Monday, November 27, 2006

Better or Worse, More Deserving or Less?

Chime in here on whether or not you agree with Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan's decision to go with Jay Cutler over Jake Plummer next Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Before you guys jump on me here, I want to make one point clear: I am not rooting against Jay Cutler.

That said, I believe Mike Shanahan is inviting colossal failure by putting Jake Plummer, a proven winner, on the bench in the middle of a playoff run in favor of a kid who hasn't been part of a winning outfit since he was in high school.

It reminds me a lot of when Brian Billick was so enamored with Kyle Boller that he named him the starter in training camp during his rookie season with the Ravens. Like Cutler, Boller inherited a dependable running game and a tenacious defense. Like Cutler, Boller was the darling of that year's training combine (although I haven't heard any stories yet of Cutler being able to throw a ball through the field goal uprights from 65-yards away -- on one knee). Like Billick, Shanahan is hoping that his young quarterback will be able to lean on veterans on both sides of the ball, and use his physical gifts to give them the spread they need to get to the playoffs.

The Boller experiment in Baltimore, which ended this year with Steve McNair's arrival, was a disaster, to put it lightly. It set the organization back three years. The Ravens are having a great season this year, but their success is likely to be short-lived because McNair, Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden all are fast riding into the sunset.

Sure, it might be unfair to compare Boller to Cutler. And I like the Broncos, so I hope Cutler is up to the task. But the Broncos also are asking a lot more from Cutler than the Ravens ever asked from Boller. This guy is going to be in preseason mode when everyone else is midseason form. He's also not going to be in a situation where he can do something all young quarterbacks need to do to improve: make mistakes and learn from them.

Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning, two of the best quarterbacks of the modern era, both flopped in their rookie seasons. But they were able to learn how to play in relatively pressure-free environments, and they blossomed later. The Cowboys were 1-15 in 1989. The Colts were 3-13 in 1998.

Most quarterbacks need time to learn to shine. There are players who defy that rule, but it's relatively impossible to see them coming. Tom Brady was successful at Michigan, but nobody could have predicted his NFL success by judging his performance in college, or at the pre-draft combine for that matter. Jake Delhomme was nobody before he got the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003. Tony Romo came out of nowhere this season and has transformed the Cowboys from tweeners to contenders in just five starts.

Can Cutler do the same for the Broncos? Maybe. It is unreasonable to expect him to do so? Absolutely. Especially when you consider that he didn't win a single game of significance his entire college career. And no, beating a lame Tennessee team on the tail end of a season-long jet wash doesn’t count, in my book.

But with five games to go in a competitive division, that's exactly what Shanahan's asking of him. Let's hope Cutler is made of stern stuff. And if he's not, let's hope he doesn't make things worse for himself by striking up a romance with Tara Reid. That's the last thing Denver needs.

Dr. MZ

Bobby O'Shea said...

While Dr. MZ makes a number of good points about why Shanahan is making a mistake, I am going to have to go ahead and disagree for the following reasons:

1. I am a Vanderbilt Homer and think that Cutler playing has the potential to help raise Vanderbilt's profile and help attract recruits. Is this a guarantee? Certainly not, but unless he is an absolute disaster a la Ryan Leaf, I think this move could pay dividends going into the home stretch of recruiting (see Stanimal's periodic recruiting posts to see if the Cutler effect is having any impact).

2. Shanahan is being proactive. Dr. MZ is arguing that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Which is true up to a point. Shanahan is not a moron and clearly sees something in Cutler that gives him confidence. He is not throwing a complete unknown out there. Yes, NFL game speed is not something that you can practice and there will be an adjustment period, but Plummer is simply not getting it done. In his last three games, the team is 1-2, with their one win coming against the Raiders who they struggled to beat, in part because the Snake threw 3 interceptions. With the Chargers and Chiefs both playing very good football in the West, and the overall strength of the AFC, Shanahan is no more risking a playoff spot now by playing Cutler, then he otherwise would be given Plummer’s performance of late.

3. Cutler is more ready than most rookie quarterbacks given the Vanderbilt "education" he got on Saturday's getting knocked on his ass and being flushed out of the pocket in the SEC. With the O-line being what it was during some of Cutler's years in Nashville, he is used to getting beat around.

4. Cutler is not fragile. After 4 years in the SEC at Vanderbilt, Cutler is used to frustration and adversity in a way that most QBs coming into the pros are not. Cutler has continued to bounce back after disappointments and getting his brains beat in to get to where he is today. That kind of mental and physical toughness cannot be overlooked.

5. Finally, Cutler starting gives the Broncos something/someone to rally around. This is not to say that Cutler is the kind of leader that Plummer is, because he clearly cannot be 11 games into his career. His starting does allow the team to refocus their efforts and buckle down after two though losses against San Diego and KC. Everyone will be playing just a little bit harder on Sunday to a, keep the quarterback of the future start his career off right; and b, prove that they aren't done yet.

The Broncos finish the season with Seattle (who appears to be back after last night's second half domination), @ San Diego, @ Arizona, and then end with Cincy and San Fran at home. 4 of their final 5 opponents are very much in the playoff hunt and will look to knock the rookie around. His learning curve will be steep, but Shanahan made the right move not only for this season, but for the future or the Broncos organization.

Seamus O'Toole said...

This may be a crude comparison (I'm good at those, as we all know by now), but this seems analagous to going for it on 4th and 1. If it works, Shanahan looks like a genius. If it doesn't, people will call him a moron for not dancing with the horse that brung him.

