The unlikely bond between Jay Cutler and the Miami Dolphins, something no one saw coming before this week, could end up being a successful one, although the history of both franchise and player suggests that everyone involved should curb their expectations.
Cutler, signed to a 1-year deal worth $10 million, came over after pretty much retiring. He was about to start being a talking head in the studio for Fox, but despite not really keeping in shape since his last snap in 2016, Cutler got picked up, perhaps thanks to his connection with Adam Gase, the current Dolphins head coach who worked with Cutler in Chicago as an offensive coordinator in 2015.
The first words coming out of Miami after Cutler started training praised the 34-year old quarterback for how well prepared and accurate he was. Not just compared to someone who hasn’t trained all offseason, but simply for someone at this stage of the preseason, with the first game of the 2017 season only one month away.
The Dolphins made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008. Adam Gase managed to build a conservative system around Ryan Tannehill, asking him to do very little, with a rushing attack that was top 10 in the league, led by Jay Ajayi with 1271 rushing yards. Tannehill, like every season but maybe more than ever before, was entering a year that is perhaps his last in Dolphins uniform. Now he won’t even play in it.
The Dolphins haven’t made consecutive postseasons since 2000 and 2001, when Dave Wannstedt coached them. Since 2002 they’ve only had two playoff games, and they haven’t won a postseason game since the 2000 seasons.
Cutler is also looking for playoff redemption. Despite some good seasons with the Bears (not the last few of them), he has only one playoff appearance in Chicago and in his career in general, which began in 2006 with the Denver Broncos. For him as well, it’ll be an interesting season. Not just of trying to maintain a place for himself in the league, but perhaps change a little bit of his career’s narrative.
Will Gase also try to curb Cutler’s tendencies to gunsling? Cutler led the NFL in interceptions twice in his career. Perhaps the quality of his protection will prove the difference, something he didn’t enjoy consistently in Chicago. Tannehill had the lowest sack rating of his career last season in Miami, which could be a positive sign for Cutler – someone who can take a hit and get up, but not the most mobile of quarterbacks, especially at his age and with his lack of preparation for the season.
The AFC East crowned is almost automatically promised to the New England Patriots at the beginning of each season, but there are 5 more playoff spots in the AFC East. Cutler isn’t the only thing the Dolphins need to steer in the right direction this season in order to make it back in the playoffs, but Gase succeeding with him will probably put Miami in an enviable position compared to the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, who have playoff droughts of their own to deal with heading into the new season.