Commentary

Quick Reads: Cutler historically bad

The Bears QB's performance against the Giants was dreadful. But he's not alone.

Updated: October 5, 2010, 8:53 AM ET
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders
Jay CutlerAP Photo/Bill KostrounCutler had a night to forget at the Meadowlands on Sunday.

While the New York Giants were inducting great players from their past into their new "Ring of Honor" on Sunday night, Jay Cutler was busy setting a record that won't earn him any trips back to Chicago in his middle age. He might have helped Osi Umenyiora or Justin Tuck earn spots in Giants lore, though.

As you might suspect, the record Cutler set is sack-related. Cutler dropped back 20 times on Sunday and the Giants sacked him on at least nine of those attempts. (A 10th play was initially ruled a sack, but Cutler was eventually given credit for throwing the ball out of bounds before touching the sideline with his foot.) That's a sack rate of 45 percent, and no quarterback has ever attempted 10 passes or more in a game with a sack rate that high.

The previous record was 41.7 percent, held by two players under very different circumstances. In 1987, former cornerback and special teams player Guido Merkens started a game for the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFL players strike and was sacked 10 times in 24 dropbacks. Before him, Green Bay Packers quarterback David Whitehurst was also sacked 10 times in 24 dropbacks during a game in the 1978 season.

While Merkens and Cutler ended up losing, though, Whitehurst's Packers actually won 24-3, forcing the opposing San Diego Chargers into 11 turnovers, with six fumbles and five interceptions from three different Chargers quarterbacks. The game resulted in the resignation of Chargers head coach Tommy Prothro. His replacement, Don Coryell, promptly led the Chargers to their greatest period of success as a franchise.

Whitehurst was able to win, but most quarterbacks can't survive that sort of shellacking. Historically, quarterbacks who have been sacked nine times or more in a game -- like each of the three quarterbacks mentioned above were -- have won just 9.2 percent of the games they played, with a dismal record of 6-57-2. If we look specifically at the defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) era, Cutler's loss takes those quarterbacks to an incredible 1-20-1, with the only win coming from Damon Huard in a 31-30 victory over the New England Patriots in Week 6 of the 1999 season. That was Huard's first real action as a pro. Cutler has no such excuse.

The most recent comp for Cutler would be Neil O'Donnell. The worst sack rate of the DVOA era is 38.1 percent, set by O'Donnell in his debut for the Jets. Playing a Broncos team that would eventually go 13-3, O'Donnell went 7-of-13 for 50 yards with eight sacks.

Chicago will certainly hope for more from their big acquisition at quarterback. Cutler has not been gifted with a particularly effective offensive line, but there were a handful of sacks in which Cutler simply kept the ball for far too long. We're not yet at the point in statistical analysis where the blame for a sack can be separated between a quarterback and his offensive line, but Sunday was a night in which there was plenty of blame to go around.

Three good performances

1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Some of the air will come out of Manning's performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars once opponent adjustments hit 100 percent (currently, these stats only include adjustments for quality of opposition at 40 percent of their eventual weight), but not as much as it perhaps should. Manning nearly threw the game away on the final drive with a bad pass that was picked off by David Jones, only for the consistently burnt Jones to suddenly have his hands disintegrate. Given a second chance, Manning promptly completed two passes for 58 yards and then tied up the game on third down. His overall performance was effective enough to rank at the top of the QB leaderboard, but Jones should not have gifted Manning a chance to continue his onslaught.


To read the rest of Football Outsiders' analysis of Week 4's best, worst and most surprising performances, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.