Favre is Munnerlyn’s favorite player, so when he compares Jay Cutler, the Vikings’ next opposing quarterback, to Favre, it is high praise.
“He’s got a little Brett Favre in him. They take a lot of risks, but at the same time those are great quarterbacks,” Munnerlyn said on Tuesday when talking about Cutler. “You look at Brett Favre, he’s a Hall of Famer. They also labeled him as a gunslinger that feels like he can fit the ball through any window. He takes some risks, but at the same time you can live and die by that. I think their team does that.”
Cutler has only played two games this year because of a sprained thumb that has kept him out of action for the last five weeks. The question with Cutler has never about talent, but rather his desire and his decision-making. The question on Favre was never about talent or desire, but rather about taking too many risks.
However, last year may have been Cutler’s best. His career-high passer rating of 92.3 says it was his best, as he threw 21 touchdowns and limited his interceptions to 11, the lowest of his career when he has started more than 10 games in a season.
“He definitely can make every throw on the field. He can fit the ball in very tight windows so when they got him back I was like, ‘Man, we’ve definitely got to be on our game,’” Munnerlyn said. “They also have good-quality quarterbacks, but Cutler, he’s a guy to me that played elite last year. You look at his stats last year and what he did, he played at a very high level. We’ve definitely got to do a good job in the back end covering the guys up and making plays on the football.”
In his two starts this year, Cutler has one touchdown and two interceptions. He was also sacked eight times and has three fumbles. There is little doubt the Vikings’ high-pressure offense will look to pressure him, especially with him coming back from a five-week absence induced by a sprained thumb and high-level play from Brian Hoyer.
But even Hoyer – who had six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 98 passer rating before breaking his arm, along with four straight 300-yard games – wasn’t sharp when pressured. He was bottom five in the NFL when blitzed – completing 47.7 percent of his passes vs. the blitz, according to Real Football Networks, and 71.6 percent when he wasn’t blitzed.
But now that Hoyer is out with a broken arm and Matt Barkley didn’t fare well in replacing Hoyer (no touchdowns and two interceptions in 15 attempts), Cutler is back as the starter and hoping to rekindle some of the things that made him more effective in 2015.
“Last year he just took a step forward and he played at a very high level. Injuries kind of slowed him down this year, but at the same time, last year he definitely played at a very high level,” Munnerlyn said. “I don’t know what his touchdown-interception ratio was, but it was pretty good and he took care of the football. He’s a gunslinger, man. He can throw the ball all over the field. He feels like he can make every single throw and he’s a very, very competitive guy.”
Munnerlyn was called out in his first season in Mike Zimmer’s defense (2014) for taking too many risks and being out of position. While he has corrected and conformed to Zimmer’s system since, he can still appreciate a risk-taker like Cutler, even if Cutler seemed to eliminate some of his bad habits under his offensive coordinator last year, Adam Gase, who is now the head coach in Miami.
“I take risks and I take chances and that’s something that the quarterbacks do when you label them as gunslingers,” Munnerlyn said. “Brett Favre, he’s a tremendous player, a Hall of Famer. If I was a quarterback and they said I had a little Brett Favre in me, I’d say, ‘Oh, shoot. I might have a chance to go to the Hall of Fame.’”