The Impact of Jay Cutler in Miami

Once known for being the strong-armed, apathetic quarterback for the Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler recently inked a deal with the Miami Dolphins. He is set to earn $10 million this year, with an additional $3 million available in incentives.

This news is the result of Ryan Tannehill re-injuring his ACL in training camp. He had initially injured it in week 14 of the 2016 season. The news from Dolphins camp indicated that Tannehill will likely undergo surgery to repair the ACL and will be done for the season

So, now that you know all the facts, what does this mean for Cutler and the Dolphins?

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The most obvious impact of the signing is the reunification of Cutler with head coach Adam Gase. He had served as the Bear’s offensive coordinator in 2015. During that season, Cutler completed 64.4% of his passes for 3600+ yards and 21 touchdowns, while throwing 11 interceptions that year.

Following 2015 Gase left Chicago for a head coaching position with the Miami Dolphins. During his first year with the Dolphins,  Gase cut Tannehill’s pass attempts severely. In doing so, he became a more efficient passer.  This is evidenced when you compare his 2016 output to the average of his previous 3 seasons.

GP Pass Att Comp. % Ya/att Yards TD Int
Prev. 3 Years 16 588 62.9 6.9 4056 25 13
2016 13 389 67.1 7.7 2995 19 12

While Tannehill’s volume stats show a clear decrease, efficiency metrics show a marked improvement. I suspect this is largely due to the renewed focus on the run game under Gase. This took pressure off Tannehill, and allowed him to play against defenses that had to respect the run.

So, what can you expect from Cutler in Gase’s offense? A good place to start is to look at his output when they had worked together previously.

GP Pass Att Comp %` Ya/Att Yards TD Int
2015 15 483 64.4 7.6 3659 21 11

This is fairly similar to what Tannehill was on course for in 2016. As a result, I feel that this may be end up being roughly his stat-line at the end of the 2017 season. In fantasy, Cutler put up 224 fantasy points in 2015. This is roughly the output of Eli Manning or Alex Smith in 2016. This means his fantasy impact will likely be limited to 2QB leagues.

However, while the statistics may be similar. These two quarterbacks could not be more different in their capabilities as passers.

(Getty Images)

Tannehill has struggled with the deep passing game over his career. This has led his coaches to operate their offenses with more short to intermediate passing. Meanwhile, Cutler has been gifted with one of the strongest arms in the NFL.  He is able to make throws that Tannehill is physically incapable of, which should open up the deep passing game.

With the change in quarterbacks, the preferred targets in the passing game will also change. Tannehill enjoys the safety of possession recievers (Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews).

Cutler, on the other hand, prefers to work the field by allowing big physical receivers dominate at the point of the catch (Alshon Jeffery/Brandon Marshall/Martellus Bennett).

What does this means for the Dolphins receivers? It may be as simple as simply comparing the heights and weights of each player. While it’s been a while since most of these guys were drafted, we will use their combine results to indicate who’s the fastest or best leaper of the bunch.

Player Height Weight 40 Time Vertical Leap
Jarvis Landry 5’11” 208 4.77 28.5″
Devante Parker 6’3″ 212 4.45 36.5″
Kenny Stills 6’1″ 196 4.38 33.5″
Leonte Carroo 6’1″ 215 4.50 35.5″
Julius Thomas 6’5″ 262 4.68 35.5

One name should stand out from that list, given what we know about Cutler: Devante Parker. He is simultaneously the biggest, highest leaping, and one of the fastest receivers on the team. Given what we know about Cutler, the natural conclusion is that Parker could be in for a big year.

I want to say that I haven’t been a big Parker fan throughout his career. He has been hyped at this time of year, since being drafted in 2015. After two years of underwhelming expectations, the time may finally be right to buy in.

If Parker fails to reach his potential in his 3rd season (in which receivers traditionally break out), Cutler’s presence could also help Julius Thomas. Cutler could end up using his big frame to out-muscle DB’s on 50/50 balls. In addition, Cutler’s arm strength will help get the ball to Stills in a way that Tannehill is just not capable of.

So, What Do We Think?

  • Cutler finishes around QB20, making him a low end QB2.
  • Hurts Jarvis Landry’s fantasy output
  • Helps Devante Parker, Kenny Stills, & Julius Thomas
  • Parker is a perfect receiver for Cutler
  • Dolphins will still run the ball often, limiting Cutler’s ceiling