A new Jeff George?

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The more I hear about Jay Cutler, the more I wonder if he isnt the Jeff George of the new millennium. By that I mean: a young quarterback with a million-dollar arm and a two-cent head, a high-maintenance type destined to break your heart… and break the bank along with it.

Consider: When the Colts traded George, a former first overall pick in the draft, to Atlanta in 1994, he was 26, the same age Cutler will be in a few weeks. He had also exhibited, while in Indianapolis, much of the me-me-me attitude Cutler has shown in Denver. But the foolish Falcons were still willing to give up two No. 1s and a No. 3 for him, convinced the kid’s talent would eventually trump all.

George was last seen in Atlanta jawing on the sideline with coach June Jones - as another Falcons season spiraled out of control. From there it was on to Oakland, Minnesota, Washington, Seattle, Chicago, the Raiders again… and an endless series of what-might-have-been stories in the local papers.

Here’s hoping Dan Snyder and the rest of the Redskins brain trust remember their regrettable infatuation with George a decade ago and just say no to Cutler, no matter how appealing he might be. But that’s the thing about talent; it can blind you to a player’s faults, to the risks he poses. And let’s not forget, a quarterback isn’t just any old player. He’s the Voice in the Huddle, if not the Face of the Franchise. You make a mistake at that position, you pay for it for years.

Fortunately, the Redskins might not be able to put together the package required to win the Cutler Sweepstakes. For starters, their first-round pick is only the 13th; other teams (Lions, Browns, 49ers), teams hungrier for a quarterback, have higher selections they could dangle. There’s also the issue of cap space, though Snyder always seems able to create more - no matter what the cost.

Then there’s this to mull over: Do the Redskins really want to replace a quarterback who had the lowest interception percentage of any starter last season (.012) with one who was second in the league in interceptions (18)? Is the club really ready to scrap the Jason Campbell Experiment and sign on for the Jay Cutler Adventure?

And don’t kid yourself, it would be quite a ride. It certainly was in Denver, where last year Cutler helped turn a 4-1 start into an 8-8 finish with some spotty play down the stretch. The fold-up cost coach Mike Shanahan - Jay’s Dr. Frankenstein - his job, and then the real fun began.

First Josh McDaniel, Shanahan’s 32-year-old successor, explored the possibility of trading Jay and bringing in Matt Cassel, the quarterback he had in New England. When he learned of this, Jay freaked out and put his house on the market, saying the team had lost his trust. About the only way it could have been more of a soap opera is if Jessica Simpson had been involved.

But here’s the thing: Why the babe-in-the-woods act? Cutler knew as well as anybody that this was how the NFL worked. The Broncos, after all, had traded up to draft him just months after Jake Plummer had taken them to the AFC title game and been voted to the Pro Bowl. Plummer was 34-14 as the Broncos’ starter at that point (including the playoffs). He was also, at 31, still in his prime.

But it wasn’t enough for Shanahan. He wanted somebody better. What should that have told Cutler about the franchise?

Anyway, after attempts at a reconciliation, the Broncos have decided to part ways with their young passer. There figure to be plenty of bidders for his services, with the Jets, Bucs, Panthers and others possibly also in the picture. Let’s face it, it isn’t often a 20-something quarterback coming off a Pro Bowl season becomes available (though it’s a bit confounding how he beat out Philip Rivers and Chad Pennington in the balloting).

The most recent similar cases are Drew Brees and Daunte Culpepper, both of whom were “in play” three years ago. Brees has proven to be a fabulous free agent pickup for New Orleans; he’s made two Pro Bowls with the Saints and got them within a game of the Super Bowl in his first season. Culpepper, on the other hand, is at the other end of the spectrum. He was injured and ineffective in Miami, and his career has never gotten back on track.

So those are the two extremes, the risk-reward aspect of pursuing Cutler. Granted, he has a nice arm, good feet and much potential - just like Brees. But he has also battled with his bosses and raised questions about his maturity - much like Culpepper.

My advice to the Redskins: For once, avoid the temptation and go with the guy you’ve got. Besides, you already have one diva on offense - your running back. It could get crowded in the huddle with two.

About the Author
Dan Daly

Dan Daly

Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at ddaly@washingtontimes.com.

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