It’s the time of the season when major media outlets waste time and space by ranking players. And Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is regularly ranked amongst the best quarterbacks in the NFL, despite not even being on the radar two years ago.
Which begs the question: Can Jay Cutler do the same?
The question isn’t can Cutler be as good as Palmer. I’d argue he currently is and always has been the betteir player. Even after Palmer’s last two monster seasons, they’re comparable statistically. The consensus amongst mainstream media members, however, appears to be that at 36 years old with a number of major knee surgeries and a brief retirement, Palmer is somehow better than he used to be.
Before the last two seasons, Palmer was seen as a big-armed quarterback who tended to turn the ball over more than he should. Sound familiar? Palmer spent seven years with those Bengals, completing 62.9 percent of his passes with 154 touchdowns, 100 interceptions and an average of 7.1 yards per attempt. His team went 46-51 in his 97 starts. Cutler has started the exact same number of games for the Bears with the Bears going 50-47 while he has completed 61.9 percent of his passes with 150 touchdowns, 104 interceptions and 7.1 yards per attempt.
Palmer’s next two seasons in Oakland were nothing to write home about. He was rushed into action in 2011, throwing 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. In 2012 he had a solid season, topping 4,000 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That wasn’t good enough to keep his job, however, as the Raiders shipped him to Arizona.
Palmer tossed 22 interceptions (3.8 percent of his passes, higher than Cutler has ever had in his career) in his first year with the Cardinals before suddenly taking off, throwing 46 touchdowns and 14 interceptions the next two seasons?
The biggest change for Palmer has been the development of his supporting cast. His first year with Bruce Arians resulted in a ton of interceptions, but once Michael Floyd and John Brown developed into good compliments for Larry Fitzgerald and their line became capable, Palmer and the Cardinals were unstoppable. Arians’ aggressive style works well when he has good players.
There’s no reason to think the same couldn’t happen for the Bears.
The first thing that helped Palmer was teaming up with Arians, a coach whose philosophy fit his talents. The Bears could have that with Dowell Loggains, who is thought to be aggressive like his mentor Mike Heimerdinger. If Loggains can add some aggressive wrinkles to what Adam Gase laid the foundation for, we could see an offense that fits Cutler perfectly.
As with Palmer, the biggest thing is going to be supporting cast, which looks good going forward, at least on paper. Alshon Jeffery is going to be with the team for at least next year. By all accounts, Kevin White is going to be a star and Eddie Royal is one of the better slot receivers in the game.
The Bears still have a major question along their offensive line. We have no idea if their left tackle, left guard or center are good. We also don’t know if Zach Miller can stay healthy or if the Bears will be able to run the ball next year without Matt Forte. If even two of those three questions turn out in the Bears favor, their offense could go from mediocre to elite in one offseason.
Whether that means Cutler will be thought of the same way Palmer is, however, might be a different story. There are going to be some people who hate Cutler just to hate him. Almost all of them are the same people who forgot about when Palmer literally quit the Bengals before the 2011 season. There is and will always be a double standard when it comes to Cutler.
Ultimately, who cares about how players are ranked? If the Bears can get their offensive line and running game sorted, they should have a very productive quarterback and offense. With that should come team success. Those who still want to dislike Cutler will still do so, but nobody will care as long as the Bears win.