NFL Nation: Cutler traded
After a month headlining "America's Top Cry-baby," Jay Cutler kept it nice and bland in his first appearance as Chicago's new quarterback. Appearing at a news conference Friday in Lake Forest, Ill., Cutler offered no defense of his recent showdown with the Denver Broncos and downplayed the urgency of winning over a new locker room.
|AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh|
|Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo (left) and head coach Lovie Smith welcomed new quarterback Jay Cutler to the team Friday night.|
"I'm not going to change everyone's mind in this room. There is going to be good articles. There is going to be bad articles. But hopefully over time I can win everybody over."
The Bears already have a strong set of veteran leaders, ranging from center Olin Kreutz to linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. So Cutler won't have to step into a prominent position the moment he walks into the locker room. Coach Lovie Smith, in fact, said the Bears are expecting nothing more than for Cutler to "be another teammate."
Cutler, of course, would be smart to tread lightly at first -- and not just because of his reputation, deserved or otherwise. He is replacing a popular former teammate in Kyle Orton, and it's only natural for some veterans to withhold judgment. I think that sentiment was evident in the words of Urlacher, who seemed somewhat reserved in an interview Thursday night with the Chicago Tribune.
Urlacher: "I guess we got better as a team. You get a quarterback who is a Pro Bowl guy. But I will say this: I think Kyle Orton is a good quarterback. He's a great teammate. I hope he does really well in Denver."
Urlacher went on to say:
"I don't think Jay is going to be an issue. We have a pretty good locker room, so I'm not worried about that. ... I'm not worried about him fitting in."
Cutler did nip one potential hurdle right away, laughing off the enmity he once felt for Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner. (When he was the Illinois head coach, Turner rescinded a scholarship offer to Cutler. Here is the full story.)
Cutler and Turner spoke for about 15-20 minutes on Thursday. On Friday, Cutler said the scholarship issue happened "too long ago" to still be a problem.
"I think it's kind of funny now at this point," he added. "I'm back here, now he's here. Things happen for a reason. I'm lucky to be here and I'm excited to get to work for him."
So far, so good.
Ed Werder sits down with Jay Cutler to talk about the trade to Chicago.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
A day after the Denver Broncos made their blockbuster trade, owner Pat Bowlen sent a letter to Broncos' season ticket holders, explaining the trade is about the "team."
Also, coach Josh McDaniels spoke to the media and explained the Broncos' side of the Cutler saga. You can find the entire transcript on the Broncos' site.
Meanwhile, Cutler is being introduced in Chicago tonight. The Bears were Cutler's favorite team when he grew up in Indiana. When he entered the league, he was hoping to end up in either Chicago or Tennessee. Cutler went to Vanderbilt.
A very specific visual passed through my head Thursday night as I considered the Jay Cutler trade from a NFC North-wide perspective. I thought of a man grappling for stability on the rough side of a mountain, slipping ever so slightly while creating 10 vertical lines in the direction of his descent.
The man wore a Helga hat and Viking horns. A bear clawed at his feet.
|Dale Zanine/US Presswire|
|The Bears' acquisition of Jay Cutler has the potential to shake things up in the NFC North.|
OK, enough with the corny metaphors. My point: This trade will prove a pivot point in the pecking order of our fair division -- one way or the other. Cutler will either lead the Bears to the NFC North title in 2009, imposing a bitter judgment day for a Minnesota franchise that chose not to pursue him, or the cost of his arrival will bury Chicago under a debt of unfilled holes and lost draft picks.
When you think about it, the Cutler drama produced an extraordinary scenario in the Black and Blue. Three-fourths of our teams inquired about him at some point. Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit all considered improvement at quarterback a significant offseason priority.
The Bears acquired Cutler. The Vikings traded for Sage Rosenfels to compete with Tarvaris Jackson. The Lions, burdened by the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, must now decide between drafting Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford (or USC's Mark Sanchez) and riding Daunte Culpepper for the next few seasons.
I don't fault the Lions too much in this situation. They recognized the rarity of Cutler's availability and pursued him accordingly. But they simply didn't have the assets, in terms of draft picks in the right spots and a proven veteran starter, to complete the trade. (Remember, the Broncos didn't want the No. 1 overall pick in the draft any more than the Lions do.)
