Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Posts Tagged ‘Jay Cutler’

This is Getting Ridiculous!

Posted by mizzou1028 on June 16, 2009

Tell me this isn’t happening again.  Another soap opera at Broncos headquarters.  Once again a key player is at the center of it, a player who has loads of talent.  Heck, this player can certainly be described as a very unique talent.  The player in question is unhappy, and has reportedly demanded a trade.  Sound familiar?  This did not work out as the Broncos hoped with Jay Cutler.  How will it work with Brandon Marshall?  Unfortunately, the Broncos might be about to find out.  Mr. Marshall did not show for the team’s mandatory minicamp over the weekend.  

Marshall is unquestionably the Broncos top receiver.  He has caught 100 balls each of the past two seasons.  He has breakaway speed, and an ability to make plays after the catch.  He has certainly made a statement in Denver after being selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.  Marshall is due to make $1.2 million this season, which sounds good but ranks 58th among wide receivers in the league.  Marshall is also reportedly upset with the team’s medical staff for failing to accurately diagnose his hip injury last season.  Marshall had surgery on the hip in the offseason, but played through the injury in the second half of last season.  Our friend Adam Schefter, who will be joining ESPN in August, told us this afternoon on KOA that Marshall demanded a trade last weekend when he met with owner Pat Bowlen.  

Jay Cutler has already forced his way out of Denver with unruly behavior.  Does Marshall think he can do the same?  Or is Marshall merely posturing to try and get a contract extension?  Seems to me that Marshall is acting very entitled considering his off the field behavior the past few years.  Marshall is extremely lucky he wasn’t suspended by Roger Goodell again for the coming season, and it seems to me that he doesn’t have the leverage to try and argue for an extension.  From a football standpoint, Marshall was among the league leaders in dropped balls last season, which is of course not a good category to be atop the league in.  Either way, Marshall is evoking memories of the whiny Cutler by acting like a child.  At least Marshall had the courtesy to meet with Bowlen face to face unlike Cutler, but the actions are still the same.  Not showing up for a required team activity is a very selfish action no matter how you slice it.  This is particularly true when a new offense is being installed and most the personnel around you is also new.

The Broncos say they have no intention of trading Brandon Marshall.  Really there isn’t any reason for them to, especially considering they would be unlikely to get fair value in return for him.  The Broncos have already fined Marshall $35,000 for missing the three day minicamp, and they can continue that action if he holds out in training camp.  At some point they will also be able to recoup signing bonus money.  If the Broncos can’t get fair value for Marshall, and it says here they won’t, then they will hold on to him.  At some point, based on how these things have gone historically, Marshall will show up.  If he doesn’t, he could quickly find himself on the same path as the last Bronco wideout to hold out.  This guy was a first round pick who was also flashy at times, and is now with his third team since leaving Denver.  His name?  Ashley Lelie, who will forever be associated with mediocrity in Denver.

Note to Marshall: Don’t be like Ashley Lelie.  Let’s not have a repeat of the Jay Cutler fiasco.  If it is, we have further evidence of poor character being brought in by the previous regime.  Josh McDaniels and company might have more cleaning up to do in any case, so let’s hope they can salvage something for the on field product in the fall.

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Note to Broncos Fans: It’s Not As Bad As You Think

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 6, 2009

I am really getting tired of hearing all the whining from my fellow Broncos fans in the past few days.  Look, I wish the Jay Cutler saga had never happened same as you.  It is really unfortunate that the relationship between Cutler and Josh McDaniels deteriorated so severely that the team had no choice but to deal him.  Part of me does shudder at the thought of Kyle Orton running the Broncos offense.  I do wonder sometimes if it was really the best thing for the Broncos to fire Mike Shanahan in the first place, hire an offensive mind to replace him, and then unload the 25-year old franchise quarterback.  Despite all that, a little digging is all that needs to be done to see that things are not always as they seem.  In fact, the Broncos may just be a better football TEAM than they were last season.

It seems appropriate to start with Shanahan since it was really his firing that started this mess in the first place.  While I’m not sure firing him was the answer, it is easy to see why the Broncos did it.  Shanahan was amazingly successful in his first four years, compiling a 54-18 record in those four seasons, including two Super Bowl championships.  Of course Shanahan also had Pro Bowl talent at seemingly every position on offense (including John Elway, Terrell Davis, and Shannon Sharpe just to name a few players) and an excellent defense during those four years.  After Elway’s retirement, Shanahan won just ONE playoff game during a ten year period.  The Broncos actually in fact missed the playoffs during 6 of Shanahan’s final 10 seasons in Denver.  In each of the four years the Broncos did make the playoffs during that time, they got blasted out of the wild card round three times by an average of 25 points a game, and then lost at home to Pittsburgh by 17 points in the 2005 AFC title game.  Shanahan’s tenure also became littered with increasingly poor personnel moves, including Dale Carter, Ashley Lelie, Javon Walker and Travis Henry just to name a few.  Not only were the players Shanahan brought in largely unproductive, many of them were also thugs off the field.  It seemed as though the longer Shanahan’s playoff woes continued, the more desperate he got in terms of personnel.

After the AFC title game loss to Pittsburgh, it was clear that for whatever reason Shanahan decided he could not win a championship with Jake Plummer.  This despite the fact that it was Denver’s defense that couldn’t get the Steelers off the field on third down, and despite an offensive line that got whipped all day by the Steelers’ front seven.  Enter Jay Cutler.  Shanahan selected him with the 11th overall pick (after trading up to get him), so it was clear to everyone that he would be Denver’s starter eventually.  The next season the Broncos started 7-2, despite Shanahan really scaling back the playbook for Plummer and not giving him freedom to do much of anything.  In the 10th game, the Broncos held a 24-7 third quarter lead against San Diego only to see the Chargers roar back to win 35-27 in Denver.  If you connect the dots, it is easy to see that Plummer was not on defense allowing a career day to LaDainian Tomlinson.  Nevertheless, word leaked that Plummer was going to be benched, which he was after a loss in Kansas City.  Mind you, Plummer’s career record in Denver is 39-15, which is certainly not in any way bad.  Cutler started the final five games, going just 2-3, and the Broncos missed the playoffs.  

So why do I bring up all this?  Well for starters I believe Denver would have easily made the playoffs that year had Shanahan stuck with Plummer, but that’s not really the point.  The point is I believe the benching of Plummer in favor of Cutler at that time signaled the beginning of the end of Shanahan in Denver.  I believe Shanahan made that move knowing that there was little to no chance he would be fired.  He knew that even if Cutler tanked in those final five games, that he would still be safe for multiple seasons to come.  While Cutler actually fared well in those five games at times, the team ultimately missed the playoffs in part due to very poor red zone execution against a very poor San Francisco team in the season’s final game.  The next two seasons the Broncos went just 15-17.  The Jay Cutler-led Denver offense had the following doozies over those two seasons:

– A woeful 10 point performance in a 2007 home loss to Jacksonville in which the Broncos mustered less than 250 yards of total offense

– A 41-3 home loss to San Diego in week 5 of 2007

– A 44-7 loss at Detroit in 2007

– Another three point effort by the offense in a Monday night loss at San Diego in 2007

– A four turnover performance and 19-point showing in a loss at Kansas City this season, one of only two wins recorded by the Chiefs.  This against a Chiefs defense that routinely got lit up for 30, 40 (and sometimes 50!) points.  

