x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Cutler farce hurts the Broncos' plans

When new Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels tried to trade Jay Cutler for Patriots' quarterback Matt Cassel it seemed like a plan designed by the American banking system.

It is one thing to want to establish that you are the new sheriff in town. It's quite another to do it when the other guy has the gun. For all intents and purposes that's what the feud between new Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels and his quarterback, Jay Cutler, boils down to. You might at first conclude McDaniels should have known better than try to secretly trade his quarterback if he wasn't sure he could pull it off, but then you remember he's barely old enough to shave and realise how would he know?

That's the danger of handing the car keys to a kid. There's always a chance he'll wrap it around a telephone pole. McDaniels, 32, is the former New England Patriots offensive co-ordinator, who replaced Mike Shanahan, after Shanahan was fired by the Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen. Cutler was furious and his anger didn't abate after meeting McDaniels, who fancies himself a man with a plan. He may be but when he tried to trade Cutler for Patriots' quarterback Matt Cassel it seemed like a plan designed by the American banking system. It was a disaster.

Cassel came off seven years riding the bench to replace the injured Tom Brady, taking over the most prolific offence in the NFL at a time when he had not played in a football game since high school. Surprisingly, Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record with McDaniels calling the plays and finished 10th in the NFL in quarterback efficiency, but with Brady expected to be healthy next fall New England could not afford to pay both because Cassel was due US$14.6m (Dh53.6m).

So New England traded him to Kansas City and had it ended there Cutler and McDaniel might be co-existing by now. It did not. Word leaked out on Feb 28 that the Broncos tried to swing a three-team deal at the last second that would have sent Cutler to Tampa for a first round draft choice. Denver then would have swapped that for Cassel. Although the deal never came off, Cutler went off like a rocket and has remained in orbit.

McDaniels keeps insisting the trade wasn't his idea, even issuing a press release that they were not trading Cutler. Since there was now no one to trade with and no quarterback to replace him with, that did not assuage Cutler's feelings. "I know what they were trying to do,'' Cutler said. "If they want me to play somewhere else so be it. I'm upset.'' General manager Brian Xanders denied ever trying to trade Cutler while McDaniels said: "He's not the only person in the last few days we've received calls about [trading]. We don't want to trade Jay.''

Cutler refused to meet with McDaniels and Bowlen, agreeing only to a conference call on Wednesday. By the time it was over things had worsened and a day later Cutler put his home up for sale for US$2millioin (Dh7.3m), believing he will be traded before April's draft. Bowlen reiterated the Broncos don't want to trade him but all Cutler heard was McDaniels trying to make it sound like it was Cutler who asked to be traded. At one point, McDaniels told him any player could be traded at any time.

The bottom line is Cutler trusted Mike Shanahan. He doesn't trust the owner who fired Shanahan or the baby-faced coach who just tried to trade him. McDaniels doesn't trust that Cutler will ever avoid the mistakes he sometimes makes. At critical times, he tries to jam passes into tight spots, often with disastrous results. It is one reason his record is 17-20, but the fact is he's the only real quarterback Denver has.

In the midst of this, McDaniels said: "We're excited about the season.'' Not if Jay Cutler isn't there he won't be. rborges@thenational.ae