AC in the AM: Cutler Looks Like The Right Fit

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It was a move that had to be made. Every way you look at it, the signing of Jay Cutler makes plenty of sense.

With Ryan Tannehill now out, with the regular season rapidly approaching and with the Dolphins having only Matt Moore with any quarterbacking experience, there was a need to move quickly and decisively.

There was clearly a need for someone like Jay Cutler. Think about it. He knows Adam Gase. He knows the playbook. His best career quarterback rating (92.3) was under Gase’s guidance with the Bears in 2015. He is a veteran who is entering his 12th season and understands the expectations and the pressure that comes with his position. It was the right fit with the right coach and certainly at the right time.

No doubt Cutler’s career has been an up-and-down journey. But at this precise moment, with the preseason games beginning this Thursday, it was important for Gase to bring in someone he is familiar with. Someone he trusts. Someone he knows will embrace this opportunity. Cutler announced his retirement this offseason and then signed a deal to broadcast NFL games for Fox. But it was clear he still wanted to play and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-unite with Gase.

“You’re talking about a playoff team with a lot of really good players,” Cutler said of the Dolphins. “A situation like this doesn’t come along very often.”

I have plenty of confidence in Gase. He has done so much over the past year to justify that confidence. What’s more, he may be as good as anyone in the league at working with quarterbacks. If he believes in Cutler, and he obviously does, that probably says everything we need to know.

What happens from here? Gase has about a month before the season starts, plenty of time to carefully see where things stand and how quickly Cutler adjusts to a new environment.

Know this about Gase: He treated this process with openness and respect, exactly the way you’d want a coach to do it. He met one-on-one with Moore, explaining the situation. He was equally frank with Cutler. He spoke to the team about it. “It was very straightforward and I get it,” Moore said.

Before we go too much further, a few thoughts about Tannehill. Can you imagine what he’s going through? Can you feel his frustration? He had looked so good all offseason and through the first six-plus practices of training camp and then one false step running out of bounds, his left knee buckles and his football world is turned upside down.

Does he have season-ending surgery? Does he wait it out with the hope that the ligaments gain strength, allowing him to possibly return this season? Right now he is still weighing his options, getting as many opinions as he believes is necessary. I have mixed emotions about this. I don’t want this injury to linger and perhaps surgery is the only way to avoid that happening. But I also know how badly Tannehill wants to play this season and how hard he has worked to get here.

Either way, the Dolphins knew they needed another veteran quarterback and it’s hard to put a value on the relationship Gase and Cutler developed during that one season in Chicago. That they both wanted to be together again tells you how that relationship evolved. At this point in his career, I’m not sure Cutler would have come out of retirement for any coach other than Gase.

“He can make every throw you want,” Gase said of Cutler. “He’s got good movement skills and good pocket presence. He has a really good grasp for our scheme.”

There is so much for Cutler to do now in a short amount of time, so much to absorb. He immediately begins a crash course in Dolphins football, learning tendencies, understanding skill sets and generally getting a feel for the strengths of each offensive player. It’ll help that Cutler has been around for so long, that he has thrived in Gase’s offense before. But that won’t tell him exactly where DeVante Parker likes the ball in certain situations or won’t help him develop a real feel for the skills of players like Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. That takes time, repetitions and a lot of homework.

Those are the types of challenges Cuter must embrace and obstacles he must clear over the next month or so. Put on an extra pot of coffee. Got a feeling there’s going to be some late night study sessions at the Dolphins’ training facility.

Who would have thought a month ago we’d be talking about Jay Cutler today? But crazy things happen in this league all the time and now the challenge for both the Dolphins and Cutler is to try to develop the right chemistry as quickly as possible. That only adds more importance to a preseason that already had some very important objectives.


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