Bears win Cutler sweepstakes

Jay Cutler got a ticket out of Denver, and the Chicago Bears got a franchise quarterback for the first time in decades.

The Chicago Bears acquired disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos on Thursday.

The Chicago Bears acquired disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos on Thursday.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Jay Cutler got a ticket out of Denver, and the Chicago Bears got a franchise quarterback for the first time in decades.

The Broncos traded their disgruntled Pro Bowl passer Thursday, sending him to the Bears, who’ve gone through a bevy of quarterbacks without much success ever since Jim McMahon was calling plays in the 1980s.

The Broncos get quarterback Kyle Orton in return, along with two first-round draft picks and a third-rounder.

The Broncos get the Bears’ top pick in this year’s draft, which is No. 18 overall, and Chicago’s first-round draft pick in 2010, along with a third-round selection this year (No. 84 overall). Denver also gave up a fifth-rounder this year.

Calls to Cutler’s agent, Bus Cook, went unanswered. His office in Hattiesberg, Miss., was closed because of bad weather and his home phone had a message asking callers to call back later. An e-mail sent by The Associated Press wasn’t returned.

Cutler asked for a trade last month after his relationship with Josh McDaniels soured when the new 32-year-old coach talked to other teams about trading him. Cutler and his agent didn’t think McDaniels was up front with them about the trade talks.

Two meetings designed to clear the air only raised Cutler’s level of distrust. Still, McDaniels insisted over and over that Cutler was his guy and he said at last week’s NFL owners meetings that he would do everything he could to repair their relationship.

When the rocket-armed but thin-skinned passer didn’t return the Broncos’ phone calls, however, team owner Pat Bowlen said enough was enough. On Tuesday night, he announced he had given his new brain trust of McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders the go-ahead to seek a trade for the quarterback who made the Pro Bowl in just his second season as a starter.

Now, the Bears have a top quarterback, albeit one with baggage.

“I don’t have any concerns,” Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said.

“(Coach Lovie Smith) and I talked about that. We did, like a lot of people who were interested in Jay, a lot of work going back to not just when he was with Denver but going back to his days at Vanderbilt.”

Angelo said area scout Rex Hogan lives in the Nashville area and developed a “great rapport” with Cutler coming out of Vanderbilt in 2006.

“We felt that (Cutler) is a very good person, a good leader,” Angelo said. “He had some things that happened in Denver. We recognized those, but we treated them as just speed bumps, part of the growing process. He’s highly competitive, he’s highly emotional. That just comes with the territory.”

Although Cutler is 17-20 as a starter, he’s been victimized by dismal defences in Denver, and he was an impressive 13-1 when the Broncos held opponents to 21 points or fewer.

Last year, Cutler threw for a franchise record 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. In his 37-game career in Denver, he completed 62.5 per cent of his passes for 9,024 yards, 54 TDs and 37 interceptions.

Although he was prone to mistakes, his bold and at times risky play wasn’t just tolerated but encouraged by former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who would often laud Cutler for not just dumping off short passes to pad his statistics but instead dared to go downfield, even into coverage. He said that trait would make him great one day.

Cutler’s inability to quickly fulfill that forecast cost Shanahan his job on Dec. 30 after the Broncos missed the playoffs for the third straight year.

Cutler wasn’t happy about Shanahan’s firing. And he was upset when his position coach, Jeremy Bates, bolted for Southern Cal because McDaniels will be the one calling plays in Denver now.

When he hired McDaniels, Bowlen proclaimed that Cutler “is the man around here, now.”

That didn’t last long.

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