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McDaniels knows repairing relationship with Cutler will take work

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels says the team is committed to Jay Cutler as its quarterback. Still, McDaniels says no options -- including trades -- are being ruled out.

McDaniels spoke with the media Tuesday, one day after an exclusive interview with NFL Network, and reiterated that Cutler is his quarterback and he'll do what he can to improve the relationship.

The relationship became strained when McDaniels failed to inform Cutler about trade talks in which the Broncos showed interest in Matt Cassel, whom their new coach mentored in New England. Cassel wound up being dealt by the Patriots to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Cutler later asked to be traded after finding out about the talks.

"I've always been optimistic," McDaniels said at the NFL Annual Meeting. "He's on our team, he's under contract, and I understand there's things we have to work toward in our relationship.

"I've heard (Cutler's trade request) but have not heard it from him personally. No one has contacted me, called me, text-messaged or e-mailed me."

McDaniels, 32, is in his first head-coaching job after serving as the Patriots' offensive coordinator. He has never denied that "conversations took place" this month about acquiring Cassel, nor does he apologize for them.

"You take into consideration what anybody is trying to offer up," McDaniels said. "If the quality of the trade you feel, in the long run, improves your team, you analyze it.

"It's been made very clear to me it's my job to listen to a number of scenarios that would improve the team."

McDaniels did wonder why Cutler insisted on having agent Bus Cook present when the coach and quarterback met face to face in Denver.

"One thing I continually want to do is meet with players one-on-one about myself and find the best way to fix any issues," McDaniels said. "It's not an issue for an agent; we're not talking contract. It was not mutual. He invited his agent."

Cook didn't immediately respond to messages left by The Associated Press.

Cutler didn't show for the Broncos' first team meeting last week and hasn't participated in the team's offseason program, which is voluntary.

George's take

Jay Cutler and the Broncos are at a fork in the road in their much-publicized spat, Thomas George writes. One route takes the quarterback to another team. The other keeps him in Denver, but that would involve a change of heart. More ...

McDaniels smiled when asked if this ordeal was difficult for a young, rookie head coach.

"You hope certain things don't get out before you have a chance to meet and explain them," he said. "So my attitude is I'm going to work hard to improve the team, and in this case, the player, when I have an opportunity to, get to the point where he respects me for what I can do for him on the field. I hope that that's mutual."

Cutler has said he'll be at a mandatory minicamp April 17-19 -- if he's still a member of the Broncos. When asked if he envisions Cutler being the team's quarterback five weeks from now, McDaniels emphatically said, "Yes."

Cutler is halfway through the six-year, $48 million contract he signed as the 11th overall pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2006 NFL Draft. He's 17-20 as the Broncos' starter, although that's misleading because of Denver's dismal defense. Cutler is 13-1 in games in which Denver has held its opponents under 21 points.

Cutler was upset when Mike Shanahan was fired as coach and even requested that members of Shanahan's offensive staff be retained, which didn't happen.

"It's not an ideal situation, obviously," McDaniels said. "We want him to be here, but it has to be two ways. It's a challenge for him. I understand the position he is in, and I respect that."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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