You may not think of Jay Cutler vs. Philip Rivers as one of the NFL’s “historical” rivalries. A lot of people don’t, primarily because Jay Cutler played in Denver for all of three years before he requested a trade that would eventually send him to Chicago. But let’s go back in time a bit.
The year was 2007. Rivers is still a very young quarterback, coming off of his first successful NFL season. Jay Cutler at this point is practically a rookie, considering his first season was not a full season, only coming in to replace Jake Plummer as the starter.
Cutler and Rivers both play well, with Rivers having one of the best single seasons in Chargers history. But Cutler was doing well for himself, considering he was the first Broncos quarterback to throw a touchdown in his first seven starts.
Cutler was simply outmatched in 2007, losing 41-3 at home to probably the best Chargers team there ever was. But he had played very well that year, with many analysts believing that if he developed, he could be the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. They then got blasted by the Chargers on Christmas Eve by a score of 23-3, which resulted in this famous clip of Rivers and the Chargers defense trash talking Cutler.
The year is now 2008. There’s high expectations for the Broncos and Chargers, specifically high expectations for Cutler and Rivers. In Week 2, the Chargers and Broncos play in Denver in a huge early season tilt. The Broncos are down 38-31, with a drive that would pretty much end the game or send it into overtime. With the Broncos driving down the field, Cutler fumbles the ball on a botched pass. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Ed Hochuli calls it an incomplete pass and the Broncos are allowed to continue the drive. You can see that here.
The Broncos go on to win that game, and by November they are really rolling. The Broncos are 8-4 and rolling, while the Chargers are struggling at 4-8. The Chargers are basically facing elimination games every week at this point. How can the Chargers make the playoffs? Simple. Win all the rest of their remaining games, hope Denver loses their remaining games, and then beat them in the final game of the season.
And as many Chargers fans remember, that’s exactly what happened. Denver falls to 8-7, while the Chargers are at 7-8 , forcing a winner-takes-all game for the AFC West title. Following the blown call by Hochuli in a game the Chargers should’ve won, the Chargers decimate the Broncos in San Diego by a score of 52-21.
At this point, this rivalry is red-hot. Putting the fact that it’s the Broncos and Chargers to the side, there was the Hochuli call that cost the Chargers a game and the video of Rivers trash talking Cutler in the final game of the 2007 season. Then of course, there was the drama of the 2008 season with the Broncos blowing a four game lead in the division to the Chargers with four games left.
But then rumors start floating around that the Broncos are looking to deal Cutler. After hearing these rumors prior to the 2009 season, Cutler formally requests a trade. He is then dealt to the Chicago Bears, where he’s now spent the bulk of his career.
But I’m still left with the feeling that the rivalry between Rivers and Cutler could’ve been awesome. It was the first time we had a division rivalry in a while where the quarterbacks couldn’t stand one another, and both teams played into it.
Briefly retired Cutler and the Dolphins will visit the Chargers in Week 2 when the Bolts open their new Carson stadium. They may play every couple of years now when the divisions rotate in the schedule, but it’s a shame these guys didn’t play each other in the division for longer. It was still a great rivalry, but since it was so brief, not a lot of people remember it.