What If the Denver Broncos Never Traded Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall?

Rob GregoryCorrespondent IIMay 26, 2011

KANSAS CITY - SEPTEMBER 28:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Denver Broncos looks to Brandon Marshall #15 during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 28, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 33-19.  (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Jay Cutler was a petulant brat. Brandon Marshall wanted a long-term deal and was a complete mess off the field (and even on it if we consider practice fields and batted down passes).

Cutler had immense talent and potential (still does), but was always a questionable leader in Denver. He was certainly arrogant. Remember that quote about him having a “stronger arm than John (Elway)”?

Brandon Marshall had his own issues. Quite a few of them. On the field he was nimble, explosive and could best the top defenders in the league; off the field he was a complete mess, and apparently a Burger King wrapper could take him down.

Brandon took his Denver baggage with him to Miami, and I’m sure that team is questioning its decision following his latest issue and trip to the hospital. Getting out of Denver and starting fresh sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

And in spite of it all, I’m sure that a lot of Broncos fans would love to have a redo: What if the two were never traded from Denver in the first place? Throw in Peyton Hillis, and I think even more fans would agree that this was a Broncos team with a very bright future, and one that shouldn’t have been broken up.

After all, that was the Broncos team of the future.

Cutler and Marshall were one of the most dynamic passing/receiving duos in the league.

And even now, doesn’t it seem like players are out of place: Cutler in Chicago, Marshall in Miami, and Kyle Orton in Denver?

Cutler’s passes in Chicago have often been too tall for his smallish receivers. Chad Henne cannot get Marshall the ball in Miami with the same kind of zip, accuracy and regularity that Cutler could when both were in Denver.

Back then, the two players were young, immature, and extremely talented. Cutler was supposed to be the next great Broncos quarterback. Marshall could have been the best Broncos receiver ever (no offense to Rod Smith, an all-time great and an overall great individual).

Offensively, they could compete with the top teams in the league. Defensively, they just needed help.

The situation was clear-cut before Josh McDaniels arrived: Fix the defense, leave the offense alone (for the most part), and find a coach that can get the Broncos to a Super Bowl. Then everything changed. Team trumped individual players. The Broncos brought in Orton to manage games, to play smart. Demarius Thomas was drafted because he had great size, smarts and character.

Yet it’s just not as fun to watch these guys as it was to watch those guys.

Remember how Brandon Marshall used to almost single-handedly win games for the Broncos? He could catch a 10-yard pass, make three or four players miss and score a game-winning touchdown. No situation or defense was too daunting. Just ask the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. Marshall scored game-winning touchdowns against both those teams. Brandon Lloyd—for all his success last season—could never be the type of impact player that Marshall was in Denver.

Much ado about nothing? Sure, you can argue that this is all pointless fluff. The past is the past, and Broncos fans can look forward to a young, exciting defense, a Tim Tebow-led offense, and stability now that John Elway and John Fox have been brought in.

That’s the glass-half-full version.

The glass-half-empty version might stress that the Broncos will never be as explosive and exciting as they were then. They will never again have a quarterback who could throw a pass like Cutler, nor will they have a receiver that could terrorize a defense quite the same way that Marshall could, and conversely, Cutler and Marshall may never have the type of careers that we all thought they would have when they first started to show promise here in Denver.

It’s a lose-lose situation: Cutler thrived when passing to Marshall, Marshall made bigger and better plays when Cutler threw him the ball, and finally, Denver fans could have had a Super Bowl if a team would have been built around Cutler and Marshall.

And here’s the glass-half-confused version: We will never know what could have been, and we can’t say for sure if all teams involved truly benefited (long-term) from the changes, but it’s very hard not to wonder.