One of the hot topics in this week's SportsNation chat, conducted for 60 minutes Tuesday afternoon, was the complete absence of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler from the ESPN.com offseason positional Power Rankings. Cutler didn't appear on a single ballot, even mine as the well-known defender of NFC North honor, and there was particular ire directed at the inclusion of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman among others.
The relevant exchanges:
Trevor (Eau Claire)
Freeman over Cutler? Really Kevin? I think you know as well as anybody that if Cutler had even a mediocre offensive line, he would have soared last year. And he still had a good year last year.
Kevin Seifert (2:04 PM)
Well, I wasn't the only one. I don't think Cutler got a vote. I did give it some consideration. But in the end I looked at last season and asked, would the Bucs have been in the place they were without Freeman? To me, the answer was no. Then I said, would the Bears have won the division without Cutler and with, say, Kyle Orton at quarterback? I thought there was a very reasonable chance of that.
Bear Down (KS)
Honestly Kev, if you were a coach heading into the Superbowl in 2012 and you could either start Jay Cutler or Josh Freeman, you go with Freeman!?
Kevin Seifert (2:24 PM)
Did you see how Cutler played in the biggest game of his career?
Kris (Des Moines)
Given the Bears trainwreck of an OL, is it crazy for them to take OL with every pick in hopes that if they combine that with whats already on the roster they could find 5 that would keep Cutler from being killed? In reality you can't begin to evaluate Cutler or any O skill position with a front 5 that terrible.
Kevin Seifert (2:29 PM)
I'm not saying Cutler is a terrible quarterback. I'm just saying that his play over the last 2 years with the Bears didn't make him a top-10 guy for me.
Bear Down (KS)
Come on now Kev, Cutler was hurt! ;)
Kevin Seifert (2:34 PM)
I almost forgot.
For the record, Freeman didn't make the top 10. And I also left out another "name" quarterback, Dallas' Tony Romo, who finished tied for No. 10.
But NFC North fans would be excused for overlooking what was really an impressive second season for Freeman, who threw 25 touchdown passes and only six interceptions in leading the Bucs to the same number of victories as Cutler did for the Bears.
Remember, cumulative career performance wasn't the primary factor in this vote. The question is how you would rank them right now. There is no doubt that Cutler suffered behind a sub-par offensive line, and that he had some particularly impressive December performances. But I thought Freeman was exceptional last season and the big difference between the Bucs as a 6-10 team and a 10-6 group.
Cutler's impact on the Bears last season is harder to quantify, as ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson and I discussed during the playoffs last winter. This wasn't a shot at Cutler. There are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and only 10 (or, in this case, 11) get to walk on the hallowed Power Rankings grounds. Maybe next year.