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Coach McDaniels' 'win now' pitch in peril with Broncos' QB controversy

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- One reason the Denver Broncos have been the busiest team is free agency is the pitch that new coach Josh McDaniels has used to land his 16 recruits: Let's win now and leave the rebuilding to someone else.

"I didn't want to go into no situation where a team's going to be rebuilding again," new Broncos linebacker Andra Davis said.

But can the Broncos realistically expect to win right away if Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler gets his wish to be traded?

Could they win with another established quarterback they might land by granting their best player his request? Can Denver return to the playoffs after a three-year drought behind newcomer Chris Simms, who has thrown just two passes since 2006?

What if the Broncos go with a rookie passer plucked from the college ranks on draft day?

It's not something Davis wanted to contemplate Thursday after running wind sprints at high altitude.

"I've been through a lot of quarterback controversies in Cleveland and I play defense. The quarterbacks and the management, they handle all that," Davis said. "Whatever's going to happen is going to happen. We just have to focus on ourselves. We can't worry about nobody else."

Cutler asked for a trade through his agent, Bus Cook, after talks with McDaniels failed to soothe his hurt feelings, which stemmed from the coach bringing up the quarterback's name in trade talks for Matt Cassel, his protege in New England and who was dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs instead.

McDaniels, who spent the past three seasons as the Patriots' offensive coordinator, would rather iron things out with Cutler than trade him on his terms.

Several teams need a quarterback of Cutler's caliber, however, and McDaniels and Broncos general manager Brian Xanders are sure to be approached by prospective suitors when the NFL owners gather Sunday in Dana Point, Calif., for their annual meeting.

Cutler is just 17-20 as a starter, but that's a deceiving record: The Broncos have had horrendous defenses ever since he took over from Jake Plummer late in 2006.

Thomas George chat

"Missing in much of this discussion is if Josh McDaniels truly believes that Cutler is the best quarterback for him, for his system, for his style of play and for what he seeks in a quarterback." **More ...**

In games that the Broncos have allowed 21 points or fewer, Cutler is an impressive 13-1, and that only loss was to Green Bay in 2007 when the Packers won the coin toss and Brett Favre threw an 82-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime.

Cutler is skipping Denver's voluntary offseason training program, where players have been running and lifting weights this week and answering questions about their AWOL quarterback.

"All I know is it would be nice to have Jay here and it would be nice if Jay and the coaching staff can work out what they need to work out," defensive lineman Darrell Reid said Thursday. "Coach McDaniels, this organization, this staff, they have a vision for where they want this team to be, and I'm just glad to be a part of that vision."

But is that vision altered if Cutler receives his walking papers? Or can the refurbished Broncos quickly return to respectability with someone else under center?

"Obviously, you need a good quarterback," Reid said. "Let me say this first: I come from the Indianapolis Colts, OK? Let me say that first. I come from the Indianapolis Colts, where Peyton Manning is the quarterback. So, for me to sit here and say, 'Oh, you can win without a good quarterback?' Who am I to say that? I can't make that determination because I've never been on a team ... with decent, average quarterbacks."

And he's hoping he won't be this season, either.

"We had a Hall of Fame quarterback in Indianapolis, so I would say you do need a good quarterback to win in this league, especially in the playoffs," Reid said. "You go back as far as you want, Super Bowl teams, I think Baltimore might have been the last one that won without a good quarterback."

The Broncos haven't been to the playoffs since 2005, a drought that led to Mike Shanahan's ouster as coach and the hiring of McDaniels, who chose to use free agency as his primary tool for fixing the franchise that has won only one playoff game in the past decade.

McDaniels' first foray into free agency landed Brian Dawkins, who had spent his entire 13-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles and was one of the first free agents to hear the coach's spiel about winning right away.

"We're not trying to rebuild something. We're trying to build right now and to win right now," Dawkins said after signing a five-year, $17 million contract. "That's one of the reasons I bought in. At this point in my career, I'm not looking to really go to places that are rebuilding. Obviously, they wouldn't be bringing me in here if they were rebuilding, anyway, because they'd want to get young and start from there."

Dawkins added: "I know what they have on the offensive side of the ball and I wanted to help bring something to the defensive side of the ball."

While Dawkins was making those comments at his introductory news conference Feb. 28, Cutler was being informed that his name had come up in trade talks, igniting the firestorm the Broncos find themselves trying to put out.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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