Somebody asked me Sunday night on Twitter what I thought of the Jay Cutler signing by the Dolphins.
“Duct tape move, with likely duct tape results” was my answer.
And yet, the Dolphins still made it, still paid Cutler at least $5 million more than his proper salary for a (semi)retired 34 year old coming off a shoulder injury, and still think he’s a better answer than Matt Moore.
Why do teams do this?
The usual twin motivators of all of us humans: hope and fear.
Rationality was told to shut up, and sit down.
The “hope” is that Cutler reignites the mojo with former OC Adam Gase – under whom Cutler had his best season in Chicago – and rides a team with some talent back to the playoffs, and perhaps even one game further. The “fear” is that without Cutler, the season is viewed as being dead on arrival. And the price of just having a seat at the table anymore in the NFL is a “starting caliber” QB. (Your interpretation of that animal, may vary).
So let’s play this out. Once Cutler “saves” this season, he would seamlessly hand the team back to a fully repaired Ryan Tannehill? Would he get a new short-term contract as starter? Would he accept being a backup to Tannehill in 2018? Bah! Why are you asking these dumb questions! We’ll figure it out later! The season is coming! The season is coming!
See, that’s where even the best case scenarios on “Cutler the Dolphin Savior” fall apart. But in today’s NFL, next year not only doesn’t matter, it practically doesn’t exist! Only the season staring a team in the face matters anymore. There is an urgent irrationality to the league that didn’t exist back in the 1970’s or 80’s.
As a kid, I remember certain teams would enter any given season pretty much knowing they would suck. And while they weren’t happy about it, they were at least stoically resigned to their fate. You could also scrape by with a journeyman QB, given that running was a far bigger percentage of offensive plays than it is now.
Ironically, Kurt Warner was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday. We know his story. Sure, it was likely too late back in 1999 for the Rams to make a desperate trade or out-of-the-booth-signing (Trent Green went down in the 3rd pre-season game after his 22nd throw!)
But everybody remembers Dick Vermeil saying through his choked up tears: “We’ll rally around Kurt Warner… and we’ll play… good football.”
A blizzard of touchdowns later, ending in a Lombardi trophy shower of confetti, and it remains one of the greatest NFL stories ever told. If the irrational urgency of today’s league applied, the Rams would have rushed to sign somebody like Warren Moon, who had started 10 games as a 42 year old in 1998 for the Seattle Seahawks.
Or, the Rams could have done almost exactly what the Dolphins just did: sign a 34 year old former Chicago Bear, who had played an incomplete season the year before. Today, that guy’s name is Jay Cutler. Back then, it would have been Erik Kramer coming off a 3-5 record, with a “meh” 60% completions and 9 TDs over 7 INTs.
Instead, Vermeil and the Rams found their upper lip and bit into it hard. We’ve got a guy. He doesn’t suck. And we’ll figure it out.
Nobody does that anymore. The Vikings didn’t last year when Teddy Bridgewater went down. Sam Bradford didn’t save the season. And he probably won’t this year, either.
Don’t hold your breath hoping Cutler will either, down in Miami.