ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- His divorce from Jay Cutler finalized, Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels set out Friday to start making sure his legacy isn't one of chasing off a young, franchise quarterback before watching him throw a single pass in practice.
How does he plan to do that?
"Win, that's it," McDaniels said.
"I mean, I may not know much, but I know that. We win, I don't think they're going to be talking about that," McDaniels added during a news conference Friday, one day after sending his Pro Bowl passer to the Chicago Bears in exchange for quarterback Kyle Orton and three draft picks, including two first-rounders.
McDaniels said Orton will compete with Chris Simms for the starting job in Denver. The 32-year-old coach also didn't rule out taking a quarterback in this month's draft.
But did winning become harder with Cutler taking his rocket arm and pouty personality to Chicago?
"He's a very talented player, but I would say this: You're distinguished by getting to the playoffs and winning a lot of games. That's how you set yourself apart from other players in this league at any position," McDaniels said. "Is it a step down athletically? I don't know. You can say what you want to say about that. Is his arm stronger than Kyle or Chris'? Yeah, it is. But can you win with someone else? Yeah, sure you can."
Cutler is 17-20 as a starter and has yet to reach the playoffs, although he did earn a trip to the Pro Bowl in his second full season as a starter in 2008.
Orton is 21-12 in his NFL career and owns the best home record (15-2) of any NFL quarterback since coming into the league in 2005 as a fourth-round draft pick out of Purdue.
The Broncos owned the league's No. 2 offense last season, and Cutler seemed like the least of the team's worries when McDaniels replaced Mike Shanahan as coach in mid-January and set out to repair a dismal defense.
"This wasn't the end result we were looking for from the outset," McDaniels said. "But it is where we're at now. We're moving forward."
So who's to blame for this divorce? Cutler? His agent? McDaniels?
"I don't know where the blame lies, or if there is blame," McDaniels said. "Obviously, it was a situation where communication became an issue. At that point, it started to get progressively worse. But, I understand the player's mind-set. I understand that he wasn't happy with what had happened or transpired."
Cutler decided he didn't want to play for McDaniels after the new coach entertained discussions to trade him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers six weeks ago in a three-way deal that would have reunited McDaniels with his protege, Matt Cassel, who was instead traded to the Kansas City Chiefs.
McDaniels disputed the notion that Cutler just wasn't his kind of quarterback: "No, he could have played in this offense and done very well."
For weeks, McDaniels held out hope that they'd work things out, but Cutler didn't return his calls.
"It was going to require a two-way commitment," McDaniels said.
McDaniels also said it wasn't true he didn't clue in Cutler to the trade talks that sparked this firestorm. The coach said he informed Cutler and his agent, Bus Cook, on Feb. 28 that he had received a phone call that morning asking if he'd be willing to part with the quarterback in a three-way deal.
"That morning, we told them that there were some people that had called about an issue with Cassel, that we had talked to them, that we did not initiate the contact, that that's where it stood," McDaniels told The AP.
Last month, Cook told The AP he hadn't been informed of the trade talks right away. He didn't return a phone message Friday.
At his news conference, McDaniels called Cutler a terrific talent. Curiously, though, he referred to Cutler simply as "the player" five times in his 22-minute question-and-answer session.
Although McDaniels maintains that he could have worked things out had he been able to meet one-on-one with Cutler, he never contemplated flying to the quarterback's home in Nashville, Tenn., to try to smooth things over.
"Like I said, it's a two-way commitment. If you're going to do something, then it's got to be done where both people are trying to get to the same resolution, and for the majority of this process, that was not the way it was," McDaniels said.
The last time he spoke with Cutler was at a face-to-face meeting last month at team headquarters in which Cutler insisted on having his agent present. One day later, Cutler asked to be traded.
Why didn't McDaniels just clear the room that day -- Broncos general manager Brian Xanders also was in attendance -- and sit down with his quarterback one-on-one?
"Impossible," McDaniels said.
"Because Bus Cook was going to be there," McDaniels said. "I'd love to do that."
So, was Cook the problem?
"No idea. No idea," McDaniels said. "This wasn't about a contract, so I have no idea if Bus Cook was the problem or not."
What seemed like a magnificent match -- gifted passer entering his prime meets up-and-coming offensive guru -- never materialized in Denver. Whatever the problem was, wherever the blame lay, McDaniels and Cutler have gone their separate ways.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press