Healthy all season for the first time since 2009, Jay Cutler completed a career-high 66 percent of his passes in 2014 and set a career record for touchdown passes (28) in addition to racking up the second-most passing yards (3,812) in his nine NFL seasons.
Yet from 2013 to 2014, the quarterback experienced the steepest decline of his Bears tenure in Total QBR (from 66.4 to 54.0).
So while the raw numbers indicate Cutler produced a strong campaign in 2014, the Total QBR tells a different tale as his 54.0 QBR in 2014 ranked as 21st in the NFL, down 14 places from 2013, when the quarterback ranked No. 7 in the league in that statistic.
Total QBR was developed to measure the level at which a quarterback contributes to putting points on the board, and obviously victories.
Yet what’s interesting about Total QBR as it relates to Cutler, however, is there’s really no correlation between how well the quarterback performs in that statistic and the team’s overall success.
For instance, Cutler ranked No. 16 or worse in the NFL in Total QBR in all but one of his six seasons in Chicago (2013). Yet Cutler’s worst performance as a Chicago Bear in Total QBR (44.7 in 2010) came during a season in which he was sacked 52 times(the most during his tenure with the team), yet the Bears were 11-5 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
So that’s ammunition for the Cutler defenders. But more than anything, that oddity speaks more to the importance of playing complementary football, an element sorely lacking in Chicago during the past two seasons because of the decline of the defense and special teams.
It’s certainly something worth considering for the team’s new general manager and head coach, once they come aboard.
Of the last eight Super Bowl champions, just three times (2006, 2009, 1010), their starting quarterbacks were among in the top 10 in Total QBR, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Over that same span, the defenses of those Super Bowl winners ranked in the top 10 six times in Total QBR.
Again, complementary football.
In 2014, the team with the higher Total QBR won 85.7 percent of its regular-season games, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and that registers as higher than the comparable mark for teams finishing games with the edge in total yardage, turnover differential and NFL passer rating.
So while Cutler continues to gain plenty of detractors -- including one here -- it’s difficult based on the numbers to definitively prove he isn’t the answer in Chicago.