If Jay Cutler doesn’t beat the Patriots on Monday, he probably never will.
Remember: Cutler was not even supposed to play this season. Adam Gase pulled Cutler out of retirement in August after Ryan Tannehill went down in training camp.
Had Gase not, Cutler would have finished his career winless against Bill Belichick.
Make that winless and noncompetitive.
In three lifetime meetings with New England, Cutler’s teams have been outscored by 34, 29 and 28 points. In two of those three debacles, Cutler didn’t even finish the game.
There’s no telling whether Cutler plays beyond this season, either by his choosing or that of the NFL’s 32 general managers. So Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium could be the last time he faces Belichick and Tom Brady.
If so, he probably won’t miss them. Cutler had some of his worst losses as a pro against the Patriots.
Memory lane, here we come:
Oct. 20, 2008: Patriots 41, Broncos 7: It was a Monday night massacre. Before a national TV audience, Cutler threw two interceptions, and the Broncos were shut out for the first 46 1/2 minutes. Despite entering the game ranked third in passing yards, Cutler had just 168 on 17 of 26 attempts before getting pulled for Patrick Ramsey.
Dec. 12, 2010: Patriots 36, Bears 7: Chicago hit a major speed bump on the road to Cutler’s only playoff appearance of his career. New England raced to a 33-0 halftime lead, and Cutler had no answers. He completed 12 of 26 passes for 152 yards and threw two interceptions. Cutler’s 32.9 passer rating was his lowest of the season.
Oct. 26, 2014: Patriots 51, Bears 23: For once, Cutler put together a good statistical game against Belichick (20 of 30, 227 yards and three touchdowns), but those numbers were empty. They almost all came in mop-up time. The Patriots led 38-7 at the half; Jimmy Clausen relieved Cutler when the game was long decided.
Granted, Cutler’s view has been no better from the sidelines. He missed the Patriots’ 35-17 drubbing of the Dolphins two weeks ago with a concussion.
But barring something bizarre (and given the Dolphins’ season, that can never be ruled out), Cutler will start Monday.
And while the oddsmakers don’t expect a Dolphins win — Miami is a 12-point home underdog and has just a one-in-six chance to win, based on the moneyline — Cutler could change the narrative surrounding his year in South Florida with an upset.
Miami is actually 5-5 in games in which Cutler has started, and with a strong finish, he could become the first Dolphins QB with a lifetime winning record in aqua and orange since Chad Pennington.
Cutler — and the Dolphins offense in general — have played better in recent weeks, even if that improvement has not been reflected in the standings. In Cutler’s last six starts, he has thrown 12 touchdowns and the Dolphins have averaged 25.2 points.
The Dolphins scored a season-high 35 in their blowout win over Denver on Sunday.
“We put together some good stuff but there’s some more left on the bone there,” Cutler said Sunday. “We’re heading in the right direction. We’ve talked about it all year long, I think this team has done a great job of staying together, concentrating on the week ahead and not worried about the future or the past. And to get one and get the ball rolling a little bit heading in the right direction feels good.”
▪ Stephen Ross’ RISE initiative is partnering with the NFL and Morehouse College to host the Advocacy in Sport Workshop in Atlanta from Feb. 21-23. The event will “educate athletes on how to develop and implement effective advocacy platforms that positively impact society,” the NFL said in a statement.