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Cutler A No Show As Broncos Soap Opera Intensifies
Do you sometimes wonder just how ridiculous adults can behave? Well. ... If you don't have the luxury of watching C-Span on a daily basis as our elected "leaders" go about their business, I would suggest that regular doses of "SportsCenter" or "Total Access" will offer considerable insight into just how childish our world can be.

Especially this time each year -- and even more so when agent James "Bus" Cook is part of the story.

And that brings us to yet another follow-up to this year's biggest off-season soap opera (at least so far).

In case you missed yesterday's installment, Jay Cutler finally met face-to-face with head coach Josh McDaniels over the weekend, but nothing was resolved. Cutler and Cook have formally requested that the Broncos trade the young signal caller and made it clear Sunday he would not attend the meeting and voluntary workouts this week.

And according to Denver Post staffer Lindsay H. Jones, Cutler was in fact a no show this morning.

The continuing downward spiral gained momentum Sunday afternoon, when Post beat writer Mike Klis -- in reporting the two sides appear to be headed for "a divorce based on irreconcilable differences" -- quoted Broncos owner Pat Bowlen as saying: "I'm very disappointed. I'm disappointed in the whole picture, not just disappointed that we might lose our star quarterback."

Say what? Lose the quarterback??

Asked to clarify, Bowlen said he is steadfastly supports his new coach and his disappointment lies in the way Cutler has handled the situation. And how did Cutler (and more importantly perhaps, Cook) respond?

They went right to Cook's favorite mouthpiece, ESPN insider Chris Mortensen. For those just getting in on the fun, that's the same tactic Cook used last year when another client had issues with his team. You might recall the Brett Favre-Green Bay Packers soap opera from this time last year.

That's right. Cook is Favre's agent, too.

Anyhow. ... Cutler first told Mortensen late Sunday night that he would not be at today's team meeting.

"I certainly went back there, expecting I'd be there (Monday), but not now," Cutler told Mortensen. "It's not mandatory. I'll attend every mandatory mini-camp and training camp, but that's it. Really, it's best for me to move on."

What about his tactic of ignoring phone calls from McDaniels and Bowlen? Cutler explained: "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?"

Dude. ... What part of "Bowlen is the guy who signs your paycheck" don't you understand? Good grief.

Meanwhile, Cook chimed in by saying that 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 told Mortensen. "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."

And Cutler's take?

"I went in there with every intention of solving the issue, being a Bronco, moving forward as a Bronco," the former first-round draft pick 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."

Cutler added: "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.

"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 [Cook] it's not something they want to fix."

Consequently, Cutler instructed Cook (who also attended the meeting) to formally request a trade.

Making matters more interesting, McDaniels decided to fire back after Cutler went public.

The coach, talking to the Post, ESPN and insider Peter King made it clear he doesn't share Cutler's negative view of their meeting and discussions.

According to King, McDaniels offered the following chronology.

The coach said he was not considering trading Cutler until he was contacted "by two teams" at the NFL Scouting Combine -- presumably Detroit and Tampa. McDaniels characterized them as "pie-in-the-sky inquiries," though, and he didn't consider anything seriously, he said, until the day before the Feb. 27 beginning of free-agency, when he got a serious proposal for Cutler.

"This was a non-issue until Thursday [Feb. 26]," McDaniels said. "There was obviously a scenario where teams figured we'd be interested in Matt Cassel, because I'd coached him in New England. When someone calls, I'm going to consider it, because that's my job."

Cutler believes the Broncos were much more interested in trading him and signing Cassel than they've said. I asked McDaniels if he'd been interested in Cassel before the contact by the two teams at the combine, going back to when he knew Cassel might be on the market and available in trade from the Patriots.

"No, that's totally untrue," McDaniels told King.

And what about Cutler's comments to Mortensen? That the QB's time in Denver "had run its course," the rift between him and McDaniels is "not something they want to fix," that McDaniels "made it clear he could still entertain trading me," and said the coach "made it clear he wants his own guy."

"Oh boy," McDaniels said in response. "No, no, no. Nothing like that was conveyed."

"I think the hang-up is, 'Well, you considered doing it once, would you ever consider it again?' It keeps coming out like I want my own guy. Thinking we want to trade him now is totally opposite what we've been trying to do here. ...

