After trying to make sense of why a franchise that is hoping to grow gives up on a young franchise quarterback who has already shown growth on his considerable talent before they give up on an unproven (if perhaps brilliant) young coach, I've given up. Allow my mind to meander through what seem to be the leading possible new homes for Cutler, and how these locales affect the narrative of the league.
Sure, Derek Anderson’s accuracy has come into question. Sure, Brady Quinn has started only three games for the Browns. But let’s not mince words: Eric Mangini is a coward. I watched enough 4th and short punts from the 50-yard line to know this, balls to bones. That, and nothing else, is the reason why Mangini desperately wants to bring Jay Cutler to Cleveland. Every single Cleveland fan should be terrified of what this means. For starters, you’re bringing a player from a high-powered vertical offense to a team with just one downfield threat now that Kellen Winslow is gone and expecting him to maintain his performance. Second of all, that downfield threat is notoriously tempermental and inconsistent…just like the quarterback you just brought in.
Even more importantly, you’re giving up on a great story before it has even begun. In Quinn (who would have to be the one shipped off), the Browns have an untested quarterback who has shown potential at every opportunity and who wants to play in Cleveland. This team has been a part of his narrative, and now he wants a chance to be a part of its own. Cutler, on the other hand, has already pouted his way out of one bad situation. At least if Winslow had stayed you’d have created a great villain passing trinity; as it stands, this would just feel like mismatched puzzle pieces hammered together.
I honestly don’t know what to make of the fact that the Redskins are shaping up to be the number one contender to get Cutler. On the one hand, I’ve made no bones about the fact that I believe in Jason Campbell. In his first year under his seventh offensive system in seven years, he did an alright job. In fact, up until a confidence shattering meltdown against the Rams, Campbell looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He has the size, arm strength, and experience to succeed in Zorn’s pass heavy system.
But with Cutler at the helm, the arsenal of receivers in Washington gets a new flight level clearance. It’s the difference between a swarm and a squadron; Campbell knows how to work effectively up to a point, but Cutler can attack at every level right now. If you think that Devin Thomas and either Malcom Kelly or Fred Davis will eventually turn the corner, how can you not want to see a proven vertical QB run a system with five vertical receiving targets? True, it relocates Campbell, this time both mentally AND physically, yet again, but there are enough places where his athleticism and control of the football are needed for this to be a satisfying move. Maybe The Behemoth just needs to find a place where he can exist outside of the defining prison of a coach-driven system.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Broncos would ever do this. The Jets have nothing to give them in return, let alone a top tier quarterback who is a safe bet to run a team. Furthermore, this would be a waste. The Jets have exactly one downfield threat, and he’s a tight end. Watching Cutler squander the youth of his gifts in a city that crushes diminished returns on high risk investments would be torture for anyone who believes in him. The Prodigal Son was never does well in the big city.
The prospect of the great unknown that is a first overall pick in exchange for the unhappy, if very good known that is Cutler is intriguing, particularly with several defenders on the board who could immediately turn the Broncos defense around. For Cutler, however, so much depends on the dream of the greatest front office pariah in all of sports: Matt Millen. If Kevin Smith can continue to improve, then Jay Cutler and Calvin Johnson were born to play together. I recently read the work of theologian Tim Keller, who described the trinity as existing in a beautiful, mutually glorifying dance. I imagine that the process of Cutler and Megatron continually unlocking one anothers’ talents could be like that.
Until this team stops parading a defensive back as a top flight receiver (and I believe in the Hester experiment, but not to produce a number one target), this place is where quarterbacks go to die. Pass.
Considering that the new regime has declared itself to be that most boring and clichéd of offensive specimens, the “hard-nosed offense” (translation: unimaginative), going so far as to fire a creative aerial offensive coordinator who would have been perfect for Cutler, I’m not sure that this would be a good match. Still, Singletary did show us all something when he managed to do what Mike Nolan never could and made Vernon Davis productive. With a speedy receiver across the field from a wily Isaac Bruce, this could be the interesting meshing of two styles that I had hoped would come from Singletary and Martz.
Seneca Wallace is one of our little pet causes around here (FREE SENECA WALLACE! [FREE TROY SMITH!]), but I’m very, very intrigued by what could come of this pairing. Quietly, the Seahawks have put together something of a virtuous yeoman farmer’s version of the triangle offense (Housh + Carlson + Branch). With old man Hassy, the range of that triangle is limited to the point of impotence, but with Cutler, you have to wonder whether or not the field is finally extended to allow Seattle’s B-List all-stars to catch defenses by surprise. Not saying that this is ideal, but the idea of Cutler turning Housh into the marquee franchise player he deserved to be in Cincy is cool. But if they throw so much as one pass to Seneca Wallace, I’m turning on this one.
I know, I know, Andy + Donovan = 4Ever (/tree carving). Here’s the thing: Don’t you think Reid dreams of what could be with an even greater arm? At this point, McNabb’s pretty much a pocket quarterback, and in Cutler, Reid could keep his mad scientist pass attack and give it even greater downfield potency (and I still think McNabb’s arm is great). Philadelphia, Andy Reid, and Donovan McNabb have all played this prisoner’s dilemma too long; it’s time to open the cages and let McNabb go.
Even better would be that McNabb, on the cusp of his second act (physical gifts THEN experience compensating for decline THEN experience not being enough), would be the perfect quarterback for McDaniels in Denver. McNabb wants a ring so bad he would certainly devote himself to learning a new system, particularly one that is familiar in its vertical complexity. McDaniels, in return, would get a quarterback who brings the sort of calm that only age can provide, combined with an arm that, if a step behind Cutler in power, is miles ahead in consistency (WHEN HEALTHY, Philly lunatics…don’t bite). The freeing aspects of this make it seem like the happiest ending of all. Throw in that both QBs switch conferences, and we don’t even need to worry about an awkward return in year one. Sounds ideal to me…