ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler seemed like a perfect fit — the rocket-armed passer meets the offensive guru who turned Matt Cassel from a career backup into one of the league’s top quarterbacks.
Instead, McDaniels begins his coaching regime with the Denver Broncos by chasing off his franchise quarterback before he even saw Cutler throw a single pass.
Team owner Pat Bowlen announced this week he will allow his new brain trust of McDaniels, 32, and general manager Brian Xanders, 37, to “begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded.”
The Broncos insist they tried to call a truce, but Cutler wouldn’t pick up his phone.
Just like that, a Pro Bowl quarterback was on the market.
Although the Broncos will entertain offers, the one quarterback McDaniels really coveted — Cassel — is spoken for.
In fact, he started the ball rolling on the rift.
Cutler became angry once he learned that McDaniels and the Broncos showed interest in acquiring Cassel, who McDaniels groomed in New England last season after Tom Brady went down in the opener with a knee injury.
Cassel ended up being dealt to Kansas City, but Cutler was infuriated when he found out about the trade talks. His distrust in McDaniels only grew in two subsequent meetings that were designed to clear the air.
For the last week, however, it appeared things might work out between McDaniels and Cutler.
McDaniels reiterated his commitment to Cutler at the NFL owner’s meetings, stating “I understand there’s things we have to work toward in our relationship.”
He couldn’t get Cutler to call him back, though.
There will be no shortage of suitors for Cutler. Teams who may show an interest in Cutler include Tampa Bay, Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland, Washington and the New York Jets.
Cutler is halfway through the six-year, $48 million deal he signed as a rookie, and his salary cap number for the 2009 season is a little over $1 million. That’s a bargain for any team that ends up with the strong-armed quarterback who made the Pro Bowl after just his second full season as a starter.
Should Cutler find a new home, he could also be offered a new, more lucrative deal.
In the decade since John Elway’s retirement, the Broncos have won just one playoff game.
But in Cutler, the team figured it finally had the franchise quarterback who could possibly handle living in Elway’s shadow. Cutler even claimed he had a stronger arm than the Hall of Famer who led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the late ’90s.
Although Cutler is 17-20 as the Broncos starter, it’s a record that’s misleading given a Denver defense that’s been in shambles of late.
The dismal defense figured to receive a bulk of McDaniels’ attention in the offseason.