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News » Broncos blew it with Jay Cutler blunder 2009-03-05

Broncos blew it with Jay Cutler blunder 2009-03-05

Broncos blew it with Jay Cutler blunder 2009-03-05
Is it too late for Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to re-hire Mike Shanahan?

After the recent controversy involving quarterback Jay Cutler, the thought should have crossed Bowlen's mind.

I'm not saying that Bowlen's December dismissal of Shanahan after 14 seasons was unjustified. The shine from two Lombardi Trophies won in the 1990s had faded as the Broncos were completing a decade-long stretch of postseason failure.

But if he were still head coach and de facto general manager, I feel confident in this: Shanahan wouldn't have handled the Cutler situation in the same disastrous fashion as replacements Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders.

Wanting to trade Cutler as part of a three-way deal with Tampa Bay for New England quarterback Matt Cassel was a shaky enough proposition for Denver's new brain trust. Not being prepared to defuse the fallout from an unsuccessful bid was inexcusable after Cassel was instead shipped last Saturday to Kansas City.

While jettisoning a young Pro Bowl quarterback like Cutler seemingly makes little sense, I can understand if McDaniels wanted to begin his head coaching career with the same rising star he groomed as New England's offensive coordinator. There is a comfort level with Cassel and a track record of success working together — two things McDaniels doesn't have right now with Cutler.

Judging by Cutler's recent comments, he never will.

An irate Cutler told the Denver Post that he doesn't believe team officials who claim he was never being dangled and that trade propositions were coming from elsewhere. Strong trust is needed between a quarterback and head coach for NFL success, especially considering how hands-on McDaniels will be with Denver's offense. It seems highly unlikely now that Cutler will ever have the same kind of faith in McDaniels that he did in Shanahan.


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Shanahan wasn't nicknamed "The Mastermind" solely because of his play-calling prowess. He would have understood the damage that placing Cutler on the trading block could cause if word of a failed deal leaked. Someone as savvy as Shanahan would have taken a preemptive strike, like assuring Cutler of his good standing before engaging in trade talks and then vehemently denying serious discussions ever occurred publicly and privately if things fell through.

Yes, that means lying. But that's part of the job. Every NFL head coach — even someone as hallowed as Tony Dungy — has fibbed, fudged or stretched the truth at some point to players and/or the media.

Alienating Cutler was a costly rookie mistake by the 32-year-old McDaniels and 37-year-old Xanders, both of whom are entering their first head-coach and general-manager stints respectively.

Bowlen, though, has no such excuse. He has been around long enough to know better.

Bowlen saw first-hand the damage that quarterback/coach friction can cause when John Elway and Dan Reeves butted heads in the early 1990s. Bowlen ultimately fired Reeves and stuck with Elway, who would later capture the only two Super Bowl titles of his Hall of Fame career under Shanahan's guidance.

Having failed to win a championship in his first 11 seasons as team owner, Bowlen handed Shanahan the keys to the Broncos kingdom in 1995. The power that Shanahan wielded was so great — Bowlen once declared him Denver's "coach for life" — that it ultimately led to his undoing.

It's believed part of the reason for Shanahan's dismissal was Bowlen's belief that he felt too comfortable with his job security despite having won just one playoff game this decade. Bowlen was even willing to pay Shanahan the $21 million remaining on the three years of his contract to regain "control" of the franchise.

Yet it now appears Bowlen is headed down the same road with McDaniels. Those familiar with the inner workings of Denver's front office say McDaniels exercises almost the same power as Shanahan, only with team executive Joe Ellis (who doesn't have an Xs and Os background) serving as a middleman for Bowlen. McDaniels already was successful in pushing for Xanders to replace general manager Jim Goodman (a holdover from the Shanahan regime), even though Bowlen initially declared that no changes were coming to his front office. Bowlen also has green-lighted extensive forays into free agency that Shanahan once took.

Bowlen isn't as involved with his team's personnel decisions as fellow team owners like Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder or Al Davis. But Bowlen should have intervened to make sure that losing out on one quarterback didn't mean potentially ruining a long-term relationship with an even more established one already on the roster.

At Shanahan's farewell news conference, Bowlen said he was going to take a more active role in running the franchise.

"I'm here every day and I make the decisions," Bowlen said. "I run the show."

He's running it into the ground if the Cutler debacle is a sign of things to come.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 5, 2009

Jim Sorgi Name: Jim Sorgi
Position: QB
Age: 27
Experience: 5 years
College: Wisconsin
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