It’s amazing what a quarterback-focused head coach, a QB friendly system and wholesale changes to a porous offensive line have done for Jay Cutler through three games. One thing I’ve taken away from the first three games of the Trestman-Cutler marriage is a little surprising: The gunslinger is no more; or at least he’s holstered his weapon. Last week we met Jay Cutler, Mr. Fourth Quarter. This week, we meet another Cutler, Jay Cutler, Game Manager.
We don’t like to throw that term around cavalierly because it has a certain stigma attached to it, like an an accomplished and talented quarterback can’t be a game manager. It’s as if a coach will take a marginally talented quarterback and just say, “don’t get us beat.” Is that the case with Cutler?
Before we get into a deeper look at Cutler’s stats and rankings, I thought we’d level set a little bit. If I’m going around calling Cutler a Game Manager, we should define what that is exactly and then dive into the numbers to see why that label fits Cutler.
When you’re looking for some of these obscure definitions, there’s no better place to look than Wikipedia. Here’s their definition of Game Manager:
In American football, a game manager is a quarterback who, despite relatively poor individual statistics such as passing yards and touchdowns, manages to perform well enough to win games. Game managers often benefit from strong defense and rushing offense on their teams. The player is expected to not lose games with interceptions, fumbles, or poor decisions, particularly during important situations near the end of a game.
So let’s use that definition and map Cutler’s stats and rankings and see if they fit the Game Manager tag.
Cutler ranks 20th in passing yards in the NFL this season with just 693 through three games, behind the likes of Geno Smith and Andy Dalton. He’s not putting up monster fantasy stats and in the win in Pittsburgh, he only threw for a season-low 159 yards while Big Ben threw for over 400 yards. Yards don’t matter much when your defense and special teams set you up with short fields.
Cutler is clustered with a group of nine other QB’s with 6 TD’s so far this season. Peyton Manning is on record pace with 12 TD’s and Rodgers and Rivers have 8 apiece. Again, when your defense is scoring as much as the Bears’ you don’t need to be slinging TD passes.
This is a good measure of how Cutler and the Bears are pushing the ball down the field. Cutler ranks 18th with a 6.9 yards per pass attempt. The lower this number, the greater correlation to a classic game manager. It means the ball is getting out quickly and the quarterback is moving the chains.