The quick answer, Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler. I guess you can say that Cutler had a rough season, comparable to Matt Schaub’s final year with the Houston Texans a couple years ago. To Cutler’s credit, he didn’t throw an abundance of pick-sixes that Schaub did on his way out of town. Rivers continues to play banged up every season, but that is a terrible excuse for tying with Cutler by throwing a 2014 league-high, 18 interceptions. Oh, and you may recall, these guys used to be division rivals that trash talked each other every season, especially on game days.
San Diego was coming off a postseason appearance entering the season, and they failed to stamp their ticket to the dance by falling apart at the end of the season. The Bolts actually controlled their own destiny in that scenario. My fingers keep pointing at the front office’s refusal to make the offensive line a priority each offseason. Re-signing King Dunlap, a solid veteran, may very well be a positive move to keep Rivers’ blindside as clean as possible. Then again, who really knows? It’s not like Dunlap performed at a high level. He struggled at times, like he did, previously with the Eagles. SD has time to be patient with D.J. Fluker on the other bookend, coming off of his rookie year. Drafting Chris Watt in the third round last year, although he may develop into a reliable starter, the line has been the weakest link on offense in recent seasons. Plus, Nick Hardwick and Jeromey Clary have retired from the game.
That doesn’t necessarily excuse Rivers from just tossing the ball up for grabs. He has a solid core of targets with future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, up and coming receiver Keenan Allen, and veteran receiver Malcom Floyd. Too often, Rivers gets frustrated and starts chucking the ball up, as if not having enough time throughout a game gives him that leeway to do so. Well, it doesn’t, and he’ll be one of the first players to admit it, which is what a leader does. Yes, he has been an elite QB in this league, and he still is. That is the reason I keep harping on the Chargers to draft multiple linemen in the first few rounds of each draft, or at least attempt to reel in a standout veteran to come play near the beach.
Cutler had a better line in front of him with an all-world running back in Matt Forte. He also has star wide out, Brandon Marshall, paired with promising wide out, Alshon Jeffery. Martellus Bennett looks to have found a home in Chicago too. Perhaps, John Fox and Adam Gase, their success with the Broncos can rub off on the Bears’ offense. Chicago definitely needs to improve on the other side of the ball, and the special teams were the worst it has been, since the last decade or so. Cutler’s mental woes and leadership concerns have been a reoccurring theme for the promising quarterback. You can tell by his body language when he’s disengaged, for whatever the reason, that is unacceptable in the NFL. He’s shown some flashes of dominance when he gets into the zone, but that has been too few and far between.
There’s no doubt that when a promising quarterback gets comfortable with his responsibility, in the right environment, and clicking with his supporting cast, that their team has a real chance to re-enter the playoff picture. Chicago and San Diego fans have that real hope every season, but these guys need to help themselves, first and foremost. Rivers is beginning to realize how important it is to dump the ball off to his running backs, now he has to take the short throws rather than hold onto the ball, especially without a strong line giving him that type of time. Cutler leans on Forte’s receiving ability every week, which he should, I just hope he uses his heady ability to scramble more than trying to squeeze every pass into a tight window. Rivers has shown the ability to lead a team with his arm, and that includes roller coaster seasons that he sneaks them into the playoffs. Cutler might very well need the Tony Romo treatment, where the Dallas Cowboys minimized his throws and stayed with a grounded formula to reach the postseason in 2014. Why not feature Forte and give Cutler more play-action passes and less pressure, unless they were to fall behind, but he is capable of coming back and posting a big stat line like Romo can.