– A 41-7 thrashing in New England on Monday night (not coinciedently, McDaniels coached against Cutler in that game, more on that in a moment)

– An absolutely pitiful 10 point performance at home against an awful Raiders team

– A three game collapse to cap 2008, in which the Broncos gave away the AFC west.  This was capped by an extremely embarrassing 52-21 defeat in San Diego.  

The point here is that Shanahan was fired largely because the Broncos had slipped into mediocrity.  The numbers even prove it, for the Broncos have gone just 24-24 over the past three seasons (17-20 since Plummer was benched for Cutler).  That is, the entire team slipped into mediocrity.  By the end of 2008 the defense had just two players who would be a guaranteed starter for most teams: Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams.  The offense certainly looked flashy, ranking second in the NFL in yards, but it ranked much, much lower than that in points (try 16th in the league).  Consider that the Broncos had 17 drives in the final two minutes of either half last season that resulted in a total of one field goal.  How about the constant failure to score touchdowns in the red zone?  Keeping in mind that the Broncos really did not have a running game due to all the injuries at running back last season, there were still too many drives that should have resulted in points and didn’t, or drives that should have netted seven points but only got three.  The point is that the Broncos’ offense really wasn’t as good as the numbers made it out to be.  They certainly got yards between the 20s, but didn’t score enough points to even rank in in the top half of the league, let alone the top five.  So really, Jay Cutler made the Pro Bowl for his performance between the 20s.  In fact, if the voting was conducted after the season instead of finishing in week 14, I’ll bet you a year’s worth of pizza that Philip Rivers, not Cutler, would have gotten the trip to Hawaii.  Couple this offensive inefficiency with a defense that couldn’t tackle anyone, and it resulted in Shanahan’s dismissal.  

Enter Josh McDaniels.  I mentioned the Broncos’ 41-7 loss in New England this past season.  It is fitting that the Broncos ended up giving their future coach a first hand demonstration of EVERYTHING that was wrong with the team.  The Patriots were coming off a 30-10 loss in San Diego, and really few people were taking them seriously at that point with Matt Cassel under center.  The Broncos were favored to win the game in large part because of Cutler and the offense.  The Broncos’ offense ended up committing five turnovers, including two interceptions thrown by Cutler.  Cutler had a very pedestrian effort in that game, throwing for just 168 yards.    The only touchdown the Broncos scored came in garbage time in the fourth quarter after it was 34-0.  Throw out the meaningless stats the Broncos accumulated inthe second half, and it might well have been Denver’s worst offensive performance of the entire Shanahan era.  The defense certainly had its faults in the game too, surrendering a staggering 257 yards on the ground (including a career high 138 by Sammy Morris (who hit the century mark by early in the second quarter) and another 65 to BenJarvus Green-Ellis (who I had never heard of until that game).  This is not to say that one game made the season or that McDaniels has based his dealings in Denver on what he saw that night, but it does show that the Broncos were flawed in multiple areas before McDaniels took over.  His job is to improve the team.   By any means necessary.

McDaniels has certainly gutted the defense and brought in new blood, and figures to add some more defensive presence in the draft.  The addition of Brian Dawkins alone will have a monster impact not only in the secondary but also in the locker room.  The addition of Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator I believe will make a bigger impact than most people realize.  Nolan’s no nonsense approach has proven successful in the past when he has been a coordinator.  McDaniels hasn’t touched the offensive line, which has two future perennial Pro Bowl tackles in Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, and came close to setting a record for fewest sacks allowed last season.  He’s not making many changes to the receiving core, save for adding Jabar Gaffney, whose presence will come in handy if Brandon Marshall misses a lot of time due to suspension.  He elected to retain running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive line coach Rick Dennison, which means the Broncos’ running game should be able to return to past success if they can keep a back healthy.  Overall the changes McDaniels have made are certainly sweeping, but it’s obvious that he’s been addressing areas of need.  

Which brings us back to Cutler.  Most Broncos fans hitting the panic button right now seem to be forgetting that one player, and specifically a quarterback, does not win games by himself, no matter how talented he is.  For example, I love Drew Brees, but how many games did the Saints win last year?  How about the Cowboys and Tony Romo?  How many playoff games has Cincinnati won with Carson Palmer under center?  Does any Broncos fan remember 1998, the year of the second Super Bowl victory?  Does any Broncos fan remember that John Elway missed four games that year due to injury, in addition to parts of three others?  Does any Denver fan remember the Broncos going 7-0 in those games thanks to the play of Bubby Brister?  

The point is that a good quarterback can help you win, but there are many different ways in which that can happen.  Jay Cutler is talented no question, and certainly the Broncos are losing a signal caller who talent wise is a top five QB.  Cutler’s leadership qualities however really have to be questioned.  Not just because of the past month, but because of what happened in the games I mentioned above and in other Denver losses.  How many great quarterbacks do you know who have a hard time keeping their composure?  Can you imagine Tom Brady throwing a hissy fit when a receiver drops a pass to the point where he’ll force a pass into triple coverage on the next play?  Can you imagine Peyton Manning crying like a baby because a touchdown got called back due to penalty?  Is it possible to imagine Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers ducking the media after every loss?  Can you imagine any of these great quarterbacks pouting every time they are criticized?  To the contrary, a great quarterback has the ability to remain in control at all times, to not be affected by adversity, to be able to tell his teammates that the job will get done no matter the situation.  A great quarterback is a true leader, someone who commands respect and exudes confidence in himself and his team.  Now I ask any of you: has Jay Cutler really shown any of these qualities at any point in his young career?  

Enter Kyle Orton.  Not I’m not saying that Orton will come to Denver and be the answer to all of Denver’s problems, but already the attitude is a vast improvement over Cutler’s.  Less than 24 hours after being dealt to the Broncos, Orton had lengthly phone conversations with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, and both receivers came away excited.  This is quite the contrast from Cutler ignoring his teammates’ calls for the past month in addition to those of the coaching staff and owner Pat Bowlen.  Orton has already dived into the offensive playbook, and is showing a willingness to work hard that frankly was hard to see in Cutler.  If Cutler really wanted to stay in Denver, don’t you think he would have shown that by at least studying the playbook?  So far, I detect from Kyle Orton a really positive vibe, and I think he is a quarterback his teammates will respect when they are 10 down in the fourth quarter.  Did you realize that Orton was on track for a Pro Bowl year last year before hurting his ankle midseason?  In 2005, the Bears won eight games in a row with Orton under center.  His career record is 21-12 as a starter.  Think about it.  Does that sound so bad?  

