None of this nonsense with Jay Cutler would be happening in Denver if every NFL contract began with a simple paragraph — an Article of Faithlessness, you might call it.
The paragraph would read thusly:
The club reserves the right to improve itself at any time. In agreeing to this contract, the undersigned understands he might be traded without notice if it serves the team’s interest. His name might also come up in the everyday back-and-forth between general managers. This is how it is in pro football — and in most of the rest of the sports world, for that matter. If the player has any problem with this, he should put the pen down, walk away from the table … and maybe take up golf.
Cutler, the Broncos‘ 25-year-old quarterback, had a conniption over the weekend when it was reported that the club had discussed trading him and replacing him with Matt Cassel. Denver’s new coach, Josh McDaniels, who coached Cassel in New England, claimed the Broncos didn’t initiate the talks and “don’t want to trade Jay,” but Cutler is wounded nonetheless.
“I’m really shocked at this point,” Cutler told the Denver Post. “… I don’t know if they think I can’t run the system or I don’t have the skills for it… Or if they don’t think they can sign me with my next contract. I just don’t know what it is. I’ve heard I’m still on the trading block.”
Granted, Cutler is a young guy, and young guys can be fragile, but clearly the kid thinks he’s “too good to trade” (kind of like a company being “too big to fail”).
Me, I don’t have quite that high an opinion of him. Yes, he made the Pro Bowl last season (on the strength of 25 touchdown passes and 4,526 passing yards), but only because voters mysteriously forgot about the Chargers’ Philip Rivers and the Jets’ Chad Pennington — who, unlike Cutler, led their clubs to the playoffs and put up better numbers.
In fact, why don’t we take a closer look at the year Jay just had:
* He threw 18 interceptions. Only Brett Favre (22) threw more.
* He was the 16th-rated passer in the NFL (86.0).
* In the Broncos’ eight wins, he had ratings of 137.5, 109.6, 93.3, 96.1, 107.9, 106.4, 94.8 and 102.7. In their eight losses, though, he had ratings of 71.9, 77.8, 64.3, 60.7, 49.8, 74.3, 72.4 and 74.9. Translation: Every time his team lost, he was one of the reasons why.
* He played under pretty close to optimal conditions for a quarterback. He enjoyed the best pass protection in league (he was sacked just once every 57 dropbacks), and he was in an offense designed by Mike Shanahan. All QBs have flourished in Shanahan’s system. Heck, when Brian Griese was in Denver he once led the NFL in passing.
So how good is Cutler, really? Well, he’s in that handful of twentysomething passers (Rivers, Cassel, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan) who have real prospects. But he’s hardly Mount Olympus’ Gift To Quarterbacking. And he certainly isn’t too good to trade.
The Broncos have won only one playoff game in the last decade. They’d be derelict if they didn’t explore every opportunity to upgrade themselves — no matter whose feathers got ruffled.
- Dan Daly