Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels

The Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels saga has been brewing, and I have been trying to avoid making any public statements one way or the other, but I think it’s time to discuss this situation.

Yes, I was shocked when Mike Shanahan was fired. Not just shocked. I was depressed. When Denver lost at Carolina, then at home to Buffalo (thereby giving San Diego the opportunity to play for the AFC West title at San Diego in the final week of the season), I knew it was over for the Broncos season and playoff hopes. The loss to Buffalo was demoralizing. Our defense was non-existent.

Did I think Shanahan would get fired? No. Last year, Bowlen said that “Mike can coach here for as long as he wants.” Bowlen is a classy, first rate owner, and Shanahan an amazing first rate coach. After 14 years in Denver and a $14 million dollar mansion that Shanahan built, no one thought it’d happen.

Bowlen interviewed plenty of prospects. Garrett from Dallas, Raheem Brock, a few others and Josh McDaniels. Of all of them, I preferred Josh McDaniels. He was an unbelieveble record setting offensive coordinator, who has worked on the defensive side as well. Plus, he came from New England, and they know how to win.

None of Bill Billicheck’s coordinators ever made great head coaches, but of all the interviewees, he was by far the most impressive. We’ve seen Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weiss, Eric Mangini and a host of others all fail and not really do much. But press conference after press conference, McDaniels was extremely impressive.

I watched every interview and every press conference that McDaniels gave to the Denver media and I was extremely impressed. At age 32, he is mature and knows his football. He reminded everyone of a young Shanahan when he was hired. Shanahan was also in his 30s when Bowlen named him head of football operations.

Shanahan’s job was simple. Take a group of future Hall of Famers in Elway, Terrel Davis, Shanon Sharpe, Rod Smith, McCaffery, Gary Zimmerman and a host of others and take them to the next level. Over the hump. After installing his QB friendly West Coast Offense, and a bit of luck in finding Terrel Davis, and the new zone-blocking scheme… they one the first super bowl against Favre and the heavily favored Packers. The following year they nearly went undefeated, rushed for 2008 yards by Davis and 2476 total yards including playoffs and Super Bowl for their second title in a row.

Elway decided to retire. If he would have stayed, even in just a leadership capacity, even if he got injured in game 1, just on the roster and on the sideline, they would have probably won three in a row, something no team has ever done. That didn’t happen.

Shanahan alienated the locker room by naming Griese the starting QB, when Bubby Brister had already filled in for Elway the year before and was 4-0 as a starter.

The Broncos and Shanahan spent the next 8-10 years trying to find another franchise quarterback.

In 2006, Shanahan drafted Jay Cutler, who took over from Jake Plummer. In 2005, the Broncos hosted the AFC Championship game with Plummer at the helm. But he blew the game reverting to the old Plummer and throwing interception after interception. Although, prior to that game he had a long streak of not throwing interceptions. Shanahan adopted to Plummer’s strengths and got him under control.

In the 2006 pre-season, we all watched Cutler in amazement. He played at Vanderbilt. Every single week was a struggle to win (just like the NFL). He was named the SEC offensive player of year multiple years and played against tough SEC opponents.

Cutler wowed everyone with his arm strength and ability to make every single throw (and then some). In college, he threw a legendary pass to Earl Bennett 84 yards in the air from Cutler’s hand to Bennett’s. In the air! Not after the catch.

Everyone knew it wasn’t long before people in Denver would be clamoring to see him play. The Broncos started 2006 7-1 with a defense that hadn’t allowed a TD in all of those games. They were winning. Then came a slump. A four game losing streak, which sent Plummer to the bench.

In his first game against Seattle, Cutler was awkward, but Marshall made some amazing after the catch TD runs. Denver lost. Cutler continued to improve. Then he threw the 67 yard bomb to Javon Walker with such zip, that many people said they have never seen a ball travel 67 yards faster than that one.

