Is Jay Cutler Football’s Delmon Young?


Bear with me here (no pun intended) – I’ll try to make this as little about football as possible, although let’s be honest, our beloved Twins are out of it and football season is right around the corner anyway. I’ll preface all of this by telling you that I live in Chicago and I’m a talk radio junkie. That said, I was running errands in the car the other day and I had the radio on and I was thinking about the Delmon Young trade. I think I was listening to 670 The Score and they were talking about Jay Cutler and how he’s basically had one good season in his career and suddenly it all clicked. I debated making a post out of this…but I can’t help myself – the similarities are just too good.

As everyone is painfully aware of by now, Delmon Young was the 1st pick in the draft in 2003 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and during the proceeding 3 seasons, he lit up Minor League pitching to the tune of a .317/.362/.519 line. His Minor League career included an ugly incident in which he threw a bat at an umpire and people questioned Young’s mental make-up, though he served a 50-game suspension without protest. He started full-time duty in the Majors in 2007 playing in all 162 games for the Rays while posting an underwhelming .288/.316/.408. Despite that line he did finish 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting (distant 2nd place finished to winner Dustin Pedroia) and excuses could be made for Young, who was one of the youngest players in the Majors at 21-years-old. The Rays, being the smart organization they are, traded Young to the Twins following the 2007 season, turning Young into Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett (and Eddie Morlan) and eventually turning Garza and Bartlett in 7 other prospects via trades. In his 2nd full season in the Majors Young hit for a little higher average and a little better on-base percentage, but still had a very underwhelming .741 OPS. On top of that, it was starting to become obvious that Young was not a good fielder and his atrocious defense (-8.0 UZR) basically wiped away whatever value he had at the plate. In fact, in 2008, despite 10 HRs, 80 Rs, 69 RBIs and 14SBs, Young had a -0.6 WAR. Anyway, to spare you the rest of the gory details, here is his Major League stat sheet:

Twins fans were starting to lose confidence in Young after yet another poor showing in 2009, part of which was marred by injury. Then 2010 happened. Young reported to training camp in great shape. He had a pretty good year at the plate hitting 21HRs and knocking in 112. For the 1st place Twins Young finished 10th in the MVP voting. Everyone thought, “hey, maybe he’s turning a corner.” At 24 years old it wouldn’t have been crazy to believe, a lot of hitters don’t really hit their stride (especially power-wise) until their mid-20s. Despite a good year at the plate, Young still only posted a 1.8 WAR because his bad glove and terrible base-running skills negated most of his value. Young’s 2010 season bought him one more look and the Twins shelled out $5.375M to find out if they had something, or if Young’s “breakout year” was a fluke. Turns out…it was a fluke. Young’s defense has been as bad as ever in 2011, he was hurt for a good chunk of the season and he’s having his worst year ever at the plate, posting a .680 OPS through 86 games. For all the hype, Young has been nothing short of disappointing and with 2,800 Major League plate appearances under his belt already, I don’t see him magically turning it around any time soon.

And that leads us to Jay Cutler, quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Jay, like Delmon, had a lot going for him as a young kid. Drafted with the 11th pick in the 2006 draft, Jay was supposed to be the “quarterback of the future” – perhaps even wear the crown of “the next Elway”. He had played pretty well at Vanderbilt throwing 59 TDs in 4 seasons while playing to a 125.9 QB rating during his college career. It didn’t take Cutler long to get his first shot, starting his first game on December 3rd, 2006 in place of the aging and ineffective Jake Plummer. Cutler’s first game as a pro was pretty successful; 10-for-21, 2TDs, 2INTs – not bad at all. 2007 was really Cutler’s first year as “the guy” and, well, it didn’t go that well. The team went 7-9 and Cutler had more turnovers (22) than TDs (21). Cutler also seemed to have a loose-cannon for a mouth, talking openly about how he thought he had a better arm than Bronco-great John Elway, among other things. Just as the fans were starting to wonder about Jay, along came the 2008 season. Jay once again started all 16 games, and though the team only went 8-8, Cutler threw for over 4,500 yards with 27 total TDs against 18 INTs and 5 fumbles. Cutler was selected to the pro-bowl and every thought that he had finally turned a corner in his career.

Then Mike Shanahan was fired.

Then this new coach Josh McDaniels was brought in and Cutler felt slighted when it was rumored that McDaniels had tried to get Matt Cassel from the Patriots. Things really fell apart from there and Cutler ended up getting traded to the Chicago Bears prior to the 2009 season. Bears fans were understandably ecstatic about getting Cutler because the QB position had been a carousel for many, many years. Again the hopes were high for Cutler and again he disappointed, leading the team to a 7-9 record while throwing a career-high 26 interceptions (30 total turnovers) against 27 TDs. Cutler 2010 season was his most successful from a team standpoint as the Bears won 10 games, but overall, Cutler hasn’t come close to living up to the hype he had coming out of college. Through 4 full seasons as a starting QB, Cutler has a 84.3 QB rating, he’s thrown 104 TD and 79 INTs, but he’s also lost 31 fumbles (5 rushing TDs)…for those of you keeping score that’s 109 career TDs against 110 career turnovers…nothing to write home about.

This is mostly a silly piece…there’s nothing of real substance here, but I think it’s fun to find similarities between players in different sports. After this coming NFL season, Cutler and Young will have played almost an identical amount of seasons in their respective sports and each was considered a “top prospect” when they were drafted. Each has gone on to disappoint fans and each has had that one season that makes you wonder if they could still be something special down the line. Both guys are still young and presumably entering their prime years as athletes…will either guy be able to finally live up to their potential?