Jay Cutler was jettisoned to Chicago to play for the Bears not because he didn’t want to work in Denver any longer but because the Broncos — mainly new coach Josh McDaniels and owner Pat Bowlen — thought Cutler’s attitude was self absorbed and a threat to poison that delicate but critical winning element called team chemistry.
McDaniels might still be scratching his head that his former quarterback, whom many league experts label a franchise-caliber player, threw a tantrum that never stopped after rumors surfaced that the team was interested in the price tag on former Patriots’ and now Chiefs’ signal caller Matt Cassel.
That bit of window shopping left Cutler feeling betrayed. Only problem, this wasn’t a romantic relationship. It was business. Pro football is fun and games for fans but it’s also business to owners and coaches, the latter who need to win quickly and keep winning to retain their job and income. Coaches don’t take to ego massaging easily or willingly.
While the question can certainly be asked “why would the Broncos be interested in Cassel when they already had one of the bright young stars at the position” it is also immaterial because in the end, Cutler was still the team’s big man on campus.
The Broncos tried, although reportedly without much feeling, to repair the hole in Cutler’s heart, or ego, but principle had been violated obviously in Cutler’s mind so he and his agent (never on a team’s Christmas card list) Bus Cook created a storm to the point where it seemed a trade made sense. It didn’t from a talent standpoint but by the end the acrimony was so heated a move likely had to be consummated.
McDaniels may have thought back to his days and the mega-success the Patriots had under coach Bill Belichick. The Boss of those three Super Bowl triumphs is a no-nonsense, button-down, all-about-team-first, none-of-this-diva act from individuals type of man. He doesn’t tolerate individualism. He appreciates talent but the ego tripping is not just frowned upon it’s scorned.
Case in point — Randy Moss. Did you see shenanigans out of him after he arrived in Foxboro? He knew better. He knew his act of youth and indiscretion and Minnesota and Oakland would not fly with Belichick or that franchise culture. Terrell Owens would never be invited to Patriot Town.
“I would say that New England mindset certainly played a role after the (Cutler-McDaniels) relationship began to deteriorate” said Dave Krieger, a longtime columnist in Denver, now writing for the Denver Post. “From the outside it appeared that McDaniels was more intent on demonstrating his authority than ameliorating the situation. (Former head coach Mike) Shanahan would have sat down with Cutler and thrashed it out. Cutler would have participated because he trusted Shanahan.”
McDaniels knows that a team can’t have a player being a bigger voice than the team, than the coach so when Cutler’s disappointment and act couldn’t be reigned in, Bowlen wasn’t going to be embarrassed that his coach was being tested. The Broncos’ Money Man stepped in and allowed McDaniels and general manager Brian Xander to seek out a trade.
The question many fans wondered about was what if McDaniels had apologized to Cutler for talking to the Patriots about Cassel. Would falling on the sword have healed the rift or would it have cost a young coach credibility with the rest of his team?
“I think he would have lost credibility had he apologized for engaging in trade talks but not if he had apologized for mishandling the situation,” Krieger said. “Honesty goes a long way — the the general public and with football players too.”
Finding a hungry team in Chicago a deal was struck giving the Bears a late Christmas present, the one they had desired for years. The Broncos gave up something very valuable, a playmaking quarterback, but they did fetch quite a price for him too in a draft picks booty.
Cutler is not a cancer. He just reacted poorly. He and the Bears will be a strong match. The heat is on the Broncos. They are forced to prove they can draft astutely for this move to work out in their favor. If Cutler excels and wins big and the Broncos’ draft picks bust or are marginal producers at best this decision could haunt their franchise for years.
The 2009 draft is almost here. The Broncos get a No. 1 in 2010 too. Player evaluation. Character evaluation. Two classes the franchise must pass with A’s to avoid the media backlash it fears if Cutler goes on to star for the Bears and the Broncos offense proves inept or hardly explosive like when Cutler was driving.