By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots were always going to win the AFC East in 2017, but after the Dolphins went out and signed Jay Cutler out of retirement, it’s worth it now to at least consider what kind of impact that might have in the division.
As far as the Dolphins are concerned, they should still be considered the second-best team in the AFC East. It can be debated whether Cutler is an upgrade or downgrade from Ryan Tannehill, but based on the large steps forward Tannehill took last year, Cutler’s probably more of the latter. Nevertheless, Cutler’s 11-year career of slinging the ball all over Denver and Chicago at least represents a much better option than Matt Moore or Brandon Doughty at this moment in time for Miami.
And as far as how the move affects the Patriots, the net result is minimal. If anything, the path through the division might have gotten a bit easier for Bill Belichick’s team.
While obviously the personnel and systems will be different for Cutler in Miami, here’s how the quarterback has fared in his career against a Belichick-coached defense.
Oct. 20, 2008: Denver at New England
17-for-26 (65.4%), 168 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
2 sacks, 13 yards
Patriots 41, Broncos 7
Dec. 12, 2010: New England at Chicago
12-for-26 (46.2%), 152 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs
2 sacks, 14 yards
Patriots 36, Bears 7
Oct. 26, 2014: Chicago at New England
20-for-30 (66.7%), 227 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
3 sacks, 18 yards
Patriots 51, Bears 23
All told, that’s 49-for-82 (59.8 percent) passing with four touchdowns, five interceptions, and an average of 182 yards per game. It comes out to a passer rating of 70.5. For perspective on that number, Ryan Fitzpatrick ranked dead last among qualified QBs last year with a 69.6 passer rating. Brock Osweiler was second-worst with a 72.2 rating.
So clearly, when it comes to cracking a Patriots defense, Cutler is 0-for-3. And though that meeting in Chicago was snowy, Cutler can’t claim the conditions affected him greatly. In those three games, Matt Cassel, Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo combined for 78-for-102 (72.2 percent) passing for 10 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 310 yards per game. That’s a combined passer rating of 136.5.
Two of those dismal performances came against Patriots defenses that weren’t particularly great; the 2008 defense ranked 23rd in opponents’ passer rating, while the 2010 team ranked 13th.
Cutler’s career numbers vs. the entire AFC East, for whatever they’re worth, are also a bit underwhelming. He’s completed just under 60 percent of his 456 passes for 246 yards per game with 19 total touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His passer rating of 80.3 vs. the AFC East is Cutler’s worst mark against any division, and his teams have gone 6-7 in his 13 starts.
Even with a healthy Tannehill, the Dolphins weren’t expected to really contend for a division crown in 2017. With Cutler in place of Tannehill, nothing has changed in that regard.