But now that we are approaching the final Sunday of the 2008 regular season, the Broncos find themselves in dire straits needing a win against their division nemesis, the San Diego Chargers
When Cutler arrived in Denver back in 2006, he was brought in to be the teams future, but no one expected that his arrival to center stage would come so quickly. Not only did his time come soon, but it came with debate.
The team had just ushered in Jake Plummer (three years earlier), who many thought would be the heir apparent to John Elway. Plummer was brought in to lead this franchise to another championship, when Shanahan made the move to go with the future (Cutler).
At the time the Broncos were sitting at 7-4, in the midst of a battle for the AFC West division and poised to reach the post season for the 4th straight time. The change came as a surprise, but going with a rookie quarterback, the results of finishing 2-3 and missing the playoffs, were not so much a surprise. Now that the Plummer ERA was over the team and the city were ready for a new face to lead the way.
Since Cutler's auspicious beginning in 2006, this marriage has not quite lived up to what everyone in Denver had hoped or expected. Following 2006 when the team finished 9-7, losing 3 of 5 down the stretch (under Cutler) missing the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, things have not exactly looked up since.
Last season the team finished under 500 and missed the post season for a second consecutive season, bringing into question the decision to go with the rookie QB. No one could question Cutler's talents or ability with 29 touchdowns (in 21 games) and over 3,400-yards passing in his first full season, but could he lead this team and get them back into post season contention. His 14 interceptions and 11 fumbles (4 lost) last season might suggest otherwise.
When the 2008 season opened, following an impressive training camp Cutler looked strong and ready to turn things around and take this team far. After three games into season Cutler had passed for 914-yards, threw 8 touchdowns and taken the Broncos to a 3-0 start quieting all of his doubters and bringing a great sense of hope to the Mile High City.
That was 13 weeks ago and during the time since, everything that could go wrong seems to have done just that.
A week 4 debacle in Kansas City
with costly turnovers, including two critical interceptions by Cutler dropped the team to 3-1. The team would continue a downward spiral over the next four games losing three. In weeks 7 and 9, Cutler was the fall guy capping this slide, throwing 5 interceptions in the two losses.
A season that started with so much promise and had this team floating amongst the clouds, it has now painfully plummeted to earth. Unforced errors, bad decisions, and the inability to take care of the ball have overshadowed Cutler's 24 passing touchdowns this season and defined his play.
Despite over 4,000-yards passing this season, the only thing fans are going to look at are the costly errors and near misses that have left this team short and sitting in quite a pickle trying to hang onto its' playoff life.
Sure, fans could argue the defenses' role in this whole mess, they have not lived up to snuff either, but then they weren't a number one pick. Cutler does not deserve all the blame for the teams current strife, but when you are a number one pick and make bold statements about your arm strength, or even dare to draw comparison to a football Icon, you had better be ready to walk the talk.
We have all seen his talents which can not be denied, but this team needs more than a strong arm, they need a leader.
Cutler has not been one to shy away from controversy, cameras, or comparisons, but what he may be shying away from is the ability to lead. Over the past two weeks, while his play has spoken loudly, what we have yet to see from him is a fire on the field to lead this team.
There seems to be a lack of emotion or sense of urgency in his eyes. Maybe he's not a rah-rah guy, but something needs to change. After two losses Cutler and the Broncos will be heading into hostile territory this weekend where it will feel like them against the world.
There are no magic antidotes, but Cutler will need to some how spark some magic and fire into an offense that has scored just 33 points the last two weeks after averaging 38 in its' first three games. A victory for the Broncos would be a great sign for a change in direction; a winning record, a return trip back to the post season, a young team getting close to turning the corner.
A win on Sunday can bring redemption to a season that has suddenly faltered when it had so much possibility. After making the playoffs for three straight seasons under Plummer, falling to defeat at the hands of the Chargers would condemn the Broncos to an off season of second guessing, turmoil, and many tough decisions to be considered.
This brings us up to this moment, Christmas morning, with children laughing, playing, and smiling without a care in the world. Santa has brought to them all the dreams and happiness a child could ask for, but as a Bronco fan myself, will Santa deliver to one city, one franchise, and one player the moxy Cutler will need to win on Sunday against the Chargers?
By David G. Ortega