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Posted: Thursday April 2, 2009 7:05PM; Updated: Thursday April 2, 2009 9:10PM
Peter King Peter King >
INSIDE THE NFL

Cutler might regret Denver exile

Story Highlights

Even John Elway was once the subject of trade rumors in Denver

Jay Cutler goes from a potent offense to one of the NFL's most anemic

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New Bears QB Jay Cutler won't have the luxury of playing with Pro Bowl-caliber players on offense, like he had with Denver.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Jay Cutler has three people to blame for his trade from the most talented young offensive team in football to one of the least:

1. Jay Cutler.

2. Jay Cutler.

3. Jay Cutler.

Lots of great players in NFL history have been traded, including lots of great quarterbacks -- Steve Young, Fran Tarkenton, John Unitas, Bobby Layne. Lots of quarterbacks have been subjects of trade rumors, including the one and only John Elway, who preceded Cutler as the face of the Broncos; Dan Reeves almost sent Elway to the Redskins midway through his career. And Elway was ticked, but he got over it. Cutler was ticked when the Broncos tried and failed to acquire Matt Cassel Feb. 26, and for some reason -- ego, pride, immaturity, or maybe all of the above -- he couldn't get over it.

I laughed when I read Cutler's quotes to Jay Glazer Wednesday night, the ones about him not wanting to be traded. Kid, either you or your agent asked to be traded after Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates left the organization, and your agent asked for a trade again on March 14. Come on. You can only cry wolf so many times before you finally get called on it.

The other thing that happened here is that Denver owner Pat Bowlen grabbed this process by the horns and made the trade to Chicago happen. I will believe for a long time that Josh McDaniels wanted to take a passive approach here and let some rattled nerves calm down; and at some point before the draft, he'd try to make peace with Cutler. That's the strong impression he left me with a week ago at the league meetings. But when Cutler continued to duck the Broncos, Bowlen had enough. "You do not mess with Pat Bowlen, and you definitely do not ignore him,'' a man who knows Bowlen well told me this week. Cutler ignored him. That lit the fuse for the stunning trade to the Bears.

The Broncos will miss Cutler, because they have the best young offensive nucleus in football. Tackles Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris will both go to multiple Pro Bowls. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal are the best receivers in tandem 26 or younger in football right now. Last year, they, and Cutler, combined to form the number two offense in football, averaging 396 yards per game. Chicago averaged exactly 100 yards less, and was 26th in total offense. They have two talented young offensive weapons on the exterior --wideout/returner Devin Hester (if he ever gets to be a full-time receiver) and tackle Chris Williams, Cutler's former Vanderbilt teammate, at left tackle. But Williams is coming off a back injury, so we don't know how good he'll be.

It's a massive step down. Maybe Cutler will make the Bears a lot better. He certainly should. And the Broncos will take a step back, at least until McDaniels develops a quarterback in his own image.

The saddest thing here? Cutler could have been a truly great player in McDaniels' offense. He may be great with the Bears; he certainly has the talent to be. But the Denver attack was tailor-made for Cutler's brains and ability to throw the deep ball. Whatever he says now, I know he'll always wonder how great he could have been in that offense, with that bright young coach -- whether he liked McDaniels or not.

 
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