the Dolphins won 27-20 at home. And it really wasn’t that close.
Cutler’s final line (25-38 for 263 and 3 touchdowns) also doesn’t really demonstrate how effective he was; a few drops on well-thrown deep balls cost him even more yards. But you saw why he’s lasted as long as he has in the NFL; he can make plays all over the field.
Here’s an escape behind the line of scrimmage to keep a key play alive ahead of Miami’s first touchdown:
And here’s the ensuing score:
Miami head coach Adam Gase has always utilized Cutler’s mobility, dating back to their lone season in Chicago, so it’s no surprise to see him go to the well for that score; it’s also an example of Cutler putting his receiver in a position to make a play.
His second touchdown was another example of that instinct, though it wasn’t a rollout toss behind the line of scrimmage. Instead, Cutler showed off the arm talent that inspired Gase to pick up the phone when Ryan Tannehill went down for the year.
Cutler planted on the 34, and Jakeem Grant made a great play on it, hauling it in about five yards deep in the end zone. But look at that trajectory; the ball traveled about 40 yards in the air, but it was almost on a rope. There aren’t many guys in the league who can make that throw. A fairly large portion of the football world has spent a decade clowning Cutler, for his demeanor or for getting hurt during the NFC Championship game (as if that was his fault) or for his admittedly sometimes-hilarious interceptions.
But, again, for all the talk of how bad quarterback play has been in the NFL, Cutler was going to be out of a job despite having the ability to do this:
The Dolphins ended up scoring late, this time a more routine play that nevertheless showed a calm Cutler reading his progressions and picking out Jarvis Landry sitting down in the Pats (surprisingly soft) zone coverage:
Oh, and here’s Cutler dropping a very bad word when, upon reviewing footage, he realized he could have run for a first down instead of throwing an incompletion:
Meanwhile, Tom Brady had the game many people were probably expecting Cutler to have, throwing two picks:
Both of these went to Xavien Howard, and both were on third-and-long, but it’s still odd to see Brady forcing throws:
And in the end, having actually dragged themselves back into a one-score game, albeit with little time remaining and just one timeout, the Pats attempted perhaps the saddest onside kick attempt of all time:
That was it.
Looking at the list of quarterbacks who took snaps this week, it becomes obvious that Cutler is still clearly an NFL-caliber quarterback. That’s almost a low bar, at this point. But if he does head to the broadcast booth next year, this game would be a fun finale for him.
Cutler always has been great on Monday Night Football, after all.