The Broncos are certainly going to have a different look this season no question.  Heck, the team is even busting out the really ugly 1960 brown and mustard throwback unis, vertical striped socks and all, for two games this season. I have a feeling though that Broncos fans will like what they see.  Keep in mind that McDaniels comes from an organization that has been the league standard for the past decade.  Keep in mind that Orton might just be a good fit in his system, or have you already forgotten that Matt Cassel came out of nowhere last year, or even that Brady was a complete no name until Drew Bledsoe’s injury?  Keep in mind that much of the other offensive talent is still in place, that the defense is well in the process of being retooled, and that quick turnarounds are indeed possible in the NFL.  I ask you: if the Broncos go 10-6 and are a wild card team, is that not an improvement?  What if they win a playoff game in year two, and maybe a Super Bowl in year four?  I’m not saying that’s necessarily how it’s going to go, but what if that’s how it does?

To those who want McDaniels fired: shut up.  The coach will not be fired before he coaches a game.  Let’s at least wait and see what happens when actual games are played before we get really stirred up about Cutler’s departure.  I think you might just find that you like these new look Broncos better.  Remember, it’s about winning games, not flashy stats and rocket arms.  

To those who cancel their season tickets and/or jump off the bandwagon: keep walking and don’t come back.  There is nothing I can’t stand more than a fan who bails on his team at the drop of a hat.  If you leave the team now, you shouldn’t be allowed to return when things are good again.  Being a fan is about staying with your team through thick and thin, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their direction.  Being a fan is easy when times are good, but the true fans are the ones who are still fans at times like this.  Just remember that things are not always as they seem, and the 2009 Denver Broncos are not as doomed as you think they are.

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Good Riddance Cutler!

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 3, 2009

The deal is done.  Jay Cutler is now a Chicago Bear, traded for two first round picks, a third round pick and Kyle Orton.  While a large part of me is still disappointed that the Broncos are trading away a 25 year old franchise quarterback with a rocket arm, the other, increasingly larger part is surprisingly ecstatic with the haul the Broncos have gotten in return for Cutler.  The two first round picks alone are a hefty price to pay, but throwing in a third, and an established starting QB (albeit one who is not a Pro Bowler and one who does not have the raw talent of Cutler) means the Broncos might have actually gotten away with highway robbery.  Consider that the Chiefs only surrendered a second round choice for Matt Cassel (and got Mike Vrabel in the deal as well) and it really seems the Broncos might have made out like bandits here.

I’ll admit it will take a lot of getting used to Kyle Orton perhaps now being my favorite team’s starting quarterback.  I’ll admit that I have not necessarily been Orton’s biggest fan, but then again I don’t get very many Bears games out here so I can really count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually watched him play with a close eye.  I was surprised to realize that he actually threw for over 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Bears last season.  This while he was playing behind a very mediocre offensive line and not having prime weapons to throw to.  I am optimistic then that he will greatly benefit playing behind the Broncos’ offensive line that gave up one of the lowest sack totals in the NFL last year.  He will also benefit from having Brandon Marshall (if he’s not suspended too long), Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler.  It also seems that Orton was actually what sold the deal for the Broncos, that Josh McDaniels really has wanted him since he decided to really try to trade Cutler.  I actually have confidence that Orton will be a good fit in McDaniels’ system because he is a guy that seems to be smart and able to make good decisions on the field.  Regardless, it should be an interesting battle between Orton and Chris Simms (and perhaps a rookie?) for the starting quarterback job.

The draft pick haul from the Bears will really allow the Broncos a lot of draft flexibility.  Denver now has two of the top 20 picks in the draft, which they can use to get some much needed defensive help, or perhaps they could hope that Mark Sanchez falls.  They also have an extra third round pick, which gives them the option of adding another player or packaging several picks if they are interested in moving up on the board.  The extra first round pick in 2010 is also a really nice bonus in this deal for the Broncos, since they will also have two first round picks in that draft.  The extra picks do in a way make this draft even more important for the Broncos, for they do need to get some young blood especially on defense.  If the Broncos can draft well this year and next, the deal for Cutler could end up looking very good indeed in a few years.

The Bears of course have to be ecstatic to get Cutler, for they really haven’t had a top tier quarterback since Jim McMahon, and you might even have to go back to the days of Sid Luckman.  I think it is fair to ask from a Chicago perspective if they paid too much though to get him.  Three high draft choices and a serviceable quarterback is a pretty high price to pay for a quarterback with a career record under .500 who has shown tendencies to fold under pressure both on and off the field.  Now Cutler obviously has more talent than Orton, I’m not about to try to dispute that.  From a pure talent standpoint Cutler is a clear top 10 QB and probably right on the border for top 5.  I was among those that was really upset that the Broncos were trying to deal him in the first place.  I think it is fair though to look at Cutler’s behavior since Mike Shanahan’s firing and wonder if he really has what it takes to lead an NFL team.  Cutler is clearly trying to save face by claiming that McDaniels and Pat Bowlen never tried to call him, and his comments to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazier that he never wanted to be traded really ring hallow.  Rumor has it (from someone who saw Cutler at the UFC fight in Nashville where he talked to Glazier) that Cutler is roughly 20 pounds overweight and may not have even been working out for several weeks.  If that is true, than it begs the question of Cutler’s true commitment to be successful.  

I think Cutler still has an opportunity to get things together, but it is not by any means a sure thing.  A new start could be good for him, and perhaps the change of scenery will give him perspective over the long haul.  Cutler grew up in rural Indiana rooting for the Bears, so he has to be happy with where he ended up from that standpoint.  It is conceivable that he figures things out and leads the Bears to numerous playoffs appearances and maybe even a Super Bowl or two.  It is also equally conceivable that he doesn’t figure it out, continues to post good numbers, but can’t quite figure out how to win games in the clutch or handle things when they start to go wrong.  I have a feeling that he might end up missing Ryan Clady and the rest of the Broncos O-line by November, and that he might find things more difficult without great receivers.  It in undeniable that many of Cutler’s turnovers last season came when he was getting frustrated and was trying to force things.  The fact that he only talked to the media after wins is another indicator of not handling pressure well.  The demanding Bears fans also won’t make things easy for him if he gets off to a slow start.  Cutler will have to ultimately prove he can handle pressure if he wants to truly be a great quarterback.

Time will tell who got the better of this deal, but I am actually pleased with Denver’s haul of three high draft picks and Orton.  Regardless, it will be either be Cutler or McDaniels who gets the last laugh in the end.  It’ll probably be at least two seasons and probably more before we know for sure, for it remains to be seen how the Broncos use the draft picks and whether they develop into great players.  It also remains to be seen whether Orton has success in Denver and whether Cutler gets things together in Chicago.  One thing I know for sure: I will be tuned in on Aug. 30.  That is a preseason game between the Bears and Broncos, at Invesco Field at Mile High to boot.  It is fitting that NBC had previously selected this preseason game for a national telecast, for it will undoubtedly be the most anticipated preseason game in Broncos history.  You don’t think Cutler will get booed by the Broncos faithful do you?  Let’s just say that seats behind the visiting sideline will likely fetch big bucks that night.

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Cutler Staying Was Wishful Thinking

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 1, 2009

I guess I should have known that the Broncos keeping Jay Cutler was wishful thinking.  

