ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—The laziest scriptwriter could’ve laid this out for the Dolphins the moment Jay Cutler arrived. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and it’ll all end in crushing disappointment.
That’s how it always ends with him.
The Broncos and Bears know it, and now Miami’s had a turn. Cutler wasn’t the only problem in this afternoon’s 24-16 loss to the Bills, but he was a total mess as the Dolphins’ already tenuous playoff hopes crumbled at New Era Field.
He opened the second half with an interception. He threw another one in Buffalo territory on the next drive. He also, fittingly, ended the game with one when the Dolphins (6-8) astoundingly gave themselves a chance to tie it in the final minute after their punter recovered an onside kick.
Cutler also fumbled four times, though he was courteous enough to recover each of those himself. When pressed, he admitted there was one play where he had trouble gripping the ball in the 25-degree winter weather.
Even Adam Gase, who has bowed up against Cutler criticism throughout the season, had a hard time defending this one.
“I have to go back and look at what was going on with that,” he said when asked about Cutler’s inaccuracy on a 28-for-49 day. “There was a couple of them where I thought we had some chances (if) he threw a good ball. I felt like we were on the same page. We just didn’t hit them.”
Coming off his most impressive performance of the season, Cutler could barely do anything right against Buffalo (8-6).
The one thing he deserves credit for is being accountable for those miscues. For Cutler’s part, he hasn’t passed the blame whatsoever during his maddening, one-and-done season as Dolphins quarterback.
“I’m not going to make excuses for the way I’ve played or the three turnovers,” he said. “I’m responsible for all three of them no matter what the situation was. I mean, we’ve talked about inconsistencies all year.”
All career, really. The turbulence South Florida endured over the last six days is nothing new to previous fanbases that placed their hopes in Smokin’ Jay.
There’s been precisely two wins this season when it felt like the Dolphins couldn’t have done it without Cutler and those were the rally in Atlanta and Monday night against New England. He was dynamite, thoroughly outgunning Tom Brady, and got everyone’s hopes up before knocking them down again Sunday.
In that respect, he fits into the franchise’s recent history quite well.
The Dolphins have done it this exact way three times now. They put themselves in the postseason mix with a big win over the Patriots late in 2013, then got shutout 19-0 at Buffalo. Same dance at the beginning of the next season, when they whipped everyone into a frenzy with a season-opening win against New England, they fell on their faces 29-10 in this stadium.
This season, Cutler started with a nice game to beat the Chargers, then went an entire month before summoning one half of viable quarterback play in the comeback at Atlanta. That was the start of a strong three-week stretch, followed immediately by a three-game nosedive.
Cutler was never going to be the hero Miami needed when it lost Ryan Tannehill for the season in training camp. He was the most sensible choice among available free agents, firstly because of his compatibility with Gase and his offensive system, but expecting him to be any different than he’s been throughout his 11 years in the league was illogical.
He was such a wreck in his final season with the Bears that nobody wanted him when he tested the market early this year. His flight to New York was cancelled, and the Jets curiously never made the effort to reschedule. They were happy to take Josh McCown instead, and he’s been significantly better.
The loss Buffalo drops Cutler’s record as a starter to 74-77 and it makes this 11 out of 12 years that he won’t see the playoffs.
The last two games are a formality as he prepares to call it a season, and probably a career. There have been some good moments, but just as many exasperating ones. His infamous stance at wide receiver in the Wildcat qualifies as both, perhaps.
But the end is a relief. This hasn’t been a fun ride for Dolphins fans and it’s hard to believe it’s been fun for Cutler, either, but he’d never say that.
“I think anybody that loses games gets frustrated,” he said. “I think it’s hard not to say that.
“I love playing with these guys. We have a great coaching staff. We have a lot of talent here, and it makes it fun to go to work. Even though we lost, the guys were out there fighting to the last play.”
Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook