The Miami Dolphins know this is a long shot.
The Dolphins don’t actually believe their chances of making a playoff push with Jay Cutler are as good as they would be with Ryan Tannehill, and they’re correct. But Miami is rightfully desperate after Tannehill sustained a non-contact knee injury and reportedly faces either season-ending surgery or a six-to-eight week rehab layoff, with the former being more likely.
Like the Minnesota Vikings did in 2016 following Teddy Bridgewater’s injury, the Dolphins have swung for the fences – because why not?
Their only other options besides reportedly signing Cutler were: riding with Matt Moore, likely resigning themselves to a lost season and a top pick; or signing Colin Kaepernick, who may not have gotten a less friendly reception from a fan base than Miami’s after he wore a Fidel Castro T-shirt last year.
While observers are split on whether the Vikings should have traded for Sam Bradford or kept their first-round pick and embraced tanking, teams are always prisoners of the moment.
With a roster coming off a playoff appearance last year and a hot-shot head coach in Adam Gase – who was Cutler’s offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears in 2015 – the Dolphins are presumably flush with confidence about their chances this season.
And Cutler keeps that hope alive, though the odds seem stacked against this Miami experiment being a success.
Cutler, after all, is a 34-year-old quarterback who spent this offseason sunning his buttocks and preparing to spend the 2017 campaign and beyond in the broadcast booth for FOX.
Even if you believe in miracles and Gase’s ability to bring out the best in quarterbacks, the Dolphins’ ceiling under Cutler doesn’t project to be that high.
In 2015, Gase helped Cutler to a career year in which he threw for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions – good for a 92.3 passer rating. He also neared his career bests in completion percentage and yards-per-attempt average, and, most importantly, stayed healthy and started 15 games.
But Cutler was still erratic, unable to shake his penchant for turnovers and what-the-hell-was-he-thinking throws.
That’s the best the Dolphins can hope for – and even that might be unrealistic, since that was two years ago, before Cutler developed retirement rust or made this discouraging statement upon calling an end to his football career:
I recently read a quote that struck a chord with me at the time. It was attributed to Henry Rollins (but with the internet these days, you can never be too sure who really said it). “I did that, I gave everything I had to give to that. Now, if I returned to that it would be repetition – it might be fun repetition, but it wouldn’t be meaningful repetition.”
Too much has been made of Cutler’s attitude and demeanor, but that doesn’t sound like a man who’s ready to do everything required to drag the Dolphins to the playoffs.
In the absence of a more appealing option, however, Miami can cross its fingers and wish for Cutler to become the game-manager he’s never proved capable of being. It may be viewed as a panic move, like the Vikings’ deal for Bradford, but the Dolphins’ Hail Mary signing of Cutler was the only viable option they had to salvage their postseason hopes.
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