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Is this what Bowlen imagined?

4/2/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here is a question I'd love to ask Denver owner Pat Bowlen: If he knew he'd have to trade Jay Cutler and go into the 2009 season, at least for now, having to choose between Kyle Orton and Chris Simms as his quarterback, would he have hired Josh McDaniels to be his new head coach?

Would Bowlen have even fired Mike Shanahan if it meant a divorce with his young gun quarterback?

Now, Cutler is in Chicago and the Broncos have immense pressure on them. McDaniels needs to make this work or his days as an NFL coach could be numbered. Bowlen took McDaniels' side in the Cutler saga, which began in late February when the Broncos engaged in trade talks about quarterback Matt Cassel, whom McDaniels coached in New England. Will he stay by McDaniels' side if the Cutler trade ruins this franchise?

The last time we heard from McDaniels, at the NFL owners' meeting March 24, he appeared confident that the rift with Cutler would be resolved and the quarterback would remain in Denver. Nine days later, the Broncos are going to try to shine up Orton. McDaniels is scheduled to meet with the media Friday.

Orton and Simms will head to training camp as two fairly unaccomplished quarterbacks who are fighting for the starting job to start the McDaniels' era.

Really, Orton and Simms.

This can't be what Bowlen envisioned when he introduced McDaniels as head coach in January. Bowlen, of course, had to be envisioning McDaniels who has a very nice track record working with quarterbacks, taking Cutler to the next level. Cutler, 25, was three weeks shy of making his Pro Bowl debut when McDaniels was hired.

It seemed like a perfect marriage. Yet, the two never even had a honeymoon.

If Denver, which could (and should) draft a quarterback later this month, fails to parlay the three draft picks (two this year and one next year) into quality players, the Broncos will struggle for years.

There is more pressure on McDaniels as he starts the Orton/Simms era than on any coach I can remember. This can't be what Bowlen was expecting when he made this hire.