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Thursday, January 2, 2014

He's Baaaaack

You can never say that Phil Emery is lazy. When he makes up his mind, he gets things done--fast.

Today, as you undoubtedly know, Phil opened his end of the year press conference with the nonchalant announcement that the team had agreed to deals with Matt Slauson, Tim Jennings, and some jerk with bad sideline demeanor. Then he dropped the mic and walked off stage.

I'm kidding. Because this is Phil Emery, he talked for 90 more minutes and left no doubt that he was undoubtedly the smartest S.O.B. in the room. Because of that, he made the smart move and brought back his franchise quarterback for at least three more years (yes, the deal says 7, but if there's no guaranteed money after year three it's a 3 year deal, folks. The rest is monopoly money).

Sure, there are questions about this. Was Jay worth $18 million a year? Probably not. Few people are. But you pay to play in this business, and  if you can honestly say you don't think Jay's market value was right where he landed (somewhere between Tony Romo and Matt Ryan in terms of guaranteed cash), you're a fool. Can Jay stay healthy? I'll admit that's certainly my biggest concern.

Despite this, I am obviously in favor of the extension. I'm not going to lay out the financial arguments since I have no idea where exactly the the 2014 cap hit will fall and I am interested in seeing what else Phil is able to do in free agency after this. I will say that Phil Emery is as straightforward and honest as a general manager gets, and if he says the team will have the flexibility to sign who they want in free agency, I believe him.

From a football standpoint, Jay is worth the money. Jay had his best year this year in many categories, with a career high QB rating of 89.2 and a completion % of 63.1, his highest since 2007. He also had a career high TD% of 5.4, putting him on pace for 30 TD passes had he played the whole season. If you're into advanced metrics like myself, Jay finished 10th in the NFL with a +13.7 grade from Pro Football Focus and finished 6th in their adjusted QB rating statistic (takes into account dropped passes, throwaways, passes where the QB was hit before throwing, and more) at 91.7. If you're into weird statistics invented by Trent Dilfer that put way too much emphasis on Clutchitude, he was 8th in the NFL in Total QBR.

To me, the most encouraging thing was Jay's growth in the offense as the season went along. After he compiled an 85.7 passer rating and 6.8 YPA through the first four games as his comfort level in the offense and his protection grew, Jay and Trestman unleashed the deep ball as the season went on. In his final 6 full games as a starter (excluding the 8 passes he threw vs. the Redskins before the groinsplosion) Jay completed 63.3% of his passes for 264 YPG, 8.0 YPA, 11 TDs, 5 INTs, and a 95.9 rating. Provided he stays healthy, I'd expect those numbers to be what we can expect going forward in year two of this offense (and it's worth noting this is just the third time in Jay's career he will be in the same offense for two straight years). That's worth paying for.

Putting aside any kind of argument whatsoever, I'll admit that I am happy about this because I like Jay Cutler. I like rooting for him, and I think he's fun as hell to watch, especially when he's in an offense like this that let's him thrive. I am glad I won't have to spend next year watching Josh McCown regress to the mean or some potentially hapless rookie and wonder what Jay could have done with another offseason of Trestman's tutelage. For better or for worse, we're going to get the definitive answer to what Jay is capable of in the years to come. The debate is now over. All that's left is to ride that beautiful armcock to the Superbowl.

Oh, and good job on the Slauson/Jennings thing, Phil. Those guys are good too. Go Bears.

Unrelated: if you're wondering when the hell we're going to do a SKOdCast and discuss all of the exciting shit that's gone down lately, the answer is soon. We're working on a new day of the week now that our schedules have changed once more. You'll not miss us for much longer, I assure you.