Is Cutler ready to play in the NFL? (Do they have a good 4th down play ready to execute?) Sure. Shanahan is not stupid enough to put someone out there who's not ready. But does that mean he SHOULD play? I don't think anyone, not even the coaching staff, can know that for sure.

Plummer is a proven leader and winner, as MZ said, so why experiment? Bobby O put the answer to this well: Because if Plummer is going to play like a rookie, why not play the rookie?

Stanimal said...

Coaches have certainly gotten away from the idea that the rookie should learn the ropes for a few years before getting thrown into the mix. You often see the QB of the future get in during the rookie year for the teams that are desperate for some sort of revival, but this Denver team is the most talented group I have ever seen do this, especially considering the situation they're in.

As far as Vandy recruiting, I'm just going to be honest and say that I don't think it will make that much of a difference that Jay is starting. Once a player hits the pros, he takes less and less of the college persona with him and becomes more identifiable with the pro team. Take LaDanian Tomlinson. Now TCU is a good football team, (well-coached, weak football conference.) But their recruiting classes have been unremarkable at best. How about Brett Favre from Southern Miss?

The point is that college recruiting relies on the program's ability to draw the kids, not really on the player's. While it acts as a piece of nostalgia for us, it really didn't help us land the four-star linebacker this year. Beating Georgia probably had more to do with that.

Sorry to get off point. As far as Cutler starting, I like the 4th and 1 analogy. But I do believe that the college game has elevated itself to the point where kids are much more prepared for the real deal than they have been in the past. And while MZ makes some really good comparisons to Boller's situation, let's not forget that Boller was a Pac-10 quarterback, and that Cutler has been practicing as the number 2 for half the year and has learned the system. Boller was named the starter in training camp (THAT'S inviting collosal failure).

So who knows how this ends up, but there is little doubt that the current college breed is more NFL ready than any of their predecessors.

Seamus O'Toole said...

This has nothing to do with anything, but just for the record, Southern Miss is an outstanding (and underappreciated) football program, year-in and year-out.

Stanimal said...

Wasn't knocking the football program. That's why I mentioned TCU. But you think the fact that Brett Favre went there is a big draw to the school?

Seamus O'Toole said...

Could well be. He's sort of an icon in that state.

But the physical conditioning and (rule-violating?) practice regimen that So. Miss. coaches implement is said to be the toughest in college football. I think that's how they take decent players and make them excellent.

Anonymous said...

Would it do anything for Vandy's recruiting if Cutler steals Jessica Simpson from Tony Romo?


Lauren said...

I don't claim to know a lot about sports and I don't claim to know who Jake Plummer is, but I thought I'd weigh in. Based on bobble head sales on ebay, Cutler is clearly more deserving.

As you can see, there are only three Plummer heads up for bid and they are all the same. They are listed at an average price of $13.32. At the same time, the 7 Cutler bobble heads represent different stages in his career. You'll be happy to see that you have a second chance at Commodore Cutler if you weren't one of the lucky 1000 that got one on game day. The Cutler figurines start at an average of $16.49, $3.17 higher than Plummer's. As it happens, economics is another subject that I don't know a great deal about, but if Vrooman taught me anything it was that supply and demand go hand in hand. But Cutler sales defy the rules, as increased supply meets increased demand. In all, the greater number of Cutler bobble heads, the multiple models of Cutler bobble heads, the higher average worth of Cutler bobble heads and the elevated level of sales activity of Cutler bobble heads make Cutler the obvious choice. The free market and the fans have spoken.

I hope my commentary hasn't taken away from the high quality of conversation and sports reporting that's taking place here, as my only intention is to demonstrate my wholehearted support of your efforts. For that reason, I probably won't post too much in the future, but if for whatever reason, you need someone to provide commentary on anything and everything Przybyszewski or Skuchas' hair, I'm your go to girl.


Seamus O'Toole said...

That is hands-down the best comment we've had yet.

J.B., M.D. said...

"Upside guy for sure but still a great unknown"

This comes from Yahoo Fantasy Football. I have clearly picked up #6 as any savvy fantasy owner would. The website has given him 2 out of 5 stars for this week's matchup against Seattle.

I only wish I could also pick up Hunter Hillermeyer, Corey Chavous, Matt Stewart, Jimmy Williams, Jovan Haye, Shelton Quarrels, Jamie Winborn, and Justin Geisinger.

Tempting, Todd Yoder is available as a tight end (rounding out the last of Vanderbilt's alums in the Pros). I ran across a hilarious note on Yoder (who has 1 rec. for 4 yds and a TD this year):

Reason No. 74 why the Redskins don't know their tail ends from a hole in the ground when it comes to free agency: Entering Week 12, Washington reserve tight end Todd Yoder had as many receiving touchdowns this season (one) as the following 2005-2006 Redskins free-agent receiving additions have combined for this year: Antwaan Randle El, Brandon Lloyd, Christian Fauria, and David Patten.

That's the Vandy news from the Fantasy Football realm...

Go Commies!

Woody said...

I just put a bid on ebay for a Cutler jersey. That being said, I'm behind it all the way. I think posted something, somewhere on here in recent weeks when the story first broke and was one to say to be proud of a fellow Commie. You can argue the fine points of coaching, bobble head prices (great post) and fantasy football stats, in the end it comes down to the fact that, while not the first Vandy alum to make it in the pros, a Vandy QB is starting in the Pro ranks, and that's something you should all support.