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How to solve the Cutler mess

3/27/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The Jay Cutler-Denver Broncos stalemate is the story of the 2009 NFL offseason and was a hot topic at the NFL owners' meeting this week.

ESPN.com spoke with one NFL head coach, a general manager, a player, an executive and an agent about the situation, and got several interesting opinions on how the situation could be resolved so that Cutler, a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback entering his fourth season, could stay in Denver. Because the situation is sensitive and ongoing, all of the subjects requested anonymity.

The head coach: The head coach stressed that the NFL is a quarterback's league and the only true way a team can find success is with strong quarterback play. Thus, the coach said it is imperative the Broncos and Cutler come to an accord.

Still, the coach said it is vital that the team doesn't give in to Cutler, instead urging Cutler to get back with the Broncos at the offseason workout program and to fit in with his teammates.

"He's an important player, but it's still about the team," the head coach said. "The team has to let Jay know how important he is, but also, Jay has to realize there are 52 other guys on the team. They all have to find a way to end this and get on with the goal of the season and that is to win. Everyone needs to be on the same page here. Basically, both sides need to drop their issues now and do what's best for the team and that's to get together and move on."

The GM: The GM indicated he was shocked to see what has happened in the first two months of the Josh McDaniels era in Denver.

He said he thought the Broncos' decision to hire McDaniels was perfect because of Cutler. McDaniels earned a reputation in New England as an innovative, tough teacher. The GM said he thought Cutler could take the next step in his career under McDaniels.

Now the GM doesn't know what to think. He admitted the issue is a reminder that relationships can be destroyed quickly in the league.

Still, the GM said he believes the situation can be solved because all parties are bright and reasonable. Denver sources have said the team wants to take some time and allow cooler heads to prevail. The GM agrees with that tactic.

"The Broncos can't give up on this," the GM said. "The key is handling your emotions. Both sides have to realize [that] and become nonemotional, which isn't always easy. They have to treat this as business and find a way to move on. Will it be easy? No, I don't think it will. But it has to be figured out."

The player: A former Denver player said he is shocked this problem has occurred after watching Cutler develop under former coach Mike Shanahan.

"It was all built around Jay there and that's the way it should be," the player said. "He is a talented player."

The player believes that this rift isn't beyond repair and that both sides have to trust each other. He said he believes the Denver locker room is not overly worried about the saga or taking sides.

"Guys get used to these sorts of things," the player said. "The new coach has to let Jay know that he is ready to move on and he is ready to work with him and Jay is going to have to get over it. It can work."

The executive: The front-office executive believes that every team must treat its quarterback as special and like a star until the day he is no longer the quarterback.

So, in a sense, the executive said the team needs to make Cutler feel better because the team still wants him to be its quarterback. The executive said it doesn't matter whether Denver initiated the trade-related calls (the Broncos say they didn't and Cutler says they did). What matters most is the future and making Cutler believe that he is wanted.

The executive suggested Denver offer Cutler a contract extension. Cutler has three years remaining on his deal. The executive said the Broncos should make their offer public and if Cutler still isn't satisfied, then the team would know that he doesn't want to be a Bronco. That would put the team in position to move on. If Cutler takes the offer, then the team and Cutler can easily move forward.

"It's all about taking control of the situation," the executive said.

The agent: The agent agrees with the executive. He believes this rift has become an issue of  money and that the only way Cutler could remain happy in Denver is with a new deal. He said it doesn't matter that it didn't begin as a contract issue.

The agent said when there are trust issues for players, the only way to regain trust is for the team to offer a new contract that will keep the player in town for the rest of his career.

"The Broncos say they are committed to him," the agent said. "The only way of showing that is to give him a new deal. Jay would be happy and the team would fix this problem with an act of good faith ... but it may be easier said than done."