Events have taken a crazy turn in Denver this offseason. Few people thought that Mike Shanahan would be fired; yet that happened on Dec. 30, 2008.
Then, for his replacement, most people thought they would go for someone with a defensive background to fix a defense that was 30th in the NFL in points allowed and near the bottom of the league in almost every major defensive category.
Yet the Broncos went with 32-year old Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Despite not going for the defensive side of the ball in the head coaching search, it was going to be interesting to see what the offensive coordinator of one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL could do coming to a Denver offense that was third in passing yards in 2008 under Jay Cutler.
The Broncos figured to be able to build on their solid 2008 offensive showing.
Then the offseason really took a crazy turn. The Patriots figured to be in the market to trade Matt Cassel, seeing he was not only a franchised free agent, but the Patriots also have Tom Brady on schedule to come back healthy in 2009. Paying over $25 million to two quarterbacks seemed unrealistic. Cassel being traded was hardly a surprise.
The last team anyone expected to get into the sweepstakes was the Denver Broncos. They tried to engineer a three-way trade with Tampa Bay, where Cutler would go to Tampa Bay and Cassel to Denver, but that trade fell through.
When Matt Cassel eventually left for Kansas City, the fallout for Denver was a very upset Jay Cutler. He has been asking for a trade ever since.
It has really overshadowed all the free agents Denver has signed. Denver has signed 13 free agents this offseason, most notably S Brian Dawkins, CB Andre Goodman, RB LaMont Jordan, and WR Jabar Gaffney.
Had this Cutler mess not materialized, they would figure to be one of the big winners of the free-agency period.
Based on where things are right now, I blame GM Brian Xanders and head coach Josh McDaniels for this mess. While Cutler could be handling the situation better, and is not without blame, the fact is had they not shopped him they would not be in this spot.
An experienced GM and head coach would, 1) never have proposed to trade a franchise QB and not closed the deal; 2) never would have lied and told their quarterback that they had not initiated the trade discussions; and 3) would have patched this up by now instead of trying to repair it through text messages and media interviews.
These two have done their best to make a bad situation worse.
Yes, Cutler could be handling this with more maturity, but the whole situation screams amateur hour, and the combination of Xanders and McDaniels are largely responsible for how this situation has evolved from a small problem to one that has the franchise on the brink of turmoil.
Right now there is posturing on both sides. The Broncos have tried to reach Cutler by text messages, on conference calls, and any other form of communication to patch this mess up.
Cutler wants a trade and he hasn’t been doing a lot of mending fences. It appears to be a stalemate with no resolution in sight.
The reality of the situation is that Jay Cutler is under contract. In 2006, he signed a six-year deal worth $48 million. That deal does not expire until after the 2011 season.
If he sits out the season, the Broncos can fine him for missing training camp. Furthermore, Cutler would not be entitled to any of his salary if he sits out the season. He would also lose a year of NFL service. This just isn’t going to happen. If the Broncos wait this out he will be in training camp come July and they will have their quarterback.
What the Broncos have to decide is whether it is worth it to have a franchise quarterback that doesn’t want to be with the franchise. This has the makings of a locker room disaster.
Furthermore, if he has a bad year it is going to hurt his trade value. His value will never be higher than it is now, coming off a 2008 season where he posted 4,526 yards passing and 25 touchdown passes.
If they wait until after the draft, they aren’t going to be able to get much for him and Cutler knows that. That is why he is taking this aggressive stance right now.
Between now and the Draft he needs to do his best to convince Denver that they are better off without this headache. After the draft he has little to no chance of moving to another franchise.
There are a couple of things that need clarification on this issue. I have read both articles by analysts and comments by fans that say Jay Cutler is somehow not a proven NFL quarterback because he hasn’t won a playoff game. Here are three facts about Jay Cutler.
1) The only quarterbacks in NFL history that have had more than 4,526 yards passing in a single season are as follows: Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Daunte Culpepper, Dan Fouts, Rich Gannon, Trent Green, Neil Lomax, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Warren Moon, and Kurt Warner.