In some ways I can’t say I’m surprised.  I’ll admit I was hopeful that Jay Cutler would come to his senses and realize that he could still have a future in Denver, but it seems as though the relationship between him and Josh McDaniels is so tarnished that it really is beyond repair.  Tonight the Broncos issued the following statement:

STATEMENT FROM BRONCOS PRESIDENT & CEO PAT BOWLEN ON QB JAY CUTLER       

“Numerous attempts to contact Jay Cutler in the last 10 days, both by Head Coach Josh McDaniels and myself, have been unsuccessful.

A conversation with his agent earlier today clearly communicated and confirmed to us that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos.

We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded.

I’ll let the statement from owner Pat Bowlen speak for itself.  It seems as though the Broncos have tried mightily to reach Cutler, to try and talk to him, to attempt to reassure him.  It also seems that Cutler is so dead set in his position and his feelings are so hurt (justified or not) that he won’t return calls even from the team owner.  I’m sorry, but if your boss, or in this case your boss’ boss, tries to call you, you had darn well better answer that phone.   It is very clear that Cutler does not want to be in Denver, and it seems as though the Broncos are tired of trying to deal with him.

 Frankly, I still say wait until the first mandatory minicamp April 17-19, which is one week before the draft, and see if Cutler shows up for that.  Its entirely possible he could come to his senses by then, report, and be a professional like he’s supposed to be.  Or, he could show up, complain the entire time, not participate willingly, and in general be the ultimate distraction.  Either way, that minicamp would go a long way toward telling the Broncos what they need to do.

Of course, if Cutler arrives and is a big time distraction, it could potentially drive down his trade value, which is probably what the Broncos are afraid of if it is indeed true that they are once again entertaining trade offers for the Pro Bowl quarterback.

Right now the Broncos are hopeful that if they do trade Cutler that multiple teams would be interested, and that it could result in a big time bidding war among them for Cutler’s services.  The longer this drags on, and the more teams know that Broncos have to dump Culter, they will know they may not have to give up as much to get him.  Right now, Cutler’s trade value is such that no shortage of interested teams should be willing to pony up for his services.  In fact, your team may in fact be wondering if they should get in the sweepstakes, particularly if they feel they are close to making a Super Bowl run.  

Regardless of what the Broncos get in return, it will be interesting to see what they end up doing at quarterback should they deal Cutler.  Cleveland has said they are keeping both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn so that no longer seems like an option, and the Redskins said last week they were not interested in Cutler.  I can’t imagine that whoever they get back in a trade would be a serviceable QB, because any team that would want Cutler figures not to have a starting quarterback they can trade in return. 

That being said, I present an interesting scenario.  Make a deal with the Cowboys, Jay Cutler for Tony Romo straight up.  Both guys seem to be in need of a fresh start, and it would allow the Broncos to get a legitimate starting quarterback in exchange for giving up their Pro Bowl signal caller.  Dallas has already shown a willingness to make changes by releasing Terrell Owens, and getting Cutler could further help clean up the lazy attitude in Big D.  The Broncos could easily sell Romo on throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, and getting someone like him would be a much easier sell to fans than getting Kellen Clemens from the Jets.  In additon, it would make Dallas a much more likely landing spot for Mike Shanahan in 2010.  If Cutler was there, Shanahan would drool at the chance to coach him again.  Plus, it would create a tremendous subplot, since reports have leaked that Cowboys-Broncos is very likely to be the season opener at Mile High.  Think Cutler would get booed?

I still hold out faint hope that this will somehow get worked out and that Cutler will still be the Broncos quarterback this season.  I am also realistic enough to realize the odds of that happening are not much better than zero.  If Cutler is dealt, I just hope the Broncos get fair value in return.  Franchise quarterbacks are very difficult to find, and the Broncos thought they had one in Cutler.  I guess I can look at it this way: if this saga is reflection of Cutler’s true attitude and an indicator of his true leadership abilities, than maybe he isn’t the franchise quarterback the Broncos are looking for.  At least I can tell myself that, and hope he doesn’t win multiple titles with Mike Shanahan in Dallas while the Broncos are firing another coach in three years and still looking to return to the playoffs.  

Oh well, at least I got to enjoy my alma matter make the Elite Eight this year in the NCAA tournament.  What do you mean Mike Anderson has an offer of $2 million a year from Georgia???   Ugh, at least the Nuggets have a chance in the NBA playoffs.  

You’re right, that’s probably wishful thinking too.  

 

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Two Words For Jay Cutler: GROW UP

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 16, 2009

So apparently Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler finally met face to face this weekend.  They did not follow my advice of having the meeting be just the two of them, but rather were joined by Cutler’s agent Bus Cook and general manager Brian Xanders.  As usual we have two different interpretations of how the meeting went down.  Now, I have not trusted Chris Mortensen as of late because of his tendency to jump the gun (especially when he was convinced Mike Shanahan was going to Kansas City when everyone knew that would never happen), but in this case it seems he tracked down both Cutler and McDaniels, so we are able to draw our own conclusions without need for his analysis.  

Basically, Cutler will not show up for team’s “voluntary” meeting tomorrow meeting.  In fact it seems as he has once again left Denver altogether.  I use voluntary in quotes because while the start of any team’s offseason program is technically voluntary according to the collective bargaining agreement, every player knows these types of things are anything but voluntary if they actually want to make the team and be on good terms with teammates and coaches.  In Cutler’s case, any time at the team’s facility should be absolutely necessary for him because he is learning a new offense that is radically different from Mike Shanahan’s system.  Furthermore, it is clear that Cutler and his agent have requested a trade.  Now, this does not mean the team is required to grant the request, and based on statements made by the team they haven’t and don’t plan to.

Cutler has two years remaining on his contract with the Broncos, and Denver technically controls him for a third year as well because they could choose to use a franchise tag on him and keep him around another year.  The Broncos if they choose could not grant the trade request, and if Cutler declines to show up for required team activities, they can start fining him.  If Cutler’s not careful, and the Broncos choose to play hardball this way, Cutler could find himself a) out of a lot of money and b) so far behind in learning the offense that if he does show up in say, August, he will be declared not ready to start and could find himself watching Chris Simms from the bench.  In addition, Cutler will rapidly fall out of favor with his teammates, if he hasn’t started to already.  If the Broncos go this route, they could end up with a very rocky distraction throughout the season dealing with a quarterback who doesn’t want to be there.  It’s no secret that this is no way for a team leader to behave.  Personally, I hope new addition Brian Dawkins gets ahold of Cutler so he can knock some sense into him.  

