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Broncos owner Bowlen explains Cutler trade in letter to team's fans

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said in a letter to season-ticket holders Saturday that the team had no choice but to trade quarterback Jay Cutler over his insubordination.

Bowlen preached a message of team unity in the e-mail, reiterating that he and new coach Josh McDaniels had reached out many times to Cutler, who didn't respond to their overtures.

Taking sides

Bowlen, who remained largely silent during the six-week rift that ended with Thursday's blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bears, wrote that anybody who puts himself above the team is given a one-way ticket out of Denver.

"Understand this: it remains about team," Bowlen wrote. "Our franchise has gone to the Super Bowl six times, with three different coaches and with many different players. It has never been about one player, and it never will be. Coach McDaniels shares this vision, and everyone in the organization -- players, coaches and staff -- must understand and accept this unconditionally. If anyone does not, that person will not be a part of this franchise."

Cutler became disenchanted in Denver when he learned the Broncos had talked about trading him for then-New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel six weeks ago. Cassel eventually was dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cutler requested a trade last month after a face-to-face meeting with McDaniels failed to clear the air. The Broncos initially balked, with McDaniels repeatedly saying that Cutler was his guy and they would work things out.

Cutler ignored calls and text messages from McDaniels and Bowlen, however, and the owner reached his breaking point Tuesday and told his new coach and general manager Brian Xanders to try to trade the quarterback.

Several teams were interested in the 25-year-old, rocket-armed passer who made the Pro Bowl in his second full season as a starter. But the Bears came up with the best offer, sending quarterback Kyle Orton, two first-round draft picks and a third-rounder to the Broncos for Cutler and a fifth-rounder.

In his letter, Bowlen wrote that he felt compelled "to give our community and our fans an explanation regarding the Jay Cutler situation" and suggested he had no problem with his 32-year-old rookie coach chasing off a franchise quarterback before he'd even conducted his first practice.

Bowlen said one of his directives when he hired McDaniels to replace Mike Shanahan "was that he consider everything possible to return the Broncos to the level which you and I both expect, and this certainly includes making a fair evaluation of every opportunity presented to us which might improve the team."

"He and General Manager Brian Xanders have had my complete support throughout, and they have it now," Bowlen wrote. "It is important that you know that at all times we represented ourselves to Jay with honesty and integrity."

 Broncos owner Pat Bowlen in his letter to season-ticket holders 

Bowlen added that more than 96 percent of Broncos season-ticket holders had renewed for 2009, which he wrote was "a compelling statement of support and trust."

Deana Sanders, a season-ticket holder since 1996, didn't even open her e-mail from Bowlen, whom she said already has her support.

"Whether the Broncos are at fault or not, that doesn't matter," Sanders said. "If I threw a fit like Jay Cutler and didn't respond to a call from my boss, I wouldn't even have a job. I wouldn't have an opportunity to be traded."

At least one fan's feelings weren't assuaged by Bowlen's letter.

"I thought it was too little, too late," said Ken Mendelsberg, 42, whose family has owned Broncos season tickets since 1961.

Neither Bowlen's letter nor McDaniels' news conference Friday curbed his concerns about the direction of the franchise.

"I don't understand why he'd go to a press conference wearing a hoodie," Mendelsberg said of McDaniels. "Jay Cutler showed up at his press conference (in Chicago) looking nice. He looked like he had a makeover -- nice suit, nice tie, nice haircut. He even laughed. I'd never seen him laugh. It's like he had a new lease on life."

Mendelsberg doesn't feel the same about his beloved Broncos.

"I'm so bummed," he said. "What do I tell my kids? We don't have a quarterback; we don't have a defense. This did nothing to ease my mind."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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