Prob­lem’s more than Cut­ler

There’s plenty of blame for team’s of­fen­sive strug­gles

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - SPORTS - Omar Kelly

DAVIE — Very few peo­ple will shed a tear for a quar­ter­back who needed to be guar­an­teed $10 mil­lion to be talked out of retirement. Es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing Jay Cut­ler has cleared $122 mil­lion in ca­reer earn­ings, de­spite be­ing uni­ver­sally viewed as an av­er­age NFL quar­ter­back.

How­ever, Cut­ler could be cry­ing right now when he looks at ev­ery im­por­tant num­ber that doesn’t in­volve his bank ac­count.

Cut­ler is on pace to have his worst NFL sea­son ever, lead­ing what could be the Mi­ami Dol­phins’ worst of­fen­sive sea­son ever. Some fans seem to think ev­ery­thing that’s wrong with Mi­ami’s of­fense is his fault.

Dur­ing Mi­ami’s 16-10 win over the Ten­nessee Ti­tans last Sun­day, there were a half dozen “We Want Moore” chants com­ing from the Hard Rock Sta­dium crowd, and the sen­ti­ment call­ing for backup quar­ter­back Matt Moore was loud enough for the TV au­di­ence to hear it.

Some play­ers, such as cen­ter Mike Pouncey, laughed off the “We Want Moore” chants say­ing the crowd was ask­ing for “more of­fense.”

But oth­ers, such as lead­ing re­ceiver Jarvis Landry, didn’t find the chants funny at all. In fact, he la­beled them “dis­re­spect­ful, and said “it’s em­bar­rass­ing to have fans like that.”

“A man that comes out here and works his [butt] off, for peo­ple to not un­der­stand what’s re­ally go­ing on, or to not have touched the field be­fore say­ing we want some­one else to be play­ing. They don’t un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion or know what’s go­ing on. They just want to be on Twit­ter and start a chant,” Landry said. “It’s not about who is the quar­ter­back. Jay is our quar­ter­back and we stand by him re­gard­less of [the strug­gles]. We find ways to make plays for each

other.”

Those in­vested enough to watch the game film should know Cut­ler doesn’t de­serve to be the scape­goat.

Cut­ler didn’t drop five passes last week against the Ti­tans, and he’s not strug­gling to get open like Mi­ami’s re­ceivers and tight ends have been for the past three weeks.

Cut­ler isn’t com­pro­mis­ing his pocket, giv­ing up pres­sure that’s flush­ing him off his throw­ing spot, pre­vent­ing him from look­ing down­field on two-thirds of Mi­ami’s pass­ing plays.

That’s Mi­ami’s of­fen­sive line.

Cut­ler’s not the player car­ry­ing the ball in a rush­ing of­fense that’s av­er­ag­ing a pedes­trian 3.2 yards per run and gain­ing 74.8 yards per game.

Is Cut­ler blame­less? He’s had his share of bad play, bad throws and poor de­ci­sions, like the in­ter­cep­tion he threw last week to the Ti­tans. In that play, throw­ing the ball away would have al­lowed the of­fense keep po­si­tion, fight­ing on for an­other down.

He’s con­sis­tently throw­ing passes off his back foot and oc­ca­sion­ally mis­fires on four or five make­able throws per game. But what quar­ter­back doesn’t have those bad plays? Ryan Tan­nehill cer­tainly did.

Cut­ler’s a ren­tal, so few in South Flor­ida — out­side of coach Adam Gase — is in­vested in the quar­ter­back who has be­come the face of foot­ball apa­thy be­cause of his per­son­al­ity and ex­pres­sions. But it’s not fair to place all the blame for the of­fense’s strug­gles on Cut­ler.

I get it. The Dol­phins’ of­fense is ranked last in to­tal yards per game, yards per play, first downs per game, third-down ef­fi­ciency and points per game.

But the prob­lem isn’t user er­ror. It’s a sys­tem mal­func­tion, an al­go­rithm is­sue. A com­plete over­haul of the hard drive is needed, not a change of the user.

“We can’t mag­i­cally think that this is just go­ing to turn around just be­cause we come in and we prac­tice and we play games,” said Cut­ler, who has a 74.8 passer rat­ing. “There’s got to be a fo­cus there. There’s got to be en­ergy. There’s got to be a sense of ur­gency for us of­fen­sively.”

That means ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing Cut­ler, needs to tighten up.

Gase said Cut­ler, a 12-year vet­eran who turned 34 in March, needs to learn he can’t make the off-bal­ance throws he once ri­fled off in his prime.

The Dol­phins have been work­ing with him on set­ting his feet bet­ter, hop­ing that it will im­prove his ac­cu­racy and ball place­ment.

“In the past he’s been able to hop left, be on­bal­ance and throw the ball across the field and the ball will get there with good ve­loc­ity,” Gase said. “The older you get, the more you have to be able to set your feet, get aligned, make sure that you’re us­ing your en­tire body, be­cause your arm even­tu­ally doesn’t give you the juice that it did five or six years ago.”

The Dol­phins bet­ter hope they find that juice, be­cause the clock is tick­ing on the sea­son and Mi­ami’s ren­tal quar­ter­back.

“There’s got to be a sense of ur­gency for us of­fen­sively.” Jay Cut­ler, Dol­phins quar­ter­back

JIM RASSOL/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Jay Cut­ler is on pace to have his worst NFL sea­son ever.

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