2) The only active quarterbacks with consecutive 20-touchdown pass seasons (Jay Cutler had 20 touchdown in 2007 and 25 in 2008) are as follows: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Marc Bulger, Kerry Collins, Jake Delhomme, Jeff Garcia, Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, and Kurt Warner.
3) The only active quarterbacks with a career quarterback rating higher than Jay Cutler’s 87.1 are as follows: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Daunte Culpepper, Jeff Garcia, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Chad Pennington, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, and Kurt Warner.
Jay Cutler has not established himself as a Hall of Fame quarterback. He hasn’t proven that he can be a winner in the postseason, but he has proven he can put up numbers in the NFL. He has proven he has a NFL arm and belongs in the league as a starter.
Not everyone on those three lists lists is going to be a Hall of Famer, but all the quarterbacks on those three lists have had numerous years of NFL success.
There isn’t a Ryan Leaf or a Joey Harrington in those lists that accomplished those things. Any team would be lucky to have someone of Jay Cutler’s talent on their roster to build a team around. At 25-years old, the sky is the limit for this guy.
Second, I keep reading that the guy has an ego and that this latest incident screams Jeff George behavior and that he would be a bad addition in terms of chemistry. There is a Sports Illustrated article I read by Peter King back in 1995 called, "Countdown." It was an article recapping a week he had spent with Brett Favre in Green Bay.
There is a part of that article that I never forgot. I think it sums up why every great quarterback has an ego.
“The fourth pass play that Holmgren discusses is called Red Right Slot A Right 322 Scat Y Stick. Red means that the basic Packer personnel group is on the field, with two backs, two wide receivers and a tight end. Right means that tight end Chmura is deployed to that side of the line.
"Slot means that Brooks lines up four yards outside the left tackle and a step back from the line. A means that halfback Edgar Bennett lines up to the left of the quarterback (B would have him right behind Favre; C would place him to the right). On this play, fullback Dorsey Levens is in the C spot.
The second Right means that Bennett will go in motion to that side. The designation 322 means that Favre will take a three-step drop, the left tackle and left guard will go one-on-one with their opponents, and no one will remain in the backfield to pick up a blitzer on the left side or help out if one of the defenders gets free to attack Favre.
"Scat means the fullback will be a receiver. Y Stick means the tight end runs a simple six-yard down-and-out.”
King goes on to say, “Next time you want to scream at your local quarterback keep in mind that there's a 40-second clock ticking, and that an offensive coordinator is barking into the quarterback's helmet speaker, and that the quarterback has to shout in the huddle to be heard above the crowd.
"Multiply Red Right Slot A Right 322 Scat Y Stick times 117—that's how many plays Favre and the offense need to memorize for Sunday.”
The mere fact that a person believes they can play NFL quarterback demonstrates that person has a massive ego. What it takes in terms of mental preparation and physical ability to play quarterback at a high level is something that only a handful of people are able to do.
For a person to think they have the capabilities to be one of those very few people immediately screams that they think pretty highly of themselves, probably higher than they should.
You don’t get to be a starting quarterback in the NFL without believing you are better than everyone else. That’s just the nature of the position. What NFL teams are looking for is someone that has an ego his teammates can respect.
They are looking for a person that has a work ethic to match the ego. When those other qualities are not present, you have a Jeff George problem. I don’t believe that is the case with Jay Cutler.
Jay Cutler did not have a negative history with his coaching staff when Mike Shanahan was there. He did not have a history of problems with his teammates. He did not have a history of being lazy. Therefore, I’m not that worried about him being upset that Denver attempted to trade him. That alone does not make him a head case.
People say Jay Cutler should get over Denver trying to trade him, because it’s just business. Jay Cutler wanting out of Denver is also part of the business. Denver signed a contract for him to play there just as much as he signed a contract to play there.
Him wanting out is not different from Denver wanting to trade him. Both are part of the business.
In fact, I would have questions about Cutler’s ability to be a star quarterback if he wasn’t upset about that. Him being complacent about this turn of events would tell me that he really doesn’t care how much the team values his performance from a respect standpoint, so long as the checks kept clearing.
To a certain extent, I can respect Cutler for that, even though I think he is letting his pride get in the way. This distraction really hasn’t helped him. Sure, he’s making Denver look bad, but he’s doing it at the expense of his own image.