I’m on record saying that the Broncos would have been crazy to deal Cutler for Matt Cassel.  I think it would have been a very foolish move on Josh McDaniels’ part.  We may never truly know the real extent of those negotiations.  Was Cassel dangled in front of McDaniels and the coach said no thanks?  Or did McDaniels actively try to get Cassel, only to jump in the fray too late?  As I said, we may never know.  Regardless, at this point the equation has definitely changed.  I still think Cutler can be a great quarterback in this league, but the more I’ve seen of his attitude in the past two weeks, the less I’m sure if he really has the tools besides raw talent to be successful in the long run.  I still think he’s clearly getting bad advice from somebody, but in the end he’s a big boy and makes his own decisions.  I really hope the Broncos and Cutler can still work this thing out, because I think if Cutler gets his head on straight, he might find that McDaniels’ offense would suit him extremely well.  As a fan I want them to work this out, and I want Cutler to continue playing quarterback for the Broncos.  After all, how many teams have continually searched for talented quarterbacks only to never find one?  However, if they can’t work this out by say, draft day, and they decide they don’t want to hold pat and keep him essentially locked in Denver for two years against his will?  As much as it pains me to say this, I say deal him to Detroit, a place where Cutler has said he doesn’t want to go.  If the Broncos do that, I promise you that around midseason Cutler will realize too late what a good thing he had in Denver, and perhaps he’ll be able to learn a lesson.  To be frank though, the available options at quarterback for the Broncos are not good.  The Broncos could go with a journeyman veteran like Jeff Garcia or Byron Leftwich, or they could draft a quarterback and start over.  Perhaps they deal with Cleveland and get Brady Quinn, who is familar with McDaniels’ offense having run it under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.  Either way, it’s a significant downgrade talent wise from Cutler no question, but at some point, is the 5-year old attitude worth the trouble?  

In the end Cutler needs to grow up.  The biggest problem right now is Cutler’s attitude is not acceptable and frankly if he doesn’t want to be here, I say don’t let the door hit you on the way out pal.  Because if Cutler keeps going this route, it doesn’t matter how much potential he has.  For all he knows, he might just be another Jeff George, someone with big potential and a rocket arm, but a really poor attitude that keeps getting in a way and keeps holding him down in mediocrity.

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ENOUGH! Shut Up and Play!

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 12, 2009

This is an open letter to Jay Cutler.  I know the odds of him actually reading this are as good as Kansas suffering a 60 point loss to a 15 seed in next week’s NCAA tournament (please?  please?), but it seems like he is getting really bad advice from someone or multiple someones, so here we go:

Dear Mr. Cutler:

First let me say that you are an amazing talent.  Your arm strength alone makes you one of the top quarterbacks in the National Football League.  You’ve shown a great deal of ability in your young career, throwing for a Broncos record 4,526 yards last season and 25 touchdowns.  You’re not afraid to try and make a play, which I greatly admire in a quarterback.  I know your will to win rivals that of any player in the league.  Simply put, the Broncos would have been crazy to trade you for Matt Cassel.  That would be such a downgrade in the quarterback position that there would have been a riot outside Josh McDaniels’ house if he actually pulled the trigger on such a ridiculous deal.  McDaniels knows this, that’s one reason of many why he didn’t pull the trigger on the deal.  The important thing is, you weren’t traded.  That’s the key thing here.  The Broncos didn’t trade you because they want you to be their quarterback, now and into the future.

I can understand your frustration about being mentioned in trade rumors.  Hell, I’d be really upset too if I saw my name on the ESPN bottom line in reference to a potential deal.  If that’s how I found out my name was being bantered about in trade talks, of course it would be upsetting.  No one is faulting you for that.  The thing is, you weren’t traded!  The Broncos are well aware they would have been crazy to trade you for a quarterback who has had one good year and still very unproven over the long haul.   Do you really think the Broncos would be dumb enough to get rid of you when the other available options at quarterback are less desirable than a Tennessee jersey would be to a Vanderbilt graduate?  Are you really crazy enough to think Josh McDaniels would rather turn the offense over to Chris Simms than to have you running it?  

I’m not going to be dishonest, I can’t say the Broncos didn’t have any discussions regarding you or any other player on the roster.  The important thing is, the Broncos didn’t act on them. they didn’t trade you!  There is a reason Pat Bowlen decided to make a coaching change: the team’s 24-24 record over the past three seasons.  This means that no one on the team can ultimately be considered safe.  That’s just the truth.  Any new coach coming in would have looked at the roster the same way McDaniels did, and it’s impossible to say any coach would have retained everyone, that’s just the way it is.  

What you have to remember is that being mentioned in trade talks does not mean that the team doesn’t like you or doesn’t think you’re a great player.  To the contrary, it could mean you’re very valuable.  I want to give you a list.  This list is of great players in many sports (past and present) who have been traded at some point in their careers:

– Joe Montana 

– Brett Favre 

– Steve Young 

– Eric Dickerson 

– Herschel Walker 

– Champ Bailey (you may know him)

– Clinton Portis 

– Jerome Bettis 

– Eli Manning and Philip Rivers 

– Dirk Nowitzki 

– Scottie Pippen 

– Kobe Bryant 

– Kevin McHale and Robert Parish 

– Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 

– Rasheed Wallace 

– Curt Schilling 

– Jeff Bagwell

– Randy Johnson (twice)

– Manny Ramirez

– Lou Brock

– Tom Seaver

– Pedro Martinez

– Mark McGwire 

– Sammy Sosa (twice)

– Nolan Ryan (multiple times, and he’s arguably the best pitcher of all-time)

– Ozzie Smith (greatest shortstop of all-time perhaps?)

– Wayne Gretzky (easily the greatest NHL player of all-time)

– Patrick Roy (more wins than any goaltender in NHL history)

– Ray Bourque 

– Brett Hull

– Peter Forsberg

This list is just a sampling, but I think it more than proves the point.  Look at this list and what do you see?  You see all-stars, hall of famers, some of the greatest players who have ever lived.  (Frankly I think the list of NHL players who haven’t been traded might be a much longer list).  The point here is that teams will do anything at all to try to win and improve.  The point here is that all-stars are not exempt from the possibility of being dealt, that’s just the reality of it.  While admittedly some of these teams got fleeced, in many cases the team trading the all-star got a boatload in return.  Herschel Walker for example got traded for 12 guys, including draft picks that turned into Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman.  

The thing you need to keep in mind, Mr. Cutler, is that for the Broncos to deal you it would take an amazing package.  The Broncos aren’t just going to give away a Pro Bowl quarterback like yourself, but if someone were to give them an offer they couldn’t refuse (say three Pro Bowlers in exchange), they would have to look at that.  This does not mean they don’t like you or don’t think you are a great quarterback, they are simply trying to put the best team on the field that they can.  In the end, they quickly saw that you are a much better quarterback than Matt Cassel, and that is why that deal was not made.  When Josh McDaniels told you on the conference call that no one is untradable, he certainly did not mean he is looking to deal you, he was merely trying to illustrate the business of the NFL.  Trust me when I say the Broncos are not looking actively to trade you, but you have to think as if you were the GM.  You would want to put the best team out there that you can right?  The Broncos want you to be their quarterback, as proven by the fact that they turned down all proposals for you.  Just because they talked does not mean they were seriously considering a deal.

