Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I am excited about Jay Cutler, and I'm willing to admit it

MIAMI — Confessions Of a Person Who Is Sort Of Excited About Jay Cutler and Willing to Admit It:

Cutler is a bit of an NFL punchline, we'd acknowledge. Football fans smirked and snickered when the Dolphins hauled him out of a TV broadcast booth and signed him in August. On Sunday out west against the Los Angeles Chargers, Cutler isn't just trying to win a game. He's trying to stop being a national joke.

Yeah, but still. There's something about this guy. I love the James Dean-in-Rebel Without A Cause nonchalance. The laissez-faire vibe. I love the cigarette-dangling-from-lip memes, gifs and photoshops. I love the largely unearned bravado, the swagger-y I'll-throw-into-triple-coverage-because-I-can attitude.

I even love that, in his first interview as a new Dolphin, Cutler said this of his conditioning: "The good thing is I play quarterback, so I don't have to be in that great of cardiovascular shape." (The derriere-side nude of himself standing on the back deck that he posted on social media­, okay, that was a little strange.)

Nobody in the current NFL more than Jay Cutler is channeling Joe Namath sitting poolside in a bathrobe in 1968, wearing a crooked grin and sipping a dry martini. And God love him for it!

Dolfans seem to have adopted and embraced The Cutler Experience, too, pending, that is, his first dumb interception or oops-y fumble.

My affinity for this quarterback is more durable. As a chronicling writer, not a fan, I embrace the raging inconsistency and unpredictability of Cutler that suggests the sign "Caution: Wild Ride Ahead" for this 2017 season setting sail with its Irma-delayed first game.

Cutler's downside is lower than that of Ryan Tannehill, lost for the season to a knee injury. Cutler is more apt to lapse into a spate of game-killing turnovers.

But his upside is higher than Tannehill's as well. Cutler is more talented, with the arm strength, experience and bravado to conjure streaks of excellence. He's a QB you can really love … until you really don't.

Tannehill, in game and demeanor, was as consistently exciting as fat-free milk. Cutler is a shot of Jack Daniel's. He can make you happy, and he can make you sick. He's the gunslinger who'll either shoot lights-out, or shoot himself in the foot.

That Miami will be running a bunch of no-huddle, fast-paced offense magnifies the idea that with Cutler you'll probably get really good or really bad — stuff to make Dolfans either swoon or dust off a Matt Moore chant.

It should go without saying that Tannehill might fall from Miami's future faster than a Confederate statue and cede that future to Cutler if Jay, at 34, has a great season that lasts into the playoffs. The rehabilitating Tannehill, in effect, now occupies the role of Dolphins insurance policy in case Cutler implodes — also a strong possibility.

For now, just say few outside Miami think much of Cutler, who was an unsigned free agent (retirement via unemployment) until Tannehill's injury made the Fins desperate on the eve of the preseason.

Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram was asked what kind of problems Cutler presented to his defense.

"None," he replied. "We don't see him as a problem."

That Cutler must convince doubters is so obvious that even coach Adam Gase wasn't buying a reporter's premise that Cutler had a "nothing-to-prove" attitude.

"I don't know if that's necessarily accurate," Gase said.

Cutler, uncommonly honest, offered no assurances how this hurricane-rocked season would unfurl. He was asked what makes him confident the offense will be clicking from the get-go.

"We might not," he admitted. "We don't know how it's going to go."

Are the Dolphins better than last year's 10-win playoff team, as the players claim, or ready for a precipitous fall as Las Vegas bettors suggest?

Will Cutler prove to be a brilliant signing who pays massive dividends, or a failure who reverts back to being the punchline of jokes?

I don't know, you don't know and the Dolphins don't know. None of us can, really.

It's anybody's guess — the uncertainty its own anxious delight.

Finally, the finding out begins Sunday.

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