But what no one expected was the interest shown by the Denver Broncos. Recently anointed head coach, Josh McDaniels, tried his very best to pry away Cassel from the Patriots' hands.
As it turned out, a gentlemen’s agreement was already in place between ex-Patriots personnel man and current Chiefs’ general manager, Scott Pioli and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
For the Broncos to offer a first-round draft pick in return for the services of Cassel, one of two scenarios were playing themselves out:
1. McDaniels already knew first-hand what he would be getting in Cassel since he did coach him in New England.
2. McDaniels was trying to erase the fingerprints of the tenure of his predecessor, Mike Shanahan, who had previously selected the current Denver starter, Jay Cutler, from the 2006 draft.
McDaniels comes from Bill Belichick's tough-minded cloth of coaching. Belichick, historically, has searched high and low to assemble the right pieces to suit his “team-first” Patriot philosophy. However, if the player chosen does not fit the mold, he will shortly be given his walking papers.
For example, in 2002, a year removed from their first Super Bowl title in franchise history, Belichick had no second thoughts about trading the Patriots former No. 1 pick, Drew Bledsoe, to his division rival Buffalo Bills after Tom Brady secured his position as the No. 1 quarterback.
Though this decision did not sit well with the players, the media, or the fans, Belichick turned out to be a good judge of talent. He was well ahead of the curve in dealing Bledsoe at the peak of his value.
This philosophy was used again with the further dismissals of other Patriots: Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, and Bethel Johnson. All of these players thought they were worth more, but were all let go. Never again were they to experience the same success as they did with their former club.
It should be no surprise that the Belichick method would be instilled in McDaniels.
There will be a learning curve for Denver fans and Jay Cutler: the McDaniels way will be to try and revamp the team image by ridding itself of all of the mistakes from the previous management’s regime. A collection of bad drafting, bad free-agent signings, and the lack of quality coaches had eroded the luster of this organization by keeping this team stuck in “Park” the last few years.
Cutler, though blessed with a strong arm and a determination to defy all of his critics since being selected in the first round from Vanderbilt University, was also bestowed with the lofty expectations of being the next John Elway. Statistically, he has lived up to the billing, but to this date, the Broncos have yet to reach the playoffs during his tenure.
McDaniels knows quite well that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. If he wishes to have the Broncos run on all cylinders, he will need to find the right trigger man to run the offense.
He felt that right man was Cassel, not Cutler. Taking a page from the Patriot script, McDaniels saw Tom Brady, not as a strong-armed quarterback, but a smart player who knows when to make the correct adjustments.
Cutler has yet to master the art of adjusting and developed the ever-so-popular tunnel vision young quarterbacks often do in their early years. On numerous occasions during the 2008 season, Cutler forced passes into double coverage to his one and only reliable target, wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Meanwhile, Cassel, in his last three games with the Patriots (at Oakland, home to Arizona, and at Buffalo) completed 59.4 percent of his passing attempts for 641 yards, seven touchdowns, and one interception. This is what McDaniels wants in his quarterback, someone who will be efficient enough and will come up with the big play when the situation presents itself.
Cutler will have to come to grips with the fact that this is a new coaching regime and he will need to be a team player by grasping a new terminology and new concepts set forth by the coaching staff.
The olive branch was extended by McDaniels to Cutler during their conversation this week, but according to reports, Cutler was not too keen on what had transpired the previous weeks.
In order to become a team leader with the Broncos, Cutler will need to show up for the first organized conditioning practice on Monday to establish his turf. If he does not, there might be a new twist in the story with him, McDaniels, and the Broncos organization.