My advice to you is: report to camp on Monday.  Sit down with Josh McDaniels (no one else, for I believe your conference call included too many people) and air out EVERYTHING.  Make sure it’s face to face.  Make him look you in the eye.  Be honest with him.  Tell him what you’re feeling and why.  Give him a chance to explain things to you.  He’ll be honest with you.  I would be highly surprised if he didn’t tell you that you are a very important part of the team and that he didn’t want you around.  This is the only way this can be buried in the past.  Surely you can see that this would be much more efficient and smarter than pouting to your buddies and not reporting.  After that? Prove to the Broncos why you are indispensable.   Play your butt off and help the Broncos win football games.  Be the leader the Denver Broncos need you to be.  Take charge in the huddle.  Instead of expressing your frustration and your hurt feelings in your current manner, channel it into your performance in workouts and on the field.  Frankly your current behavior is not that of a team leader.  You think you have a stronger arm than John Elway?  Prove it.  You want to win? Go out there and get it done.  The Broncos need you.  You really don’t want to be labeled as another athlete who held out and ruined his career.  Besides think about it: do you really want to wake up and realize you’re a Detroit Lion?  I can assure you that their left tackle is not near as good as Ryan Clady, and I guarantee you would find yourself wishing you were back in Denver with McDaniels.  

Be a man here, not a child.  If you play this right, this might just give you the kick needed to really get your career off the ground.   If you don’t, you might already be in the process of kissing your promising career goodbye.  The choice is yours.  

Sincerely,

Reid Fischer – a concerned fan

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Cutler Follow Up

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 4, 2009

Perhaps this story is finally showing signs of having a resolution.  Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels have scheduled a meeting, presumably one where they will try to iron out their differences and move forward.  The Broncos have once again made it clear that they have no intention of trading Jay Cutler.  Their unequivocal statement coming from owner Pat Bowlen himself should put any other silly rumors to rest (including one I saw today that had Cutler and a draft pick going to Cleveland for Brady Quinn and Shaun Rodgers.  Please).  What we’ll never know is how serious the Broncos actually were in making a run at Matt Cassel, and whether they initiated the discussions or considered a move after another team proposed it.  Whether or not they considered it or discussed it should be completely irrelevant.  The point is the deal for Cassel was not made for whatever reason, and the Patriots sent him to Kansas City instead.  The only reason this became a story is Cutler’s reaction.  If Cutler hadn’t complained to the media about his feelings, this would be a complete non-story.  The fact that Cutler got wind of the discussion means that someone leaked the details of the talks to him, but he should realize it’s not unusual for any player’s name to be bantered about in talks.  Just because a player’s name comes up, it does not mean a deal is around the corner.  

It seems as though what we have here is a situation that happens more often than is actually reported in sports. Team A calls team B to talk trade.  Team B listens.  Team A says it wants team B’s star player.  Team B counters with what it would take from team A to make that happen.  Team A dangles a player that it knows will be enticing to team B.  Most of the time these discussions are very cordial and very rarely get serious.  The players never hear about it.  If they did, every player on every team in every league would be stressed out every day about potentially getting dealt.  In this case, the Broncos cannot be faulted for exploring any option to make their team better.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs in three years and blew a three game lead with three to play last season, so no one on the roster can really be considered safe.  In the end, they decided that the offers on the table were not worth pulling the trigger on, so that’s what Cutler needs to realize.

Cutler has a 17-20 career record as a starter, so he hasn’t yet proved himself a consistent winner, but you certainly can’t deny his arm and potential.  I think in the end the Broncos realized you don’t trade a Pro Bowl quarterback for one who had one good year or one who is unproven that they could get in the draft.  This is what Cutler needs to realize.  It is understandable that he would be upset if he indeed thought the Broncos didn’t want him and were actively looking to deal him.  That being said, he isn’t showing much leadership ability by whining and cowering and pointing fingers.  To be quite frank, Cutler has a ways to go if he wants to be a true leader.  Last year he only spoke to the media after wins, not after losses.  The quarterback MUST make himself available after every game, no exceptions.  He can’t keep getting flapped when things aren’t going well, and this goes for on and off the field.  He has a tendency to make bad throws when he gets frustrated, and he also has a hard time dealing with reality off the field when something is going against what he thinks should be happening.  Part of this is a natural adjustment to a young player taking a leadership role, but a lot of it is common sense that he needs to understand.  

I don’t mean to completely rag on Cutler here.  It goes without saying that the Broncos would have been completely nuts to trade him for Cassel.  His progression in many ways isn’t that much different from any other quarterback who has finished his third year.  He is without question a top 10 QB in the league (as Cassel cannot be considered yet), and he should be a top 5 one by the time his career his done if he continues to improve.  His arm strength and ability to grasp playbooks and read defenses are off the charts.  He has a will to win and a drive to be successful.  He certainly can’t be faulted for the team’s atrocity on defense the last three years, including a franchise record rushing day allowed to San Diego in the finale last year.  (I am amused when the defense has blown several games the past few seasons and all anyone wants to talk about is Jay Cutler, and before him Jake Plummer.  Cutler certainly isn’t blameless for the team’s collapse, but he’s not out there missing tackles either.) With the tools the Broncos have on offense, the team has a chance to be even more successful on that side of the ball this year with McDaniels offering his proven fresh ideas.  

Hopefully all parties learned something here.  Hopefully McDaniels learned as a young coach that talks can’t ever be trusted to be kept private, especially if they start to turn serious.  Hopefully Cutler can realize that he needs to show maturity in these situations and realize that no player is ever untouchable.  In the end, I really think the two sides will be able to put things aside after Monday’s meeting and work together to try and win football games.  I think the two sides have no choice, considering Cutler has two years remaining on his deal, and the Broncos don’t have any remotely serviceable options at quarterback out there to even look at should they deal Cutler.  McDaniels realizes Cutler’s talent gives him a great shot to win, and I think Cutler will eventually see that McDaniels’ offense will have a lot to offer.  

Of course, the Broncos now have another issue looming, and that’s how many games Brandon Marshall might miss after being involved in another altercation in Atlanta.  We all know Roger Goodell is not kind to repeat violators of the league’s personal conduct policy.  More on that coming soon.

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It’s a No Brainer: Stick with Cutler

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 2, 2009

First, my apologies for the long delay between posts.  That’s what dental surgery will do to you.

I would like to say that I am generally pleased with the Broncos offseason movement (especially the signings of Brian Dawkins and Correll Buckhalter), but I am very, very disturbed by the latest saga involving Matt Cassel going to the Chiefs.  This is not in any way because I am concerned about Cassel landing in KC, but because of the ripple effects and rumors that happen to involve the Broncos.  This is the background, or at least as concise a summary as I could find.  Basically, in trying to digest information from all of the reports out there, it seems that the Buccaneers called the Broncos, and inquired about getting Jay Cutler.  This would make sense for Tampa Bay because they are in desperate need of a quarterback after jettisoning Jeff Garcia.  Depending on the report, it seems that the Lions and Patriots were also involved in the discussions about a potential multi-team deal.  I’m not sure exactly what the deal would have been for sure, but the root of the rumor seems to be that Cutler would have ended up in Tampa, Cassel in Denver, and perhaps Tony Scheffler going to Detroit and maybe the Broncos first round pick (12th overall) to New England.  There were also reports of other various draft picks being exchanged, including Detroit’s number one overall selection going somewhere if they landed with Cutler instead of the Buccaneers.  