His legend grew and Plummer was eventually let go. In 2007, he played well and got better at the West Coast Offense. It;s usually in year 3 that most QBs get it. The defense was awful, and Denver ended up 7-9.

In 2008, Cutler was lights out. The first three games they came out blazing scoring 38+ points in each game. People began comparing them to the 2007 Patriots (Josh McDaniels record setting offense), but the defense was awful, giving up nearly 38 points each game as well. Especially to San Diego (the fumble) and to New Orleans (the missed Gramatica field goal). You could argue they should have never won those games.

They collapsed towards the end, while the 4-8 San Diego Chargers went on to beat Denver for the AFC West title. Shanahan gets fired, and we are looking for a new head coach.

Cutler is asked questions by the media and he states it’s a mistake that Shanahan was fired and perhaps his opinion should have been sought prior to firing the head coach. A little weird, but Cutler has always been brutally honest and always says what’s on his mind, to his own detriment.

Josh McDaniels is hired. Everyone applauds this hire. The best candidate out there. You could also argue that this was similar to when Shanahan was hired. A great quarterback, great receivers, need some help at the RB position, but the offense was set. Similar to what Shanahan inherited. The offense didn’t need tweaking. The defense however, was the worst in nearly every category and had an awful 2 year run.

McDaniels hires Mike Nolan (a 3-4 guy) to fix the defense, and everything looks like it’s working out. Denver fans are happy, the owner is happy. Everyone is looking forward to the playoffs in 2009.

Problems start
Rumors start floating around that Denver is trying to trade Cutler. Cutler hears of this through the media and makes some ill advised comments about “I play for my team mates, not the coaches. But hey, if they trade me, they trade me.” He has always been brutally honest and sounds shocked. It also seems that his ego is bruised. Rightfully so. He just had a pro bowl season, broke every one of Elway’s and Plummer’s single season, single game records, and now tehy want to trade him? Didn’t make any sense. Cutler was probably under the impression that he is safe, and the new regime would work on fixing the defense.

Did Denver actively try to get Matt Cassell, or did they just listen to various offers for Cutler? As a team leader, your job is to improve your team, and you should listen to all offers. Whether Josh just listened to offers or was actively pursuing Cassell is unclear. But it doesn’t matter. Everyone can understand that the relationship between an offensive coordinator and his quarterback is special and since the McDaniels offense is different, you could understand why he wanted his guy. Does McDaniels have to clear everything through Jay? No, of course not. He is the coach, not Jay.

Bus Cook, Jay’s agent (famous for the McNair and Favre off-season fiascoes), decides to stir the water. He and Jay announce that Jay wants to be traded. Josh McDaniels asks to meet with Jay. And finally, when Jay has time, he goes to meet Josh. Josh reiterates that he will do whatever it takes to improve this team, yada, yada, yada… and Jay and Bus decide that tehy don’t appreciate these comments.

It’s unclear if Bus was using this situation and applying bluff pressure on Denver trying to get the Broncos to re-sign Jay for an extension and a bigger contract. After all Jay will make $1 million this year. And the new backup they signed Simms will make $3 million. Jay and Bus put up Jay’s properties for sale, to show that they are serious.

Josh goes to the owner’s meeting and tries to fix the situation and says that Jay is our quarterback and they want him. Interview after interview, he wants Jay and wants to meet with him and iron things out. They tell teams to stop calling them about a trade.

For ten days, there is quiet and the story fizzles out and dies. Everyone thinks that Jay and Josh must have resolved their issues.

Suddenly late night March 31st, owner Pat Bowlen announces that they have been trying to get a hold of Jay for the past 10 days, and Jay has been ignoring Bowlen and McDaniels and that he is going to trade him. A local radio host in Denver talks to Jay, and Jay says he is “puzzled” by the situation. Bus Cook and Jay Cutler later release a statement stating that they have no comment at this time.

Are they truly shocked? Who is lying? The story doesn’t add up.

