So the Dolphins’ season comes down to two words followed by a bold-faced question mark:
You understand why he’s here. Coach Adam Gase . And Cutler left retirement — at least left . He also cost no draft picks and a modest $10 million (only two veteran starting quarterbacks will make less).
So it’s a Kardashian marriage between the Dolphins and Cutler — five or six months. That’s important to know, too. Because no matter what you hear, no matter where this goes, Cutler is a one-and-done Dolphin starter. The future belongs to the injured Ryan Tannehill. End of discussion.
Of course, if Cutler changes the public discussion, everyone will be ecstatic. It will mean he’s succeeded. And, actually, the Dolphins brass is ecstatic Cutler is here. They sound like the 2008 Dolphins did when Chad Pennington fell from the sky to lead a 1-15 team to a playoff season.
How do they get that one good year from Cutler?
First, he has to want to this badly. This isn’t easy, stepping into a team, and some of Cutler’s opening thoughts make you wonder. He said he was “content” in retired life. He “weighed back and forth on this” decision. His wife, Kristin, “probably talked me into it more than anybody else could,” he said.
Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s just an honest answer in a whirlwind time. But passion has to be the driving force for his return. A Chicago-sized chip on the shoulder would be nice as well, considering .
That didn’t sound like a guy dying for this chance to prove he’s not That Guy anymore. He doesn’t have to be The Guy like he was asked to be in Chicago and Denver (more on that later). But he can’t be That Guy, the one with a reputation for pouting, surliness and teammates who don’t respect.
The Cutler that Gase worked with for a season in Chicago sounds different than that developed reputation. The question isn’t why. It’s how Cutler let’s everyone else see the guy Gase saw — his new Dolphins teammates, primarily. He doesn’t have to win the locker room. He needs its respect, though.
No one cares about his decade-long image if he acts like a pro here — and plays like one, too. This, of course, is why he was signed. Cutler had the most efficient year of his career with Gase as his offensive coordinator in 2015. Career-high QB rating (92.3). Best touchdown-to-interception ration (21 to 11). All this despite none of his top four receivers playing more than nine games.
How? Well, better coaching, for starters. But then you know that about Gase.
“I think he does a really good job of putting quarterbacks in good positions,” Cutler said.
In this case, it meant using drills to decrease the panic in the pocket. They were the same as Gase put Tannehill through last year. Two rushers criss-cross in front of you. Blocking dummies are set up to move around in a pocket. Your jersey is grabbed as you set up. Work on footwork. Keep your eyes downfield.
That cut down the staggering sacks Cutler took. Cutting down the interceptions meant understanding why they came. A high percentage were on third-and-long plays where Cutler forced throws. In 2015, Cutler was smarter and didn’t throw multiple interceptions for 14 games — the longest stretch of his career.
Finally, Cutler has to understand this is a talented offense. He needs to accompany, not carry, an offense for perhaps the first time in his career. Running back Jay Ajayi was still in concussion protocol but jogging at practice Monday. He’ll take pressure off Cutler.
The receiving corps is talented, if not fully developed considering DeVante Parker is the top talent. “Young but veteran,” Cutler said. So he understands.
Cutler can change his reputation with a good season. Or he can cement it with a bad one. We’ll see where it goes. You understand why decision-makers are ecstatic inside the building. You also understand why there’s a question mark attached to Cutler’s name.
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