Time for Cutler to earn the money

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
12:13
PM ET
First off, this isn’t a post blasting Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. But one interesting takeaway from wild-card weekend is that all but one of the starting quarterbacks competing in those games now possesses as much if not more postseason experience than Cutler.

Take Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (two games of playoff experience) and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles (one game of postseason experience) out of the equation, and the other six signal callers leading their respective teams are actually more experienced than Cutler in the playoffs. That's a little disturbing considering Cutler has been in the NFL eight seasons.

In just his second year in the NFL, Luck now possesses the same postseason record as Cutler (1-1) after leading the Colts back from a 28-point deficit on Saturday to best the Kansas City Chiefs 45-44. Of the eight starting quarterbacks in games over the weekend, just four of them -- Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New Orleans’ Drew Brees, San Diego’s Philip Rivers, and Kansas City’s Alex Smith -- have been in the league longer than Cutler. The other four -- Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Luck and Colin Kaepernick -- have been in the NFL three seasons or fewer.

What does that say about Cutler? That’s tough to say, considering advancing to the postseason is more about the entire team than just the quarterback. But what’s clear after the Bears made a huge seven-year investment recently in Cutler, is that he needs to lead his team to the dance more often so he can start to cement a playoff legacy.

In Year 3 of his NFL career, Kaepernick already owns a 3-1 postseason record and has thrown for five touchdowns and three interceptions in the playoffs for a passer rating of 93.9. In two postseason appearances, both in 2010, Cutler completed 50 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and an INT with a passer rating of 84.8 (he’s also been sacked five times in the postseason).

Dalton, meanwhile, has played in more postseason contests than Cutler. But his record is 0-3. Until tossing a scoring strike during the second quarter on Sunday to Jermaine Gresham, Dalton had gone nearly 10 quarters without throwing a touchdown pass. Dalton has thrown six INTs and only one TD in three playoff starts.

Of the players with comparable years of service to Cutler, Smith (nine years) is 1-2 in the playoffs and has thrown nine TD passes, and no INTs with a passer rating of 108.6. Rivers (10 years) is 4-4 in with 9 TDs, 9 INTs and an 81.8 passer rating. Brees (13 years) and Rodgers (nine) both own 6-4 records in the playoffs with a combined 42 TDs and nine INTs.

So with two postseason starts (really one and a half, since he didn’t finish the NFC title game following the 2010 season), Cutler hasn’t built enough of a body of work in those high-stakes contests to provide a full evaluation of his worth. But now that general manager Phil Emery and the organization have compensated him at a level commensurate to the quarterbacks that consistently lead their teams to the playoffs, it’s time Cutler start providing a return on the investment that extends beyond the regular season.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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