Rick Dennison has ties with Jay Cutler, and that connection could lead to a reuniting on the Buffalo Bills this upcoming season.
The Buffalo Bills let their fans breathe a little when they finally announced that they were hiring Rick Dennison as their offensive coordinator for the 2017 season. The staff put together by new head coach Sean McDermott is just about complete.
The Dennison hire has left some fans skeptical, and left others with a great sense of joy moving forward. It was a hire that added to the experience of the coordinators under McDermott, something that will be really good for McDermott in his first ever head coaching job in the NFL.
Dennison has worked for the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, and Baltimore Ravens, and also visited three Super Bowls as a player with the Broncos. His work with those three teams was all offensive, and in many different areas, but his main areas of work have been as the offensive coordinator of teams as well as being a quarterback coach.
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It seems like the biggest thing that Dennison will need is a quarterback, and fans immediately pointed to ties with Tyrod Taylor from back when Taylor played for the Ravens. Dennison was a quarterback coach for the Ravens when Taylor was a backup. That connection — although existent — is not something of major substance. Dennison saw Taylor in just one real game situation, and it was in a blowout game as he came in to relieve Joe Flacco.
The real connection that we should be talking about could be regarding Jay Cutler, not Taylor. While Dennison’s hire seemed to, at first, be indicative that Taylor could actually be welcomed back to Buffalo next year, it actually could point more to Cutler coming to Buffalo.
Jay Cutler has been pretty solid for the Chicago Bears in his time with the team, despite his general unenthusiastic approach to being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Cutler has thrown for over 30,000 yards, and took the Bears to the playoffs in 2010. While the Bears were a cusp playoff team in several seasons under Cutler, they were only ever able to push enough to actually make it into the postseason once in Cutler’s career so far.
Cutler is coming off of an injury, and the talk of the town around him has been less than exciting. Plenty of Bears fans are anticipating that the team will cut ties with him this offseason via a trade, and with his ties to Dennison, and the Bills probable need for a solid starting quarterback, the Bills could be just the landing location for Cutler.
Dennison was the offensive coordinator of the Broncos when Cutler played there from 2006 to 2008. Cutler played just 5 games in 2006, and quickly grew into a decent starting quarterback over the next two seasons, having a great year in 2008. His 25 touchdowns thrown in that season are the third most in his career, and his 4,500+ yards thrown was his all-time best. His QBR was also at an all-time high in 2008. Although Cutler made his claim to fame in Chicago, he had the year that made him a coveted trade piece under Dennison in Denver.
We’ve seen Dennison get a lot out of his guys before as well, especially in the quarterback position. Joe Flacco’s nearly 4,000 yards in 2014 is his second-best in his career under Dennison. Matt Schaub had a season in Houston where he also threw for over 4,000 yards under Dennison.
While it’s likely that he would be able to elicit that high-level play from whatever quarterback the Bills end up going with for next season, there’s something about familiarity that sticks and heightens level of play for players. Although it’s been quite some time since Dennison and Cutler worked together, having that coach by you that worked with you closely as you bursted onto the scene in the NFL would be helpful, to say the very least.
Cutler is no franchise quarterback at this point in his career, and probably wouldn’t be a great long-term option. Still, you know what you’re getting with him under center, and it’s fairly good.
If the Bills could go out and get him, and then draft a, say, DeShaun Watson underneath Cutler, developing him as a second-string for a few years, the Bills could have success in the short term, while also having a youthful arm to bring up behind Cutler when his time with the Bills is done. All the while, that young QB would be working with Dennison, getting familiar with him and how he runs things.
Lots of the coaches that McDermott has hired or interviewed so far have had some connection to him in the past, so it wouldn’t be a shocker to see the team value familiarity in whatever quarterback they seek as well. After all, it may just be the biggest decision of the offseason for them.