With the news of the Chicago Bears benching their starting quarterback, the Jay Cutler to Tennessee Titans talk has started back up, so inevitably someone will ask if the Titans are better off with Cutler or not.
First of all, the Titans shouldn't give up a pick for Cutler. Cutler is a gunslinger like Whisenhunt likes, but there is no way that the Titans should move picks to get him. Cutler has a massive contract and is just too much of a liability at this point, especially considering his injury history. Cutler isn't the type of player who will mask a bad offensive line, he is the type of player that magnifies that issue.
However, if the Bears cut Jay Cutler that isn't a different story. First of all, the price can be negotiated to a more reasonable expense. Secondly, it means for the first time in his career, Cutler has chosen where he wants to play and will maybe not have that careless attitude he has shown in the past. Finally, signing Cutler wouldn't count against compensatory picks, which is a minor concern, but at this stage in the Titans franchise, the picks over the next two years will be more important than ever.
So, with all that said does Cutler actually provide an upgrade over Mettenberger statistically? That is really hard to say given Mettenberger's small sample size, but it is a comparison that everyone from Ruston Webster to I will need to make at some point to see how this could shake out.
The first question on everyone's mind should be can he stay healthy. This will be the eighth year in a row where the Titans leading passer from the past year, hasn't been their leading passer the next year, a trend largely caused by injuries. Tennessee needs someone who can stay on the field for 16 (or more) games every year and give them some stability.
In his nine years in the NFL, Jay Cutler has only completed a season three times. That is not a great look for Cutler, even if he had terrible offensive lines early in Chicago. Likewise, Mettenberger missed didn't complete his senior year due to a knee injury, and was put on IR this year with a shoulder injury.
This ultimately results in a tie, because both players have fairly extensive injury histories.
Again, small sample size so bear with me but this is the career completion percentages look like for both players.
Jay Cutler: 61.7%
Zach Mettenberger: 59.8%
While the numbers say Cutler wins out here, there are a few issues with that. First, Cutler played with two Pro Bowl receivers for the last two years in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. In those last two years, Cutler has put up two of his three best seasons.
If you compare both of their rookie years, it is actually very close. In his rookie year, Cutler completed only 59.1% of his passes over five games.
All in all, there isn't a huge discrepancy here, but Cutler does have the slight edge.
The yard per average metric usually is the best indicator for big plays by a quarterback. For two "big arm" quarterbacks like Mettenberger and Cutler, this should indicate who is better at that sort of play.
Jay Cutler: 7.19
Zach Mettenberger: 7.89
Mettenberger has had some great deep passes over his very short career, and that is impressive since the Titans really don't have a deep threat. With players like Jeffery and Marshall, it is a little concerning that Cutler's number isn't better. If both career numbers were ranked in this year's stats, Cutler would rank 19th and Mettenberger would rank 7th.
Touchdown to turnover ratio
Both quarterbacks have been terrible in their career at turning the ball over, but which has been worse.
Jay Cutler: 0.94
Zach Mettenberger: 0.73
That's right, both Cutler and Mettenberger have turned the ball over (with INTs and fumbles) more than they have score in their careers. Cutler has been much more productive (if you can call it that) but his interceptions have really racked up over his nine year career with 130 total.
Cutler again gets the slight nod.
After really digging into the numbers it is important to remember that numbers can be misleading. Cutler has had some great moments and some bad moments, but really is he worth $10 million more than Mettenberger. If the Titans traded for him they would have to pay somewhere around that number, and that is probably close to what he will get on the open market give or take a few million.
The only saving grace for Cutler is that if the Titans did sign him, it would be clear that they could move away from drafting a QB with the number one pick and could either use that pick for someone else, or hold it ransom for a team like the Browns who have a lot of ammo to trade up and a terrible QB situation. This is something they could do with Mettenberger, but would almost be assured with the addition of Cutler.
Overall, Cutler won't make this Titans team a playoff team, but he will probably be a more successful QB than Mettenberger will grow into. Cutler is a person that you can win with, not win in spite of and Mettenberger hasn't proved that yet. So if the Titans feel that they can make the moves in free agency and in the draft to get this team to a team that can get to the playoffs with a good QB, they should sign him if he is cut. Otherwise, this is just a fan's pipe dream.