How many wins is Jay Cutler worth?
With expectations for this Bears' season at an all-time high for late July, at least in the last decade, that is a question that is central to a lot of what is being discussed. Bears fans are banking on 10 or more. Now that the offseason is winding to a close (Buffalo opened its training camp Saturday), we can get down to business on the field.
In the New York Times' Fifth Down Blog, Brian Burke tackled just that issue this morning. Seems like the New York Times likes covering Cutler and the Bears these days, probably a good indication of the national focus that is going to be on the team this season. Burke is a guest blogger there who has his own site, Advanced NFL Stats. Burke looks at how much better the Bears should be with Cutler as the trigger man compared to Kyle Orton. To do so, he focused on a statistic called Adjusted Yards Per Attempt. Basically, it's yards per attempt with a penalty for interceptions.
"YPA is a great stat in a lot of ways. It beats total passing yards because teams far behind in the second half can easily generate lots of total yardage in "trash time." But interceptions are a critical part of the equation, so I like Adjusted Yards Per Attempt (AdjYPA), which is YPA adjusted by a 45-yard penalty for each interception. A 45-yard adjustment is the accepted statistical equivalent for an interception. AdjYPA certainly doesn't factor in everything, but it encapsulates most of passing performance into one handy number."
Cutler's YPA was 7.3 last season, 10th in the league and a full yard better than the league average. Orton checked in at 6.39. To put Orton's number in perspective, Rex Grossman was at 6.65 during 2006 and prior to that the Bears had a string of quarterbacks averaging under 6.0. The last Bears' quarterback to average more than 7.0? Erik Kramer in 1998. Too bad he couldn't play the entire season.