It is the Vikings who faced a much more complicated and nuanced decision. In the short-term, at least, they must live with two institutional ramifications:
- They declined to pursue a quarterback who is superior to their own at a time when the rest of their roster seems primed for a Super Bowl run.
- In doing so, they paved the way for Cutler to land with a division rival that finished two games behind them in the 2008 standings.
All things equal -- and they are, because the Vikings have made minimal improvements to their roster this offseason -- it's within reason that Cutler could account for two additional victories in Chicago this season.
- ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth warns that Jay Cutler should be careful what he wishes for. Cutler is going to an offense that has lots of holes and not many draft picks to fill them with.
- ESPN.com's Bill Williamson doesn't like the Bears-Broncos trade from a Denver perspective.
- ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike also tackled the topic Friday morning, conducting interviews with: Mike Ditka, John Jurkovic from ESPN 1000 in Chicago, Ron Jaworski, SI's Peter King and Mel Kiper Jr.
How would Chicago's season have turned out in 2008 had it not lost fourth-quarter leads at Carolina and against Tampa Bay during successive September weekends? If the rest of the season played out with no changes, the Bears would have won the NFC North with an 11-5 record.
ESPN Stats & Information offers a statistical comparison that could assuage that concern. Newly-acquired quarterback Jay Cutler had a 94.2 passer rating in the fourth quarter last season, more than 30 points higher than the Bears' combination of Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman. Here are the figures, courtesy Allison Wachs:
I don't know about you, but I can think of nothing better to do on a Friday morning than look at division-wide reaction to the Jay Cutler trade. With the NFC North still reverberating by Chicago's stunning acquisition, let's let 'er rip:
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune puts it all in perspective: "Thursday marked the most exciting, significant day for the Bears since Super Bowl XLI. A 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback and a future Hall of Fame left tackle [Orlando Pace] in the same day? Welcome back to NFL relevancy, Chicago."
The Tribune's Rick Morrissey, on the other hand, isn't a big fan of the deal: "If Jay Cutler doesn't raise red flags, Bears fans, you are color blind. From all appearances and indications, he has the maturity level of larva."
Dan Pompei of the Tribune doesn't disagree with the move but notes the Bears must focus on "alternative forms" of player acquisition after the loss of three high draft choices. Pompei: "If draft picks indeed are the lifeblood of a team, the Bears will need to be on the lookout for warning signs of anemia."
This deal will seal the legacy of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo one way or the other, writes Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com. Wojciechowski: "You have to give Angelo credit for taking the plunge with Cutler. It was more than bold move; it was a move that will end up in the first or second paragraph of his obituary."
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times comes up with the most interesting sidelight of the deal. Cutler's father, Jack, has had some not-so-nice things to say about Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner in recent years. According to multiple stories, Turner rescinded a scholarship offer to Cutler when he was the head coach at Illinois, forcing Cutler to scramble for a school. Jack Cutler called the move "dirty."
Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press calls the trade "typical Lions fate." Sharp: "Jay Cutler goes to Chicago. He's now guaranteed another Pro Bowl season because he'll face the Lions twice a season."
John Niyo of the Detroit News is at peace with the outcome for the Lions: "Mortgaging the future -- even for a 25-year-old potential star quarterback -- doesn't make sense when the future's all you've got."
The tide has turned in Green Bay, writes Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The Bears, who trotted out 21 starting quarterbacks in the 16 years Brett Favre led the Green Bay Packers, now have the most talented and established quarterback in the division." (Paging Aaron Rodgers.)
Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune faults Vikings coach Brad Childress for choosing Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels over Cutler: "When it comes to quarterbacks, Childress has trouble telling the difference between Spam and Honey Baked Ham."
Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press quotes Vikings radio analyst Pete Bercich: "[The division] a toss-up right now, after putting him in there. But I think it's us by a nose. The Bears still have some serious holes to fill on defense. Brian Urlacher is becoming a liability. At the end of the year, if you watch him, he couldn't move as well, and he's lost a step. And they have critical deficiencies at safety."
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Here are some random facts about the Jay Cutler trade from Denver to Chicago:
Reunited: Cutler will now play with former Vanderbilt teammates, receiver Earl Bennett and left tackle Chris Williams. Cutler is close friends with both and Cutler actually threw to Bennett at his Pro Day.
Family ties: Cutler's family and Cutler, himself, rooted for the Bears growing up. They are from the Midwest.
Soldier Field experience: Cutler is 0-1 in Chicago as a Denver Bronco and lost a wild overtime game in 2007 in a game in which Devin Hester had two returns for scores. Cutler played well, though, as he tossed for more than 300 yards.
NFC North record: Cutler and the Broncos were 1-3 against his new division in 2007. They only beat Minnesota.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
I got a chance to catch up with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. on his thoughts on the blockbuster Jay Cutler trade.
Here is the trade breakdown: Denver sent Cutler and a fifth-round pick this year. Chicago sends Denver the No. 18 overall pick this year, its first-round pick in 2010, a third-round pick this year and quarterback Kyle Orton.
Here is how Williamson broke down the deal from Denver's perspective:
"Denver is obviously in the rebuilding mode. There was a lot to fix and now there is even more to fix as the Broncos just blew up their quarterback position. Yes, Denver got a lot of picks for Cutler but it has to hit on those picks. The only known talent in this trade is Cutler and he is leaving town. I do give Josh McDaniels this -- both Kyle Orton and Chris Simms will likely do better with him as their coach than in any other situation they've previously been in. But I don't know if it will be enough. The future doesn't look bright in Denver, at least, in the short term."
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.
"He's like everybody: A little bit in shock."
That's how Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo described the initial reaction from quarterback Jay Cutler upon completion of Thursday's historic trade. And if I didn't know any better, I'd say Angelo was still a bit stunned himself as he conducted an evening teleconference.
|The Broncos traded Jay Cutler to the Bears.|
I'm guessing that when Angelo woke up Thursday morning, he had no idea he would acquire a quarterback that would end the Bears' organizational drought at the position. He couldn't have predicted that with one mid-afternoon decision, he could upend his reputation as a conservative talent evaluator who eschewed bold moves in favor of developing his drafted players.
"Really, it came together unexpectedly," Angelo said. "... This is the first time for me. You look at the history of the league. I can't recall situation quite like this. How it matriculated and came to the point it got to, I can't answer to any of that. All we did is react to a situation that we felt could help our football team."
The Cutler drama has played out for more than a month, and so Angelo has had plenty of time to think rationally and thoroughly about the issue. But when Denver announced that Cutler was on the trading block this week, Angelo reacted with a swiftness and aggression he has rarely displayed since the Bears hired him in 2001.
The Bears performed background work on Cutler's history of immaturity, but Angelo said they didn't speak to him directly until after the trade agreement. With at least three other teams hounding the Broncos, there wasn't time to dally. A man who has always cherished his draft picks increased his offer to a staggering two first-round picks, plus a third-rounder, to drop everything and follow his gut instinct.
"The rarity of this opportunity made it unique," Angelo said. "Really, being in this situation as long as I have, you just know when things are right. Part of it is ... feeling you've done a lot of homework. And we talked internally quite a bit as an organization. We try to measure twice to cut once, and everybody felt good about this. But we just said as an organization that we were only going to get into it to win it."
This is the same general manager who, up until this week, was prepared to enter a critical year with the unproven Kyle Orton as his quarterback. He's the same guy who has tried to get it done with Jim Miller and Kordell Stewart and Rex Grossman and Brian Griese. Jerry Angelo is the same man who chose a defensive coaching overhaul this winter over replacing some members of his aging defense. And a few people are still wondering how he expects his passing game to succeed with Devin Hester and Earl Bennett as his starting receivers.
Angelo, however, has made clear since the end of the 2008 season quarterback was his primary focus. That he stood by Orton for the ensuing three months generated further questions about his judgment, but he deserves credit for recognizing the rarity of Cutler's availability and taking full advantage.
"You can't minimize the importance of the position," he said. "We've talked about that. I know personally that's been something that's been my goal for the organization, and I felt that this was the right thing to do."
Shocking, but true.
Cutler is midway through the six-year, $48 million contract he signed after Denver drafted him in 2006. There has been rampant speculation that his desire to leave the Broncos was in part a ploy to jump-start negotiations for an extension, but the Bears haven't crossed that bridge yet.
"No," Angelo said on a teleconference with reporters. "We have not talked to his agent about that."
It's probably a matter of when -- and not if -- Chicago will approach Cutler about a new deal. After giving up three draft choices to acquire him, including a pair of first-round picks, the Bears certainly want more than three years of security.
I'll be back with a couple more posts before the night is over. Cutler is en route to Chicago and is scheduled to be introduced at a news conference Friday afternoon.
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