I am not sure what he is doing is worth it, but only he and his agent can decide that.
Critics of Cutler say, “But he hasn’t won a playoff game?” Guess what, Neither has Tony Romo. The Cowboys released Terrell Owens to give Romo every opportunity to develop into the player they believe he can become. Carson Palmer also has never won a playoff game and is coming off injury.
The Bengals are making sure they keep him on the roster.
Marc Bulger has one playoff win in seven seasons with the Rams. So far the new Rams' coaching staff is staying committed to him. The Saints are staying committed to Drew Brees. He has one playoff win in eight years.
Cutler is hardly the only quarterback in the NFL with a poor postseason resume or, in his case, no postseason resume. Why are these other teams willing to stay committed to guys that have yet to prove themselves in the postseason? Because guys that can throw the ball effectively are few and far between.
This notion that Jay Cutler is somehow damaged goods, because he hasn’t won a playoff game in just two full years as a starter is ridiculous. He has the talent to be a playoff quarterback. He just hasn’t played on a team with a defense good enough to get him there.
At this point, I believe the Broncos best option is to trade Jay Cutler. When you think of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks you think of great head coach, quarterback relationships such as; Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy, John Elway and Mike Shanahan, and Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren.
Sure, Cutler can still put up good numbers next year, but the goal of every team should be to win the Super Bowl. The Broncos aren’t going to get anywhere if Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels cannot trust each other. If that’s the case, why keep him?
Whether you side with Cutler or the Broncos the fact is that they probably won’t be able to work together at the level necessary to achieve success in the postseason. Cutler’s value is as high as it will ever be right now.
The draft is coming up and they can get a first round pick for him. If they are going to move him, they will never get better value than right now. A great season won’t do that much to increase his value but a drama-filled season will significantly hurt his value. If they are going to move him, they have nothing to gain by waiting.
I would be ecstatic to get Jay Cutler if I were a NFL General Manager. He has arguably the strongest arm in the NFL and is just 25-years old. Yes, he has an ego and yes, he has done some things that suggest his attitude is immature.
Jay Cutler is also the type of player that could turn a pretender into a contender for the next five to 10 years. There aren’t many guys like that.
Here are the five teams that I think need to close this deal.
1) New York Jets—The Jets have gone through a lot of changes since the 2008 season. They hired Rex Ryan as their head coach, and added a lot of defense including ILB Bart Scott, CB Lito Shepherd, DE Marques Douglas, and S Jim Leonhard.
The problem is they have lost Brett Favre to retirement and Laveranues Coles to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller are fine pieces, but they cannot succeed with Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff at quarterback. Cutler immediately upgrades their offense and possibly turns them into a contender in the AFC East.
The Jets have expressed interest in acquiring Cutler, so it seems like a logical fit. The problem is the Jets don’t have a quarterback the Broncos would be interested in. What the Jets do have is the 17th pick in the draft.
They could work with Cleveland to send either Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn to Denver and send their first round pick to Cleveland.
The Broncos could also just take the Jets 17th pick and package it with their 12th pick to trade up and draft either Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez. That could also yield some additional third or fourth round picks for them to add more talent. Whatever it takes the Jets should try to make this happen.
2) Minnesota Vikings—The Vikings have seemingly everything. They have Adrian Peterson, one of the best young backs in the NFL. They have one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFL. Bernard Berrian is a good deep threat. Sidney Rice is an emerging receiver. The problem is they have no passing game.
They ranked just 25th in passing yards in 2008.
In the 2008 Wild Card Round, Tarvaris Jackson had 15 completions in 35 attempts for 164 yards, zero touchdowns, one pick, and a 45.4 QB rating. If they are going to contend with the other NFC playoff teams, they need a passing game.
Cutler gives them the one thing their team is missing. It could make them the favorite in the NFC to go to the Super Bowl.
The Vikings hold the 22nd pick in the draft. They also traded a fourth-round pick to the Texans before signing Sage Rosenfels to a two-year deal for $9 million dollars. The Broncos probably will not want Rosenfels and the 22nd pick in the draft.
