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The great debate: Is Jay Cutler overrated?

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These days, Broncos fans tend to either love or loathe Jay Cutler, whose petulance over trade rumors precipitated a trade to the Chicago Bears. New York Times blogger and ESPN contributor K.C. Joyner doesn't gravitate toward either of these extremes, but he's not ready to anoint Sweet Baby Jay as the next pigskin savior, either -- and that's fueled a week's worth of passionate declarations on both sides.

The whole thing started last Thursday during an ESPN.com chat, when Joyner answered a question about Cutler like so: "I've said it many times and I'll say it again -- Cutler will make Bears fans remember Rex Grossman. He'll make just as many crazy passes, but won't suffer the Grossman fate because Chicago's fan base is so in love with him that they will forgive the nutty throws he makes in ways that they never forgave Grossman."

Predictably, Cutler supporters went apeshit, with one guy -- Paul from Denver -- subsequently declaring, "Great job alienating an entire fanbase." But Joyner wasn't done. He followed up on July 13 with a blog entitled "Sorry, Bears Fans, Cutler Isn't the Answer," in which he spelled out his doubts in greater detail:

I also don't understand why there seems to be such excitement about Cutler. Yes, he threw for over 4,500 yards last year, but that was in large part because he put the ball up a whopping 616 times. His 9.8 vertical YPA was lower than that of 19 other QBs last season, and his 4.6% bad decision rate (a bad decision being a mistake by the QB that leads to a turnover or a near turnover) was easily the worst of any QB. He was also the offensive leader for a team that blew a three-game division lead with three games to go.

Another way to look at this is that Cutler's overall record is 17-20 versus Orton's overall record of 21-12 and Grossman's 19-12. I know there are those who will defend this by saying that Cutler worked with a horrible defense last year, but when he took over the Broncos in 2006, they were less than a full season removed from hosting the AFC championship game.

The only reason I can come up with as to why Bears fans are reacting like this is that the quarterback position has been such a headache for them over the years that they will do just about anything to make it go away. If that means ignoring Cutler's shortcomings so that at least one off-season goes by without having to wonder if their quarterback's play will measure up, they'll do it just for the temporary peace of mind. I do admire that kind of team passion and loyalty, but I'd admire it a bit more if it were done by hoping that Cutler could improve his game rather than by backing his mixed bag of performance history.

The response? Nearly seventy fiery comments, which prompted another Joyner column on the topic, yesterday's "Cutler as a Bronco: It Boiled Down to Bad Decisions." In it, he addresses the notion that Cutler's errors were prompted by the necessity of playing from behind due to the Broncos' notoriously hideous defense, declared to be one of the worst of all time by Football Outsiders. Joyner wrote:

I can't get out of my head that Cutler's bad-decision pace was just as high in his first two seasons. He hasn't had a year with a bad-decision percentage lower than 4%, and most of the time he is near or over the 5% rate. This weakness was amplified with the horrid Broncos defense, but it isn't the only reason Cutler makes mistakes.

As for whether the Broncos erred in swapping Cutler for allegedly reformed party-boy Kyle Orton, well, that's a debate for another day.

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