What a stupid contract. Are you kidding me?
Okay, that may be a harsh way to start this piece, but I was absolutely stunned when I heard that Jay Cutler had signed a seven-year contract with the Chicago Bears worth upwards of $17.6 million a year with at least $50 million guaranteed. Even the biggest Jay Cutler fan would look at a deal like that and think it was at least a bit of an overpay for somebody who has played in exactly two NFL playoff games.
What has Jay Cutler done to earn this kind of contract? He has only made the playoffs once in his career, and he has only had one season where he threw for over 4,000 yards. He hasn’t thrown for 20 touchdowns or more since the 2010 season, and he has been a consistent injury concern since he entered Chicago, having never had a season in Chicago starting all 16 games. He has thrown 101 touchdowns to 75 interceptions during his tenure in Chicago, which is a turnover differential of +26, not exactly a superstar mark after five NFL seasons.
Again, I pose the question: what has Cutler done to deserve this contract? Apparently, pundits suggest that he has a unique throwing arm, and that he’s got superstar talent. That’s right, I forgot. He’s talented. You should always try and sign and acquire as much talent as you can onto a professional sports team. But what does talent exactly mean? Does it mean that you produce wins? Does it mean that you put up great personal statistics? Does it mean that you win when it counts? Regarding Jay Cutler, is the answer to any of these questions “yes”? The word “talent” when used in sports is a hollow, meaningless term if that talent doesn’t result in some kind of team production. Everyone who makes it to the NFL is talented, but most of them don’t get seven-year contracts without at least making it to the playoffs more than once.
Josh McCown, this year’s Shane Falco Award winner, displayed enough production over his five starts to justify being rewarded the starting position on this team. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler is the phenom that everyone keeps talking about like he’s a second or third year player right about to hit his stride. But he’s not a second or third year player. He’s 30 years old entering his ninth NFL season. We have yet to see anything resembling a superstar quarterback, and the NFL is a league based on wins and losses more so than any other sport because of how short an average player’s career will be or how short someone’s prime will be.
Jay Cutler may have another couple of pretty good years, but will he ever have a 30 TD season? Will he ever have another 4,000-yard season? Can he play all 16 games ever again? Can he lead a team to a 12-4 record? Once players become injury-prone, it’s pretty rare that they suddenly become healthy for the rest of their careers. I firmly believe that no athlete in any sport should have a contract higher than five years, but especially not in football because of how easily players get injured, and Jay Cutler is a prime example of that.
I’m not saying Jay Cutler isn’t a good quarterback. He’s a very good quarterback, and he absolutely deserves to start on an NFL team. He is not, however, a great quarterback by any means. This new contract makes his annual salary on par with players like Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and Aaron Rodgers. Manning and Flacco certainly had disappointing seasons, but they have both won at least one super bowl, and they signed their big contracts after that had won. The same is true for Aaron Rodgers, who had a super bowl ring and a regular season MVP award to justify such a big contract. Jay Cutler has one playoff appearance and one pro bowl appearance on his resume, which is not enough to earn him such an exorbitant contract. Maybe this kind of money will incentivize him to try harder and could end up being for the better, but I know that I am not alone when I say that Cutler should not get a contract like this without separating himself from the rest of the pack in some way shape or form.