If that is the case, the Vikings may also need to seek out Cleveland to be the third team in the trade. Short of giving away their entire draft, it would be worth it for Minnesota to bite the bullet and make this deal happen.
3) Detroit Lions—The Detroit Lions haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Bobby Layne and he played back in the 1950s. They need someone to build their franchise around.
With Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith in place, Cutler would have some weapons to work with. While he doesn’t make them a playoff team in 2009, he gives them a solid foundation to build on.
The good thing for the Lions is that they have two first round picks. Not only do they have the first pick, but they also have the 20th pick that they acquired from the Cowboys for Roy Williams. They could swap the first pick for Denver’s 12th pick and Cutler.
That would guarantee Denver gets their quarterback in the first round. They could also trade the 20th pick in the draft.
This could make a lot of sense, because the Lions are probably the one team that won’t need the Browns to get involved in the deal. They have the first round picks to make this happen. Getting Cutler would ensure they don’t finish 0-16 again in 2009. Getting Cutler would go a long way to making them a playoff contender again by 2010.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers—They were the team that was interested in the three-way trade when Matt Cassel would have gone to Denver and Cutler would have gone to Tampa Bay. This is another team that hasn’t had a franchise quarterback in a long time.
Brad Johnson is the best quarterback they have had in recent memory and his physical talents pale to the talents Cutler brings to the table. Luke McCown is their starter at this point, which is about as raw and unproven as it gets.
It isn’t a very good fit for Cutler, because there aren’t many good skill position players. While Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham, and Cadillac Williams give them good backs, their best receiver coming back is Antonio Bryant, who had a career year after uneventful stops in Dallas, Cleveland, and San Francisco.
Michael Clayton and Ike Hilliard are pretty average targets at this point in their careers.
Tampa Bay has the 19th selection. With Luke McCown as their best quarterback on the roster, they will also probably need Cleveland to get involved in the deal. It is a long shot, but in a division with Carolina and Atlanta at the front of the pack, they need to make this deal to keep pace in a very tough NFC South.
If they could add some more depth at skill position's, Cutler in a Tampa Bay uniform would be a scary thought for other teams. It could thrust Tampa Bay back to the front of the NFC South.
5) Buffalo Bills—This is a team that a lot of people haven’t talked about getting into the Jay Cutler mix, but I think it makes perfect sense. The Bills just signed Terrell Owens to a free agent deal. Trent Edwards has decent value at this point. Many people view him as a good upcoming quarterback.
However, he is hardly proven and doesn’t have the arm strength of Cutler. The biggest question on that offense is whether he has the ability to take it to the next level.
The Bills need to win now with T.O. and Lee Evans as the big downfield threats. Cutler would have the arm to run that vertical attack. The Bills could trade Edwards and the 11th pick in the draft to Denver for Cutler and Denver’s 48th pick.
This move could make them a major threat to counter the Patriots and Dolphins and reestablish themselves as a team to be feared in the AFC.
There are other teams that could get in the mix. The Chicago Bears could make sense as they could trade Kyle Orton and their 18th pick in the draft. The Eagles and Donovan McNabb seem to be a big question mark.
Does Denver put something together and make a deal? Gary Kubiak is a former Bronco coordinator and Cutler could make sense in Houston. Matt Schaub is still highly regarded; he just has injury issues. Cutler and Andre Johnson would sure look nice in the same uniform.
If Denver can get multiple teams into the bidding, they may be able to drive the price up. That’s why it makes sense to do this sooner rather than later. Rarely does a quarterback with the youth and track record of Cutler ever make it to the trading block. Teams will try to get into that sweepstakes and that will benefit the Broncos.
The longer they wait, the fewer teams there will be that want to get into the action.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the Ten Most Pivotal Moments in NFL history. Depending on what Jay Cutler goes on to become and what team gets him this has the makings of a very pivotal move.
This could be a move that shapes the 2009 NFL Draft and future seasons to come. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
What are your thoughts? Do you think Cutler is to blame for this mess, or do you think the Broncos dropped the ball?
Where would you like to see him go?
As always, I look forward to your comments.