Of course this is all rumor and didn’t happen, so the rumors should be a moot point.  Conversations like this happen all the time.  Most people don’t know that John Elway was thisclose to being traded to Washington following the 1991 season.  This is when Dan Reeves and Elway were really butting heads and ultimately the Broncos chose to keep Elway and they fired Reeves.  The point is that a conversation does not mean a trade is imminent or even on the table.  If I am the GM of an NFL team, and I was stuck with Dan Orlovsky or Brian Griese at quarterback, of course I’m going to call every team to see if I could maybe swing a deal for their QB.  Just because the Broncos take the call and chat doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to be eager to deal.  In this case, the Broncos very wisely decided that they would rather not make the deal, and now Cassel is in Kansas City (along with Mike Vrabel), and the Patriots got a second round pick for him in exchange.  Cutler is still the quarterback of the Broncos.  As the attached link indicates though, Cutler is very upset about being mentioned in trade rumors at all, and now the pressure is on Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders to repair the relationship with their quarterback immediately if not sooner.  This needs to happen today.  

Now, if at any point at all Josh McDaniels thought he would rather have Cassel than Cutler, then he seriously needs to get his head examined.  I realize McDaniels and Cassel have a working relationship, and perhaps the new Broncos coach would be more comfortable with Cassel than he would be with an unknown commodity Cutler, who frankly has shown to have an attitude problem at times.  The thing is, I don’t think anyone who knows anything about football could make a rational argument that Cassel is a better quarterback than Cutler.  Admittedly, Cutler has shown at times to make bad decisions (witness his 18 picks last year), but he really came a long way overall in his third season.  He made the Pro Bowl after setting franchise single season records for yards and touchdowns, and his ability and potential have still yet to be completely tapped.  He even said that he was over his disappointment over the Mike Shanahan firing, and was really excited to work with McDaniels.  Cassel had one good year, but was it him? Or was it the system in New England?  Was it actually McDaniels working with him that made the difference?  Besides, wasn’t it McDaniels ability to work with quarterbacks that was one of the biggest selling points of him getting the job?  Wasn’t one of the biggest reasons he was hired was so that he could work with Cutler and help control his on-field decision making and attitude?  

From Cutler’s perspective, if he is really that bent out shape about being mentioned in a rumor, than he frankly needs to grow up.  It seems that the Broncos weren’t actively shopping him around, but rather were listening to other teams that called.  Frankly the management team of any franchise should always listen, because you never know.  What Cutler should realize is the Broncos decided not to deal him in the end, so regardless of whether McDaniels was flirting with the idea of Cassel or not, he ultimately decided against it.  So it would be very immature of Cutler to demand a trade now.  I think ultimately this relationship can be repaired, but the damage control needs to be done now, and certainly by draft day.  

I really think that what happened here is that the Broncos’ were not the initiators of these discussions.  I believe other teams (specifcally Detroit and Tampa) called the Broncos making an offer or offers.  I believe some deals may have been discussed, but McDaniels and Xanders were not behind it.  I believe they listened and discussed, and maybe even got to stage of drafting a potential deal, but of course they decided not to act on it.  Cutler needs to realize that just because another team called the Broncos and asked about him, and just because a deal may have been floated, does not mean that the Broncos want to get rid of him.  Obviously they don’t, because they declined the deal.  The Broncos staff however needs to realize that their franchise quarterback is a very sensitive individual, and perhaps should have more clearly and unequivocally denied the rumors if indeed they are on board with Cutler staying.  Frankly, unless the name on the other end of the conversation is Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, or Ben Roethlisberger (maybe a couple of others), the Broncos should say thanks but no thanks and hang up the phone.  Of course it is McDaniels’ prerogative if he really thinks that Cassel would have been a better fit, but it would have really concerned me to see Cutler traded and Cassel plugged in.  Jay Cutler is a better quarterback than Matt Cassel, period.  This doesn’t mean that Cassel won’t find success in Kansas City, for he just might be good fit there, but I would rather have Cutler any day of the week.  If my team’s quarterback was Tyler Thigpen, I would be excited to get Cassel, I just wouldn’t want to get rid of Cutler to get him.  I just hope now that Cutler isn’t so disgruntled that he gets traded somewhere and becomes a star, while the Broncos are still looking for a quarterback in five years.   I implore McDaniels and Xanders to repair this damage quickly.  The last thing the Broncos want is an unhappy Culter counting down to his free agency eligibility.

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Shanahan Follow Up

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 5, 2009

I have now had a week to digest the idea that Mike Shanahan is no longer the Broncos head coach.  I have to admit I am still torn on whether or not this is the right move for the Broncos in the long run.  In many ways, it seems hard to justify dismissing a coach who is in the top 15 all-time in wins and who has won two Super Bowls.  On the other hand, Shanahan has not come close in the past decade to duplicating his early success with the Broncos.  I think ultimately the change of scenery should end up benefiting both the team and Shanahan.  It is a guarantee that Shanahan will coach again, if not this coming season than definitely in 2010, and it is inevitable that new surroundings will motivate Shanahan to prove he can still coach at a high level.  It also stands to reason that new blood in the Broncos coaching staff should provide an energy boost heading into next season as well.

So far I am actually mostly pleased with the Broncos’ list of candidates that they have come up with.  I am somewhat disappointed that Bill Cowher wants to stay with CBS, but realistically he wasn’t going to coach that far away from his family in North Carolina anyway.  I like the idea of a defensive coach, mainly because that side of the ball has continued to slip drastically for three years.  I think Steve Spagnuolo is my clear cut first choice right now.  He would certainly bring an aggressive defensive philosophy with a proven track record for success, having brilliantly come up with a scheme to slow down the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl.  He has the type of personality and philosophy that would represent the kind of change Broncos owner Pat Bowlen seems to be hoping for.  Not surprisingly, Spagnuolo is being targeted by seemingly every team with a head coaching opening, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he elected to stay closer to the east coast. 

One reason why I think a defensive coach makes a lot more sense for the Broncos is that Jay Cutler has openly expressed a desire to keep the offensive side of the Broncos current coaching staff, including play caller Jeremy Bates.  An offensive coach would naturally want to take over that side of the ball, and I think the transition would be smoother if Bates was allowed to be retained.  That being said, Cutler does not run the team, and it certainly seems as though he could sometimes use an attitude adjustment when things aren’t going his way.  I think if Spagnuolo ends up staying closer to New York, I am very intrigued by the idea of today’s interviewee, Raheem Morris, recently promoted to Buccaneers defensive coordinator.  Other options I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to include Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who has reportedly said he expects to be a head coach somewhere in 2009, or Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.  All of the defensive  names mentioned have strong personailities and I think that is what the Broncos could use right now.  The Broncos wouldn’t be allowed to interview Ryan until Baltimore’s season is over, and that could end up being after the Super Bowl, so something tells me the Broncos will have a decision by then.  If they don’t, I would love to see Ryan on the radar screen.

