- Chris Mortensen, NFL reporter
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Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler said Sunday night he has formally asked Denver to trade him and confirmed that a Saturday meeting with first-year coach Josh McDaniels ended badly from his perspective, while McDaniels offered another viewpoint on Sunday night.
"I went in there with every intention of solving the issue, being a Bronco, moving forward as a Bronco," Cutler said. "We weren't in there but about 20 minutes, [McDaniels] did most of the talking and as far as I'm concerned, he made it clear he wants his own guy. He admitted he wanted Matt Cassel because he said he has raised him up from the ground as a quarterback. He said he wasn't sorry about it. He made it clear that he could still entertain trading me because, as he put it, he'll do whatever he feels is in the best interest of the organization.
"At the end of the meeting, he wasn't like, 'Jay, I want you as our quarterback, you're our guy.' It felt like the opposite. He basically said that I needed to tell him if we can't work this out, to let him know," Cutler added. "I thought he was antagonizing me and that was disappointing because I was ready to move on, committed as a Bronco. Really, I figured we'd hash things out, shake hands, laugh a little and move forward. What happened [Saturday] was the last thing I expected. If I didn't think it could be fixed, I never would have come back to Denver. It was painfully obvious to me and Bus [Cook, his agent] it's not something they want to fix."
Consequently, Cutler instructed Cook, who also attended the meeting, to formally request a trade. The quarterback said he left town late Sunday and would skip McDaniels' first (nonmandatory) team meeting Monday as the Broncos begin their offseason program.
"The Denver Broncos confirm that Jay Cutler has requested a trade," team spokesman Jim Saccomano told The Associated Press on Monday.
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen told The Denver Post on Sunday that he was disappointed with how Cutler has handled the situation. In a telephone interview with ESPN, McDaniels was reluctantly expansive on the story.
"I really have wanted to avoid a he-said, she-said thing but it's only fair for us to present the Bronco side of the story rather than let things get taken out of context," McDaniels said. "There's been a pattern here for the past two weeks the way things [have been represented] in our communications. I don't think anything that happened [Saturday] was out of the ordinary. At the end of the meeting, Jay said he had thought about things quite a bit and requested a few more hours to mull things over. He said he wanted to talk to Bus on how to proceed. He was gonna call me on my cell phone and that never happened. Instead, Bus called [GM] Brian [Xanders].
"Again, I think that's been a pattern. I couldn't get [Cutler] to talk to me for two weeks or to talk to Mr. Bowlen. Then when he came here this weekend, we couldn't get a one-on-one meeting, just me and him alone. He wanted Bus in there, so I had Brian sit in, too. And it was the four of us. There wasn't any yelling, none of that. I can't believe we get to a totally different [interpretation].
"It's an unfortunate set of circumstances that has cropped up, a potential distraction and we've done our best to limit that. The main message I want to get out is that we're excited to start our offseason program [Monday]. It's an exciting time for us."
Cutler was not present for Monday's team meeting.
"I certainly went back there, expecting I'd be there [Monday] but not now," Cutler said. "It's not mandatory. I'll attend every mandatory minicamp and training camp but that's it. Really, it's best for me to move on. As Coach said, he needs every eye in the meeting room to be on him and not me."
McDaniels briefly addressed his broiling quarterback controversy when he gathered his team as a group for the first time Monday morning.
"He just addressed it and said, 'I'll take care of it," recounted defensive lineman Kenny Peterson.
As McDaniels pointed out, Cutler had a completely different expectation when he left their private meeting on Saturday.
Cutler said: "You know, even after the meeting, I hung around town, kind of expecting him to call me and say, 'Hey, let's just me and you get away and have lunch or a cup of coffee' and mend things, but that didn't happen. So, I get it, really, it's a business. I'm disappointed because I love being a Bronco but I think it's run its course."
Cutler denied recent reports that he had asked to be traded when the Broncos fired offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
"Yes, I was upset when they let Jeremy go because Mr. Bowlen had assured me when Mike [Shanahan] was fired that the offense wouldn't change because it was the second-ranked offense in football," Cutler said. "But I didn't push for a trade then."
McDaniels and Cutler agreed on at least one element of the controversy, knocking down a Sunday report on NFL Network that the coach had criticized the quarterback's play in 2008.
"That just isn't true," McDaniels said. "Not a word has been said about that."
Cutler added: "Josh has never said anything negative to me about my play or anything else, for that matter."
McDaniels admitted that the team got involved in trade discussions for Cassel, who instead was dealt to the Kansas City Chiefs. However, he said any perception Cutler felt that the team could still trade him was misleading.
"That's what we have communicated ever since the deal with Cassel didn't happen," McDaniels said. "Other teams have called but we're not interested in getting draft picks for Jay. I never made a statement [Saturday] that 'you can be traded at any time.' They asked a question and I told them it was the time of year when people inquire about your team. Your job, as a head coach and general manager, is to listen and not bypass any opportunity to help your team improve. I think most people [in the NFL] feel the same way. You make smart, educated decisions that are best for your football team."
Cutler feels like McDaniels lost his credibility with him when he initially denied to the quarterback that the Broncos tried to acquire Cassel only to admit it later.
"Before this trade for Cassel thing ever came up, in the two weeks or so I had spent with McDaniels, he was basically telling me that he came to Denver because he wanted to coach me and that we needed to trust each other," Cutler said. "He's never been critical to me. But trust now? How can I trust him now?"
He also explained that his house being put up for sale was "nothing more than a coincidence."
"I had already shown my house privately to some interested buyers a couple of months ago," Cutler said. "I've really been looking to buy 40 to 70 acres of land there."
As for ignoring phone calls from McDaniels and Bowlen, Cutler said: "Josh and I have exchanged text messages. We had a conference call. And if Pat wanted to speak to me, why didn't he come to the meeting on Saturday?"
Cutler will miss out on a $100,000 bonus if he doesn't attend 90 percent of the workouts. Cutler is entering the fourth season of a six-year, $48 million contract he signed as a rookie.
Even though it's voluntary, the coaches expect everyone to attend the team's offseason program unless players have an excused absence such as newcomer Brian Dawkins, who helped the NFL Players Association elect a new executive director in Hawaii on Sunday.
"Right now we're just running and lifting," Peterson said. "You'd like to see everybody here. ... But we'll be all right. I mean, I got faith in the people upstairs and everything else that we'll be just fine."
The Broncos' first minicamp is April 17-19, a week before the draft.
Newly signed cornerback Andre' Goodman said McDaniels asked the players not to talk about what he said in the meeting regarding Cutler.
Still, there was a major void in the room with Cutler missing, Goodman said.
"I think the quarterback is the face of the team," Goodman said. "You take the coach out of it and he is the face of the team."
Cook said that as an agent he was "totally in shock" that it has gotten so ugly.
"I would have bet my house going into Saturday's meeting that everyone would be shaking hands and smiling," Cook said. "I thought it was going to get worked out. But it was very clear to me that Jay Cutler is not their choice to be quarterback of that team."
Yet Cook admitted that when he called Xanders to request a trade on Saturday night, the team's general manager said it wasn't going to happen and that "Jay should show up Monday."
That wasn't going to happen, either.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
1dEric D. Williams