Cutler is passer worth watching at combine
Cutler is passer worth watching at combine
Wednesday February 22, 2006
Of all the NFL prospects streaming into Indianapolis for this week's Scouting Combine, only one really holds my interest: Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. If you follow the draft, you've heard the name by now. If you don't, you soon will. He's the little-known signal-caller who has found a place alongside Matt Leinart and Vince Young because of his big-time arm, his surprising mobility and his smarts. But I like the kid for a different reason this week. He's simply not afraid to compete.
While Young and Leinart will do as little as possible to risk their draft stock at the combine -- reportedly neither player is going to throw this week -- Cutler will do whatever is asked of him. It's an attitude he's had for the last couple months, and I'm glad to see he hasn't lost it now, when he's become the prospect who's created more buzz than Dancing with the Stars. He's not merely passing through town to meet with teams and go home. He's in Indianapolis to prove that all the hype is legitimate. He's here to show why he has gone from an obscure name to a probable top 10 pick.
Granted, attitude alone won't make him a better quarterback than Leinart or Young. However, it does make him a quarterback worth believing in. Throwing at the combine is supposed to be a difficult ordeal for most highly touted quarterbacks because they're throwing to unfamiliar receivers, which means their timing could suffer. They could flutter passes or struggle with their touch, all while the major decision-makers in the league are charting the proceedings. It could be a nightmare if everything goes wrong, but Cutler doesn't seem to care about that. All he's concerned with is another opportunity to bolster his status.
This is refreshing because too many elite pro prospects, particularly those at the skill positions, now treat the combine like it's a waste of time. They show up to get weighed and measured. They interview with teams. They take their Wonderlic tests. And then they go back to wherever they train in order to prepare for their own personal workouts. It's become the popular approach to making money in the draft. The less you show in Indianapolis, the less risk you have of losing millions in April.
That's all well and good, but I like risk-takers like Cutler. I like people who aren't afraid to gamble on themselves, because gambling creates pressure and that's when you can learn something about a player. What Cutler apparently understands is that it doesn't matter if he's performing in less than ideal circumstances this week. His entire NFL career will be played in less than ideal circumstances if he's a high pick. He'll likely be on a bad team with no hope of winning and everybody expecting the world of him. He might as well get used to elevating his game when he's uncomfortable. After all, it's not like he hasn't spent his entire career dealing with challenges.
Vanderbilt was the only Division I school to offer Cutler a scholarship four years ago. That opportunity didn't create much joy on the field -- the Commodores won only 11 games during his career -- but Cutler wasn't the problem. He set school records for total offense, passing yards and touchdown passes and was named a team captain three seasons in a row. In his last college game he led Vanderbilt to an upset of Tennessee in Knoxville. While the world wasn't looking, Cutler transformed himself into the type of talent that NFL general managers crave.
So it makes sense that he wouldn't run from the spotlight now. Even after producing a dazzling Senior Bowl performance that left some scouts thinking he might be the top passer in the draft, he hasn't gotten full of himself. The more people want to see him, the more he wants to show them what they missed while he was toiling for the Commodores. Unlike Leinart and Young, who have firmly established their sterling reputations by performing in big games, Cutler can't afford to rely on stats, film and buzz. He needs to continue operating as if his dream dies tomorrow. It's that approach that has taken him this far.
That's why I can't wait to see what scouts are saying about him after this week. In fact, somebody asked me the other day if Cutler might earn some negative reviews at the combine, if he could hurt himself by throwing in this environment. I said there's no way he could damage his stock now. The kid wants to compete, and I'd bet anything he meets the challenge. At an event where players have become too concerned with blowing their futures, it's exciting to see somebody who can't wait to show how bright the next 10 years might be.
Re: Cutler is passer worth watching at combine
imo hes a stronger, less mobile version of jp losman