As for Cutler and the offense, that area could use some tweaking too.  The Broncos finished second in the league in yards but more in the middle of the pack in points.  The Broncos’ red zone failure has been a big problem in recent years, so perhaps an offensive mind could be the answer to help those offensive shortcomings.   It has been long rumored that Bowlen would like have John Elway involved in the organization in some capacity, either in the front office or on the coaching staff.  While I certainly wouldn’t advocate Elway for the head coaching position (the track record throughout sports of superstars as coaches is not good),  I do think his presence in some capacity as a mentor/tutor for Cutler could be huge plus.  While Cutler had a great year statistically, he frankly did not make the leaps in terms of leadership and clutch play that was expected from him in his third season.  Cutler definitely has the tools be a great quarterback, and who better than Elway to help show him the way?

All told, I still think a defensive minded head coach would be better for the team as a whole.  The offense if nothing else will have the stable of running backs healthy again next season, and that will help a lot.  Plus, everyone will have another year of experience.  If a defensive coach is hired and the current offensive staff is retained, it could actually help preserve some continuity on the offensive side of the ball while working to fix the defensive shortcomings.  I really hope it’s Spagnuolo, but I’m not optimistic about that if the Broncos end up in a bidding war with the Jets for his services.  Regardless, I hope the new coach will bring energy and will work to turn the team around.

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I’m Glad I was Wrong

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 7, 2008

I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.  I honestly didn’t believe the Broncos had much of a chance to win in Cleveland on a short week going into the game, let alone when they trailed 23-10 in the second half, missing ALL of their tailbacks due to injury, struggling to get pressure on Brady Quinn, and reverting to giving up big plays in the running game.  What resulted is one of most exciting games I have ever seen, maybe exciting enough to go in the top five, but for sure in the top ten.  I’m not sure what I’m most excited about.  I could give accolades to Jay Cutler for his 447 yard, three touchdown effort that ranks third in Broncos history.  (Trivia question: can you name the two quarterbacks who posted the highest single game yardage efforts?  Hint: neither one is John Elway.  The answer is at the end).  I could praise Eddie Royal for his 164 yard effort, including a 93 yard TD that completely changed the momentum, that resulted in a Broncos rookie record for reception yards in a game.  I could talk about Brandon Marshall, who stepped big with the clinching touchdown, or Tony Scheffler, who had 92 yards receiving despite playing with a groin so sore he didn’t think he was going to play when conducting his own pregame interview on the Broncos radio network.  There’s also Ryan Torain, who ran hard before injuring his knee in the second quarter, and even Selvin Young, who tried so hard to tough it out when he was literally the last running back standing, even though he himself was nursing a groin injury such that Mike Shanahan was hoping not to have to use him.  Even the much maligned defense stepped up when it mattered, forcing a key fourth quarter fumble and coming up with the fourth down stop to preserve the win at the end.  

Truth is, everyone mentioned played a critical role in this win for the Broncos.  I realize that sounds cliche, but it’s the only way they could have come back and won a game where everything seemed lost.  How many teams do you know that would be even remotely effective offensively when they’re down to their fifth running back?  On that note, let’s not forget about Peyton Hillis, who kept the game alive with a critical conversion on fourth and 1 with the Broncos trailing 30-27 and time rapidly ticking away.  This is type of clutch play the Broncos have been missing the past few weeks.  It is this type of unsung play, which won’t get a lot of notice in the box score, that separates winners from losers.  A key play for sure, one that the Broncos couldn’t have won without, and one that wouldn’t have had a chance to happen at all if not for a real gutsy play much earlier in the game.  

It is amazing in a way that the Broncos were able to keep it together.  They had lost four of their past five, they continued to lose guys to injury, they had no running backs left, they were down by 13 on the road, and they had no momentum against a Browns team that was starting to look like it was getting new life on a lost season.  Even looking at the body language of the players on the sideline, it didn’t look like the Broncos were going to come back.  Somehow, the defense was able to force a punt, a victory in itself for a unit that was missing several of its top players and had struggled to stop the Browns most of the night.  That’s when Jay Cutler proved that he has the gusto to be a great quarterback in the NFL.  The Broncos faced the prospect of starting their drive at their own 7 yard line (Does this evoke memories of The Drive anyone?).  Most teams are scared to take a shot down the field when they’re backed up that deep, but Cutler took the chance.  Despite a dropback that practically took him to his own goal line, he launched a perfect strike down the sideline to Royal, who caught it perfect stride, left a gambling defensive back grasping for air, and was off to the races.  This play changed the momentum so dramatically that the body language on each respective sideline changed.  The Browns players were the ones that had looks of shock of despair, and the Broncos players were rejuvenated, and it showed in their play the rest of the night.  Plays like the 93 yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Royal can define a season, and in this case it may have quite literally saved the Broncos season in more ways than one.

It should be noted that not only did Cutler show a lot of guts to make that throw in that situation and field position, but Mike Shanahan and his staff should be credited for calling that play in that situation.  Maybe they would have run the ball if Torain or Young was healthy enough to do so, and we’ll probably never know for sure, but in any case, Shanahan deserves credit for rolling the dice and dialing deep when most coaches would go the safe route.  There are a lot of Broncos fans calling for Shanahan’s head, mainly because the Broncos have won just one playoff game since John Elway’s retirement.  I have long argued that the Broncos would never have won a Super Bowl in the first place if not for Shanahan, and it is easy to forget that he has won 150 career games, no small achievement.  If Shanahan were to leave the Broncos, odds are your team would be among the first in line to hire him.  It is easy to forget that Shanahan is not the one on the field turning it over or getting beat deep.  I challenge you to tell me another coach that could have kept his team together in a situation like the Broncos had in Cleveland, and of course there are others, but tell me someone out there and available who would be better than Shanahan.  The answer is no one.  

I believe the Broncos saw a very impressive glimpse into their future tonight.  When clicking, the offense is as good as any in the NFL right now, and that’s with most of the key players having three years or less experience in the league.  As they continue to play together and mature together, things will only get better.  Jay Cutler is indeed the real deal, having shown ability to lead his team from behind.  A win like this not only gives a team hope, but it gives them confidence even when things aren’t going well.  Frankly, things didn’t go well tonight for Denver for the most part for three quarters, but when push came to shove, they managed to pull a win out of nowhere.  Now, they have a game and a half lead over San Diego in the AFC West, and suddenly the next game at Atlanta doesn’t appear to be the guaranteed loss it seemed to be 24 hours ago.  (Side note: the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter told us tonight that Champ Bailey will play against Atlanta.  If that’s true, it will be another huge boost for the Broncos).  Suddenly, the Broncos actually winning the AFC West with an actual winning record doesn’t seem so impossible. Sure, the defense could still use some work, but they stepped up when it counted, and all things considered continue to show improvement.  Let’s not forget also the offensive line has only allowed five sacks this year, which is truly amazing especially with a rookie left tackle (Ryan Clady) who has been nothing less than terrific and doesn’t get a lot of press for it.  It’s really amazing how one game can really change your picture on things.  There is still obviously a lot of season left, but one thing is for sure: the Broncos are not left for dead yet, and will be a major player in the AFC race.

Trivia answer: Jake Plummer (499 yards vs. Atlanta in 2004), and Gus Frerrote (462 yards vs. San Diego in 2000).

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