Broncos owner Pat Bowlen announced Tuesday night that his quarterback had failed to reply to phone calls over the last 10 days and that Cutler would be traded. But sources close to Cutler contend he has not received any such calls from the team.
Sources close to Bowlen responded in five words: "We have the phone records."
Thus, it ends like it started, with differing views, opposite stories, bruised egos and mistrust. That extends to all parties. Thus, when Bowlen said early on in this drama that "it looks like we might lose our franchise quarterback," he was squarely on. And when Cutler conveyed soon afterward that his differences with new coach Josh McDaniels were irreparable and that a trade was the resolution, he was on point.
Where might Cutler go?
I am not buying for one second that this entire episode was orchestrated by Cutler's agent, Bus Cook. That insults the intelligence and the mindset of Cutler. Cook works for Cutler.
Cutler has said that he was not dismayed over McDaniels exploring options of trading him. Rather, Cutler was miffed that McDaniels conveyed to him that he came to Denver in part to coach him, that they met soon after McDaniels' arrival and talked offensive schemes, that the coach lied to him about the trade talk and then, in their final meeting to patch things up, he felt as if the coach "antagonized" him.
It is clear that in that final meeting, McDaniels reiterated to Cutler that he could be traded like any player on the Denver roster at any point in the future if the coach felt it made the Broncos a better team. My question is: Why say that in a meeting to patch things up? Why say that at all?
Clarity is one thing, but clearly some things, if your intent is to build bridges, are better left unsaid. This brings us back to the question to which few truly know the answer -- does McDaniels believe the Broncos are better off without Cutler?
If that is his thought, he is totally entitled to that conclusion.
Coaches have the right to let it be known in their organization who they can win with and who they cannot. And players, especially Pro Bowl quarterbacks, have the right to let it be known if they desire to have a long-term relationship with a coach or move on.
We are beyond the days when NFL players are purely teams' "property" and have no voice, no thought, no say. They either get on board or are shipped out. And if they choose not to get on board, well, they deserve that right as much as the team does when it sometimes ships out a player even when he is in tune.
Take another peek at free agency and the notion that players simply go where the biggest dollars exist. This was an original argument of free agency, that all of the best players would run to the largest NFL cities. Hall of Famer Reggie White leaping from Philadelphia to Green Bay in 1993 helped blow up that concept in the earliest stages of free agency.
Sure, some players move strictly for dollars, but a larger portion take into account the systems played, the players already in that system and, particularly, who is doing the coaching and what is the direction of the franchise. This is an issue that will play itself out with the Broncos during McDaniels' tenure as coach. Around the league, I believe players will look at the Cutler-McDaniels situation in upcoming seasons of free agency, form their view on how it played out and consider it in their choice of whether to become a Bronco or not.
McDaniels has the chance to put any such queries to rest by putting on the field a united, focused team that plays hard for him. By winning. Quickly.
For Cutler, there could not be a happier resolution than getting to play close to his college town of Nashville, Tenn. How about a shot with the Titans? How about the Bears? Among several teams that Cutler would love to move on to, those have to be considered among his top choices. Of course, the Broncos and only the Broncos will decide where Cutler will be traded. And considering the money they already have invested in him, with what they are losing, with the financial considerations they must take on in a new quarterback, that is a well-deserved right of the franchise.
Finally, this notion that Cutler has shown too much immaturity and that a preponderance of NFL teams will be reluctant to jump in for his services is nonsense. NFL teams are too smart for that. They have had their own issues with their own players and realize that every situation is different. NFL teams see the rare talent Cutler possesses, understand he is a young quarterback who needs grooming like all young quarterbacks do and will think this one thoroughly through. And in the end, if they want him, they will bid fiercely to get him. I believe that will happen soon among a handful of NFL teams and the Broncos.