If Washington Redskins Chase Quarterback Jay Cutler, They Better Catch Him

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 2, 2009; 12:23 PM

Going after Jay Cutler is perfectly fine.

But going after him and not getting him is not fine. In fact, it's less than not fine. It's potentially ruinous to your team.

And that's the problem for the Washington Redskins.

It doesn't happen very often in the NFL that a young but already proven quarterback becomes available, a guy who has obvious ability, has yet to reach his prime and gives you no reason to believe that he won't be a standout player for years to come.

In his first two full seasons as an NFL starter in Denver, Cutler has thrown for 8,023 yards with 45 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. For comparison's sake, Peyton Manning threw for 7,874 yards with 52 touchdowns and 43 interceptions in his first two full seasons as a starter in Indianapolis. Now, those were Manning's first two seasons in the league, while Cutler's first two full seasons as a starter came after a rookie season in which he made five starts. So there is a bit of a difference. But you get the point: This guy can actually play. He's the real deal. This is not like bringing in Jeff George all over again.

Should it be worrisome that you're chasing a guy who has, essentially, forced the Broncos to trade him? Absolutely.

Should it give you pause to pursue a quarterback who has the same agent, Bus Cook, who represented Brett Favre last year when Favre forced his way out of Green Bay and got the Packers to trade him to the Jets? Yes, it should. The Broadway Brett show wasn't exactly a hit, was it?

But even with that being said, there's nothing wrong with the Redskins being in the Cutler derby. Yes, Jason Campbell played fine last season, especially considering that it was his first season under yet another new coach in yet another new offensive system. But there's plenty of evidence to suggest that getting Cutler would represent an upgrade at the most important position in the sport. If you get things right at quarterback in the NFL, you instantly fix a lot of other problems on your team as well.

Still, all of this is problematic. It's not like the Redskins are the only team in the Cutler chase. They will face plenty of competition for Cutler, and some of the other interested teams actually hold on to a few of their draft picks every once in a while. If a dozen teams go after Cutler, 11 of them will come up empty. And those 11, if their pursuit of Cutler has become public, will have to turn around and tell their own quarterbacks, "Never mind any of that. You're our guy. Now go get 'em."

That's the real dilemma for the Redskins because now it's been reported that they're after Cutler and they've shopped Campbell. Maybe the Redskins will deny it. Maybe they won't. If they don't get Cutler and they deny that they tried, maybe we'll never know just how hard they pushed to get this trade done. But this is one of those cases in which perception is reality, because now it's out there and now Campbell is left believing that his bosses think there's an available quarterback worth dumping Campbell to get. Now there's repair work to be done if the Redskins don't get Cutler.

This topic came up last week at the league meeting when I asked Jim Zorn about Cutler, when Zorn said that the Redskins hadn't expressed any interest in Cutler to the Broncos and Campbell was his quarterback. Perhaps Zorn was telling the complete truth at the time; perhaps he wasn't. That doesn't really matter. Anyone who expects an NFL coach or executive to tell the complete truth all the time about things like potential trades doesn't know much about how the league works. What does matter is what Zorn said when I asked him if he was worried about Campbell feeling unwanted by the Redskins and whether a quarterback had to be treated differently than another player in a situation like this, and he said he thought that Campbell needed to worry about other things and quarterbacks shouldn't be treated any differently.

If Zorn and the Redskins really think that, they need to think again. A quarterback is different. He's expected to be the leader of the team, the guy who gets more than his fair share of the credit for wins but also the bulk of the blame for losses. Most quarterbacks, especially young quarterbacks, feel undermined by something like this, by a team searching for a replacement. That's how all of this started in Denver with Cutler -- when the Broncos, by their account, took a few calls and contemplated whether they should trade for Matt Cassel. They didn't, and rookie coach Josh McDaniels said last week that things never even got very far in those trade discussions. But look at what it did to the Broncos' relationship with Cutler. Should Cutler have moved on and made things work in Denver with McDaniels? Yes. But he didn't, and that should be a warning to any team now involved in the Cutler sweepstakes.

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