The one team that could have derailed today’s Miami Dolphins before the season ever began? The New York Jets.
That’s right. The last-place New York Jets.
The Jets are a mess right now. On Wednesday, CEO Christopher Johnson, who has taking the team reins from brother Woody Johnson (now a United States ambassador), had to insist the Jets “are definitely not tanking” even though anyone with eyes can see that’s exactly what the Jets are doing.
But these Jets, one of a couple of team that showed interest in Cutler when he was cut by the Chicago Bears, could have ruined things for the Dolphins this year if their offseason flirtation with quarterback Jay Cutler had gotten serious.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
If the Jets had followed through on their pursuit of Cutler last spring, the quarterback might be starting against the Dolphins rather than for them on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Cutler, speaking with the New York media Wednesday, downplayed the interest between him and New York. But he did admit a free agent visit was set up and then rescheduled -- and by the way, those don’t usually get scheduled unless somebody is hopeful something can be worked out.
“We were just feeling each other out,” Cutler said. “It wasn’t aggressive. It wasn’t super vague. It was just feeling each other out and it just didn’t work out.
“I’d just been cut from Chicago, where I’d spent eight years, so I wasn’t in a hurry to really go anywhere. I just kind of wanted to go through the process and if something really jumped out, I’d investigate a little bit more.”
The visits Cutler scheduled with the Jets never worked out.
“Yes, we had a couple of visits and then they got changed; but for numerous reasons, and then they were able to sign Josh (McCown), and that was kind of the end of that,” Cutler said. “So it worked out for myself and for Josh.”
It worked out for Cutler because in the second week of training camp, Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill tore the ACL in his left knee for the second time in less than a year. And days later, after Dolphins coach Adam Gase called, Cutler agreed to play for Miami.
But what if the Jets had actually done what most NFL teams do? What if they had been serious about “not tanking,” as their new CEO said?
The Jets might have seemed a compelling place to go for Cutler, with Eric Decker and old friend Brandon Marshall as receivers, with former Bears teammate Matt Forte as a running back, and with Cutler friend and former coach Jeremy Bates as the quarterback coach, a position the Bates still holds in New York.
“He knows the game, he knows the game of quarterback,” Cutler said of Bates. “He does a really good job of teaching fundamentals, keeping your base. And then calling plays, I know he isn’t calling plays [in New York]; but when I had him, he was calling plays and that’s an art for him. There’s an art to it. It’s not something you can just jump into and be good at it. He’s got the knack for it. It comes naturally to him.”
It is believed Cutler ended up in Miami in no small part because his relationship with Adam Gase was so compelling that it made coming to the Dolphins a relatively easy fit. The thing is Cutler holds Bates in equally high regard.
“I’ve always kept in touch with J.B,” Cutler said. “He was instrumental early in my career, kind of getting me off to a good start. (He’s) one of the best play-callers and coaches I’ve ever been around to this day. So I talked to J.B throughout the process, talked to him afterward. I saw him, I think, a month ago. He’s always somebody that will hopefully be in my life.”
The Dolphins obviously made the decision in August that losing their starting quarterback was no reason to give up on the season.
The Jets made the decision way before that, in the spring, that not having a starting caliber quarterback was good enough reason to disassemble the roster and play for the pole position in the 2018 draft.
If the Jets had thought more like the Dolphins, they might be starting Jay Cutler at quarterback on Sunday -- against the Dolphins.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero