This weekend was a deceivingly busy one in the NFL. First and foremost, Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels stole the spotlight. They are currently turning the Mile High City into the set of a bad soap opera, and the NFL media is eating it up with a spoon in this time of pre-draft lull. So why should you care? Because they could be indirectly foiling the Texans’ draft strategy.
What could previously be described as a tiff in Denver has spiraled into a full blown game of chicken. Jay Cutler has formally asked for a trade from the Denver Broncos after a sit-down with new Head Coach Josh McDaniels. This is the culmination of a dispute between the two that originated when McDaniels attempted to trade Cutler for Matt Cassel. Cutler now claims that he can no longer trust McDaniels and thus cannot (or does not want to) play for the Broncos.
This is a divisive issue. Some fans feel that Cutler is being a baby and McDaniels was in the right because no one is above being traded, while others feel that McDaniels hasn’t shown a lot of integrity through the whole endeavor. I personally feel that neither is more wrong than the other because even though McDaniels was the catalyst, both men are equally to blame for escalating the situation. No matter who you blame, however, the notion that McDaniels has shown an absence of intelligence in the way he’s handled the situation is difficult to dispute.
McDaniels comes from the Belichick coaching tree, so he is trying to employ the same dictatorial tactics as his mentor. He’s not the only one to attempt this course of action; Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weiss and Eric Mangini have all tried to emulate their former tutor with less than stellar results. McDaniels is trying to step in to control his surroundings, but the problem that he failed to recognize is that Belichick gets away with running the Patriots the way he does because of one reason--winning.
As a brand new coach with little experience, McDaniels simply doesn’t have much leverage. Here’s the simple truth, whether you hate Jay Cutler or not: He’s got an amazing amount of talent and produces on the field, so some team will gladly give him a starting gig. You can’t say the same thing for McDaniels, because if he crashes and burns in Denver it is possible he’ll never get a chance to be a head coach in the NFL again. Denver's offense wasn't the problem last year; their atrocious defense was. So if the Broncos trade Cutler, they'll have to fix the defense AND hope to find a new QB just as good (but preferably better) than Jay Cutler. McDaniels' best course of action is to simply tell Cutler what he wants to hear, and once he wins over some fans by actually tallying some victories, then he can take the kind of stance he’s taking now. In McDaniels' defense, though, Bus Cook, who is Cutler’s agent, seems to be at the center of this and he has a history of involvement of contentious situations (see, e.g., Brett Favre).
My rant aside, the key takeaway is that if Cutlergate can’t be resolved, Denver might end up trading him. Pat Bowlen publicly stated that a trade is possible, and when owners say things like that, you have to reclassify trade rumors as trade possibilities. That provides one more QB for teams that need one. That’s half of the problem as it pertains to the Texans. The other half originated from another QB, although as opposed to the previously stated situation, this other QB's involvement was not akin to a child holding his breath until he gets his way.
Josh Freeman is rocketing up draft boards because of his good Combine performance and stellar Pro Day on March 12th. Freeman is the biggest QB in the draft and has the arm to match, but until recently, Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez were considered the cream of the crop of QB prospects in this year’s draft class. Freeman has at least made it a three horse race, as evident by the fact that the quarterback coaches of Tampa Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, Seattle, and St. Louis were all in attendance to see Freeman work out. The Jets' Offensive Coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, held a private work out with Freeman today, and both General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and Head Coach Rex Ryan will join them tomorrow. Also, the Jaguars quarterback coach will hold another private workout for Freeman next Monday.
All of this is bad news to Texans fans who were in favor of a trade down. As I stated before, I thought our best shot to accomplish such a trade was to entice a team like Tampa or Detroit to leapfrog the Jets at 17 in order to snag Mark Sanchez, who I speculated was going to be the only viable QB choice left. Now it seems as if the pool of feasible top-tier QBs (potentially) available on Draft Day has grown from two to four. I would be shocked if more than two QBs will be selected before the Texans are on the clock with the 15th pick, and if Cutler is available via trade, our leverage for a trade would likely be gone. Suddenly, it’s in the Texans’ best interest for Cutler and McDaniels to kiss and make nice.