Josh and Pat say that they contacted Cook and made an appointment for Jay to speak with Bowlen, and Jay never called. Could it be that Cook never told Jay? Jay says he never got any calls. The Broncos say they have phone records that show they tried calling many times. Is Bus Cook screwing Jay over trying to land a payday?

It’s hard to know who to believe. I think Bowlen saw what Cook was capable of last year with Favre and the year before with McNair, and didn’t want a media circus in Denver. If Cook was bluffing about the trade to try and get a bigger contract for Jay, Bowlen called his bluff. Maybe that’s why Jay is puzzled. Cook was probably reassuring him that they’d resign him to a bigger contract and it would all end.

Jay has always said he’d be at the voluntary workouts in April. In fact, Jay said he already had his car and belongings shipped to Denver. Is this true? Or damage control? Bus probably doesn’t want Jay to look bad and try and raise his price and market value by saying that he was already making plans to go back to Denver, and this was Denver being mean to his QB. Did Bus sign any QBs from this draft class? No. Does he need media attention? Is he posturing to get some of next year’s QBs? Who knows. At the expense of Jay Cutler’s career? Wow.

If Jay is sent to Detroit, his career is likely over. Does anyone ever remember any Detroit QBs?

Or, he may turn the franchise around forever. A first round QB will cost Detroit about 30 million guaranteed, while Cutler has 3 years on his contract and is only making 1 million this year, he is proven, has 3 years under his belt. He could probably deliver 8 wins on his own. That’s basically what he did in Denver. When Denver’s defense held opponents under 21 points, Cutler was 13-1. Overall he is 17-20, and in 2008, his best year, he was 8-8.

Cutler is obviously a very gifted, strong, talented quarterback. He has the “it” factor, he has what it takes to win in the NFL. He can produce tons of yards and TDs. He is an instant upgrade to almost every team in the NFL except Manning’s Colts and Brady’s Patriots.

The only knock on Cutler has been his attitude and demeanor in press conferences and when things aren’t going well. At the post-game press conferences he is always pouting, looking up, doesn’t want to be there, chewing gum, and an overall ass. But we can live with that if he produces on the field.

Is he a cry baby? He is 25 years old. Had the year of his life. And they wanted to trade him for a one year wonder who hasn’t played since high school. He has a right to be upset. Be he should have shut up, and let this whole thing play out first. His job is to play for the coaches, not have the coaches run every move by him. What should Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell and other QBs be doing now that Cutler is rumored to be going to their city? Should they be crying? Should they be sensitive? No. This time of year, lots of rumor fly around. Just shut up, show up, and play ball.

The only scenario really that keeps Cutler in Denver is if he decides that Bus Cook is toxic and decides to fire him as his agent. If it’s true that Denver has been trying to reach him, and Cook has been blocking communication or not passing the word on to him, then Cook should go. But it’s hard to believe that in today’s internet and television world that Cutler didn’t know that his boss (owner Bowlen) who pays him, and coach were trying to reach him. Unless he was in Mexico on some long vacation and left his cell phone at home turned off in an attempt to clear his mind and lay low. But there are all these supposed text messages that have gone back and forth (unless that was alie too).

Is that plausible? It’s possible. But who knows what really happened. I have no reason to doubt Bowlen when he says he tried to communicate with Cutler and has not been able to. Although, he did say we were told by “his agent” that he no longer wants to play for Denver.

I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t answer phone calls from his boss or coach. It’s bizarre, and if it’s true…. he is really out of control.

Because the facts don’t really add up, there is probably more to the story that we may find out some day.

For now, it seems that Bus Cook has probably screwed up Cutler’s career for a while in an attempt to make some more money and bag some media attention and a few QBs from next year’s class. Denver fans love their QBs, especially ones like this. He had a good thing going. Unless he fires Cook and flies to Denver immediately to redeem himself, he is done. Bowlen is not going to deal with a media circus.