Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler may not be close friends anymore, but the former Bears wide receiver still respects his old teammate enough to make a bold statement regarding his upcoming season.
Appearing on First Take—bastion, or cesspool, of sports hot takes—Tuesday morning, Marshall dropped a bomb on Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman: Cutler could very well be this season’s NFL MVP.
Listen below, starting at about the 7:55 mark, for the video evidence:
Granted, this prediction does come with some conditions for Marshall. For one, Alshon Jeffery has to remain healthy for a whole season, which, as far as his per game averages suggest, would mean big numbers for him and for Cutler.
Secondly, Kevin White, whom the Bears have high hopes for and who has so far played well in his first training camp, needs to have an impact.
In particular, Marshall mused that 55 catches or more for White in his first year are needed, along with Jeffery’s production, to help vault Cutler into that conversation. Given the rapport he appears to be developing with his quarterback, that benchmark seems reasonable should White stay on the field.
It must be pointed out that this statement by Marshall isn’t supported by Cutler’s career arc as it currently stands. To this point, the Bears signal caller has only topped the 4,000-yard mark in a season once—as a member of the Denver Broncos in 2008—and has yet to reach 30 touchdown passes in a season, with his high water mark being 28 in 2014.
But while the idea of him legitimately competing for an MVP might be far-fetched, it’s not ridiculous to think that Cutler could build on his successful campaign last year—in which he posted a career-high in passer rating with 92.3—and perhaps justify some of the wishful thinking that is inevitably attached to the 33-year-old quarterback and his abilities.
For one, a healthy Jeffery and a productive, available White should indeed mean a big year for Cutler. Jeffery, as mentioned before, has a proven track record of strong play when he is on the field, and White’s size, speed, and athleticism has been showing itself in routine dominations of Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter, for what that’s worth.
Also, Cutler’s football IQ and hard work in the offseason appear to be giving him a leg up as he transitions into the scheme being used by new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. As Marshall points out in the interview, Cutler is known for working with his receivers during the spring and summer months, often inviting them to his home in Nashville to run routes in preparation for the upcoming season.
So far, the 11th-year quarterback has looked comfortable throwing the ball in camp in both 7-on-7 drills and in full-team sessions, whether it’s connecting Jeffery, White, Zach Miller, or Jeremy Langford out of the backfield.
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He still can spin the ball and fit throws into tight windows before defenders can reach them, as I watched him do a few times at camp on completions to Langford and White when they were closely covered.
But if there’s any doubt as to his leadership abilities, Ka’Deem Carey did his best to dispel all that on Monday, calling Cutler the undisputed “captain of the offense” and playing up his quarterback’s detailed knowledge of where everyone is supposed to be and what their assignments are.
I have no intention on “going to Vegas” with the Cutler-for-MVP bet as Marshall advertised, but count me among the people that expects him to have a productive year if his supporting cast can remain healthy and his offensive line can keep him upright. After he just posted a career-high in passer rating with 92.3, it’s not unreasonable to think he can do it again in a similar offensive system to what he was in last year.
Who knows? If this team surprises everyone and make the playoffs this season, maybe the erstwhile Bears receiver could actually be proven right.