Bob Silbernagel Column April 05, 2009

Cutler’s leaving won’t make things easier for McDaniels

For sale: Cheap. One Denver Broncos Jay Cutler jersey. I won’t be needing it now.

I guess I can place it in the closet next to the Jake Plummer jersey. And the Brian Griese jersey. And who was that Bubby guy?

Thank God Ol’ Number 7 is still valuable. Both as a jersey and a quarterback. Can Saint John come out of retirement?

I am not a sports columnist. I have not even played one on TV.

I know this much, however.

Many folks in Bronco Nation — including the thousands of rabid fans who reside in this part of Colorado — are saying “Good riddance, crybaby,” right now. But that could change faster than an opposing back running through Denver’s defensive line.

If the Chicago Bears should make the playoffs with Jay Cutler at the helm, and the Broncos have another mediocre season with Kyle Orton/Chris Simms/whoever in the quarterback spot, Bronco fans will be singing a different tune. It will involve demanding a platter for coach Josh McDaniels’ head.

Yes, Jay Cutler is immature and insecure.

“What? You mean I don’t have a permanent position with the Denver Broncos no matter what happens? How can that be? My feelings are hurt?”

But McJayGate began with the efforts of new coach McDaniels.

McDaniels, we now know, was chatting with his (former) young Pro Bowl quarterback, telling him how well they would work together, even as he was considering offers to trade
Cutler in a three-way deal that would have brought New England Patriots quarterback to Matt Cassel to Denver.

And, when Cutler learned of the possible trade through the news media, McDaniels at first claimed it was just something floated to him by other teams. Nothing he was really interested in, you know. But ya gotta listen to every offer. Football is a business, after all.

Then there was Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who spent weeks saying Cutler was his quarterback, before cutting him loose in a flash of temper almost equal to Cutler’s.

After a month of festering hard feelings and rumors of reconciliation between young coach and young quarterback, we learned last week that Cutler had been traded to the Bears. For Orton, who played well at times in the dismal Chicago offense, but also displayed regular flashes of horrific ineptitude. There is a first-round draft choice included for the Broncos this year, and another next year, and a third-rounder.

I don’t know if the situation could have been salvaged so that Cutler could ever effectively play for McDaniels. But he is a talented quarterback, who began to show signs of real leadership last year, not just a rifle arm and a pout.

Some coach will help him grow out of his immaturity and become a very good starting quarterback. If that doesn’t happen in Chicago, Cutler may end up with his former coach Mike Shannahan, once Shannahan returns to football.

Cutler may never prove to be of John Elway, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre caliber. But he is a cut above the average NFL journeyman play caller.

Meanwhile, back in Denver, McDaniels will now have to restructure the offense even as he tries to put together some semblance of a defense for the woefully porous Broncos.

That may be exactly what he wants — an offense with a quarterback who will follow the New England model, not be a flashy prima donna who sometimes does his own thing. But it won’t matter much if that quarterback can’t put more points on the board than the opposing teams.

Yes, pro football is a business, and anyone can be traded for the good of the team. Also, any coach can be fired. And, unfair though it may be, some get more time than others to show what they can do.

After his team won two Super Bowls, Broncos fans and Pat Bowlen gave coach Mike Shannahan an entire decade to demonstrate he could do it again. Many would have given him more time, even after last season.

McDaniels won’t have a decade. He’s a rookie head coach with no marquee quarterback, no big-name running back, a new offensive scheme and a still-questionable defense.

McDaniels deserves some time to show what he can do. But he should pay attention to what happens in Chicago this year. I guarantee the rest of us will be doing so.


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