Miami Dolphins

Graybeard Jay Cutler is playing his best ball of 2017. So will he play in 2018?

Jay Cutler led the Dolphins to their first win against New England since 2015.
Jay Cutler led the Dolphins to their first win against New England since 2015. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Jay Cutler is going gray.

The Dolphins quarterback has begrudgingly grown a playoff beard, and while neither he nor his wife, Kristin Cavallari, like it particularly much, he’s stuck with it until the Dolphins’ win streak ends.

And if he ever forgets that he’s every part of 34 years old, one glance in the mirror will quickly remind him.

“There’s gray in there,” Cutler said Thursday. “... I’m getting old quickly.”

He sure didn’t look it three days earlier.

Cutler had the moves of a man 10 years younger, particularly on a critical third-down conversion that might have been the difference in the game.

It was third-and-7 on the Patriots’ 13 late in the first half, with the Dolphins trailing for the first time, when Cutler spun out of a seemingly sure sack and found Kenyan Drake for an eight-yard completion. The next play, the Dolphins were in the end zone, and New England would not lead again.

“We had a little miscommunication up front,” Cutler explained. “I was working right, just kind of caught [the pass rush] out of my peripheral. Hit the spin button quick and was lucky enough to get out it.”

It was Cutler at his best. All of Monday was.

His first (and perhaps only) season in Miami has been up and down. He’s been injured twice and even when healthy, has been inconsistent.

But Cutler seems to be playing his best ball at the season’s most important time. The Dolphins need to win out to have any legitimate playoff shot, and Cutler needs to play at a high level to make that happen.

During the Dolphins’ two-game winning streak, he’s completed 62.3 percent of his passes, averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, has thrown five touchdowns to two interceptions and has a passer rating of 96.2.

And he just looks different — as comfortable as he has all season.

“I think the longer you go, the more comfortable you get,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “As a quarterback, you really know the guys that you’re working with. You develop more timing. … One of the discussions that we had with Mike [Tannenbaum] and Chris [Grier] in the front office was, we’re probably going to go through some interesting growing pains in public. It’s not going to be in training camp, it’s not going to be in OTAs. We went through a little bit of that where it didn’t look very good. We had to work through that. Guys did a good job of sticking with it and not getting frustrated and it kept building week after week.”

Added offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen: “He played extremely well. I think the biggest thing was he took care of the ball. He threw it away when it wasn’t there. He really was in control and made great decisions.”

And he did it on national television, silencing (at least for now) the many who seem to root for his failure.

So it raises the question? If he’s playing well, why stop playing? ESPN broadcasters have twice now said that Cutler has expressed interest in playing next year — but the Dolphins insist that’s not a fully accurate reflection of what was said during production meetings.

“I think I told them [that] I’m enjoying playing right now, and that’s really it,” Cutler said. “It’s one game at a time. I think I told them last week, I’m worried about the New England Patriots. And this week I’m worried about the Buffalo Bills. After this season, then those conversations can be had.”

One consideration: Will his family want him away for another fall?

Cavallari lives in Nashville with the couple’s children, and Cutler has essentially lived out of a suitcase since signing with the Dolphins in August.

“It’s been good,” Cutler said of the dynamic. “They came for pretty much all the home games. They came for Thanksgiving for an extended period of time. They’re going to come for Christmas for an extended period of time. There’s ups and downs, there’s pluses and minuses, but Kris has been extremely supportive and she’s done a great job with the kids. There’s plenty of time after football to catch up.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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