"We've been trying like hell for two weeks to get a face-to-face meeting."

It's safe to say his preference would be a face-to-face meeting. ... Without Cook sitting in.

According to King, what frustrates McDaniels is that the two sides met -- he thinks without acrimony -- and then word gets out that there was tension or vindictiveness in the meeting.

"It's hard to believe we're sharing the same intentions and can have such different interpretations of the meeting," he said. "When we met [Saturday], my point was, 'We all know where this was, and now we all have to try to move forward.' After we met for a while, and went over a lot of the same ground we'd been over, Jay said to me, 'Can I have a few more hours to think?' I said, 'Yeah, give me a call on my cell phone.'

"He never called. [Cook] called (Broncos general manager) Brian [Xanders], but Jay didn't call me."

(If you'll recall, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy had a similar take after a high-profile meeting with Favre last year; McCarthy specifically told Favre he didn't want to get up the next day and hear what was said on their meeting on SportsCenter. ... Which is exactly what happened.)

Worth noting: In his discussion with ESPN, McDaniel made it clear he realizes Cook is a problem.

"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]. ..."

Given Cook's history, however, McDaniels probably shouldn't be surprised.

As's Mike Florio wrote this morning: "We're now convinced that Cook is the primary instigator of Cutler's discontent -- and also the primary impediment to a meaningful coach-player meeting that could resolve the situation and keep Cutler around."

I couldn't agree more.

McDaniels clearly wants to be able to talk to Cutler without Cook sticking his nose into the discussion, saying and doing things that will prevent Cutler's resolve from weakening.

Indeed, a league source tells Florio that Cook's idea for solving the current impasse was a fat new contract for Cutler. If the Broncos aren't willing to give Cutler a new deal, then Cook and Cutler want to be traded.

Imagine that.

And the situation is certainly dire -- a notion King certainly expressed this morning in summing up his piece: "Cutler will be playing elsewhere unless he and McDaniels sit in a room together for two hours and come out married. That's not likely to happen. ..."

But a bad relationship doesn't require a separation -- something the Broncos seem to understand.

Asked specifically if he feels he'll be forced to trade Cutler, McDaniels said: "No. He's got three years left on his contract. We're not at the point where we're going to do it now. ... [But] it's probably something we're going to have to talk about. We've been trying to communicate, and I still want to try, but if that's the direction we're headed, we're going to have to talk."

As Florio pointed out in a column published this morning, it's not too late for the Broncos to take control of the situation. The Bengals did it last year with Chad Johnson. And the Cardinals did it last year (and might do it again this year) with Anquan Boldin.

When a player is under contract for three more seasons, the team (not the player) has the power to determine whether the player will be traded or released before those three years expire.

Given all that. ... What's the answer?

According to Florio, sending Cutler to Cleveland for Brady Quinn is one possibility. Since Quinn played for former Pats offensive coordinator Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, McDaniels might be interested. The only other team with a quarterback worthy of swapping directly (or nearly even up), might be Philadelphia. But McDaniels likely wouldn't be interested in Donovan McNabb and McNabb likely wouldn't be interested in the Broncos.

The other teams that might have an interest in Cutler (the Jets, Vikings, Bears, Lions, Bucs and 49ers) have no quarterbacks to give in return.

Florio believes another possibility involving one of those team is a three-team deal resulting in Matt Leinart of the Cardinals going to Denver.

Nonetheless, Denver's best option for now is still to keep Cutler.

But watching this train wreck unfold over the last few weeks leaves me wondering if it can be stopped. Or if Cutler and Cook want it to stop. It also has me wondering if McDaniels isn't in over his head.

But isn't that what a good soap opera does? Isn't the whole idea to generate enough intrigue to make it impossible to watch?

And from what I've seen the last few years, Cook -- whether it's been Cutler, Favre or another client, Randy Moss -- nobody can keep the NFL world spinning like "Bus."

By the way. ... Optimist that I am, my suspicion is now that the battle lines have been clearly drawn both sides will hunker down and try to think their next moves through. That said, I'll continue to follow the minute-by-minute stuff in the News & Views section of the site.

And I'll follow up with more in-depth reporting here in the Headline News section as needed. Stay tuned. The one thing I know for sure is more episodes are coming.