|04-30-2006, 03:04 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Santa Claus' gift
Small town in Indiana wrapped Cutler for stardom at Vanderbilt
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer
anderbilt QB Jay Cutler (AP file)
Yes, Broncoland, there really is a Santa Claus.
It's about 45 minutes down the road from Evansville, Ind., a town of about 2,000 where Christmas is a daily theme and its most famous resident is not a man with a white beard and jolly belly, but Jay Cutler.
It was there Broncos coach Mike Shanahan hopes he found the greatest gift of all - a franchise quarterback for the future. Cutler is the pride of Santa Claus, Ind., a 6-foot-3, 226-pound specimen with a gifted arm who woke up Saturday morning thinking draft day would bring him just about anywhere but Denver.
"I literally hadn't heard from the Broncos in the last couple months," Cutler said.
The Broncos got Cutler by trading the 15th and 68th picks for the 11th pick, held by the St. Louis Rams. It was with that pick that Cutler became a Bronco.
"We don't talk to the (players) because sometimes when you talk to them you give it away," Shanahan said.
Forgive current quarterback Jake Plummer if his immediate reaction was something other than ho, ho, ho.
"Jake Plummer, I think he's got a lot of years left," Cutler said Saturday via conference call, minutes after he became the Broncos' first quarterback selected in the first round since Tommy Maddox in 1992. "He's a great quarterback, and he's been doing it in Denver the last couple years."
Plummer has had three fine seasons in Denver, posting a 32-11 regular- season record. He won't turn 32 until after the Broncos play their 14th game this season, so Plummer may well have, as Cutler put it, a lot of years.
But once Cutler became the Broncos' first-round draft pick, the widespread reaction was Plummer's career in Denver just went on the clock. The Broncos reached the AFC championship game last season, and the expectation this season is to take that next step to the Super Bowl - or else.
The 2007 season could be Cutler's time.
"I think it's good for a quarterback to wait coming in as a rookie," Cutler said. "Learn the system, watch someone successful in front of them do it. But I'm a competitor. I want to play."
Calm before storm
What will the Broncos have once Cutler does play? His first impression brought an unaffected manner that may have been the influence of his Midwestern upbringing. Before his selection, a television network caught him eating a chicken quesadilla from his hangout in Evansville. Cutler spotted himself eating on his monitor - and took another bite.
"I was extremely calm," he said. "I was nervous before I got here but once it started, I calmed down."
His father, Jack, is an Indiana state policeman. Mom Sandy is a substitute teacher.
Their son's athleticism must have kept them busy year-round. In his junior and senior years at Heritage High School in Santa Claus, Cutler averaged at least 20 points a game in basketball, played shortstop while hitting better than .400 each year in baseball, and played both safety and quarterback while guiding his team to a 26-1 combined record in football.
His high school football record includes a state championship his senior season. If there was a knock on him coming into this draft, it was the 11-34 record he had during four years at Vanderbilt.
"I can't really argue the win-loss record," Cutler said. "It's just part of playing at Vanderbilt. We tried to do the best we could, but sometimes we just couldn't get it done."
"The most upside"
He's not the Broncos' first strong-armed quarterback to come out of a losing program. John Elway was a combined 9-13 in his final two years at Stanford.
Compared with the other quarterbacks selected in the first round Saturday, Cutler may not be as athletic as Vince Young or as polished as Matt Leinart. Then again, he may be more polished than Young and more athletic than Leinart.
"Jay Cutler is a combination of both," said Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist. "He's a good athlete, he's a smart guy. His main thing will now be working in a system where he will have the tools."
The Broncos took note that Cutler was the only one of the Big Three quarterbacks who performed at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February.
"It's just throwing," Cutler said then.
He ran a 4.77 40 dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times.
"I think Jay Cutler is going to be the best NFL quarterback of the three," draft expert Mike Mayock said last week. "I think he has the most upside. He easily has the most arm. He has the quickest release. I think people do him a disservice when they say he's never had a winning season. This is a guy who has played behind a poor offensive line with no NFL-caliber receivers."
No one would question Cutler's toughness, not after four years of shellackings as Vanderbilt's quarterback without missing a start. Check that. He did miss one start. As a freshman, he was suspended from the Middle Tennessee State game for damaging a campus emergency phone.
Focus on footwork
Cutler will need some time breaking a few bad habits, not unexpected of a quarterback from a perennial Southeastern Conference doormat. Scouting reports say he has a tendency to throw before he's set. He had an alarming 13 fumbles as a sophomore, although he cut that number to 12 combined in his junior and senior years.
"Everyone is all over my footwork and how I throw off my back foot," Cutler said. "But I think that was the only option I had playing (at Vanderbilt). I think footwork is easily corrected. I've already corrected a lot of it. ... I'm just excited and getting ready to go."
NFL draft day wasn't Christmas morning for the kid from Santa Claus. It was his birthday. Cutler turned 23 Saturday. What a gift
|04-30-2006, 03:33 AM||#2|
Anybody want a peanut?
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ceti Alpha V
|04-30-2006, 03:43 AM||#3|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Leucadia CA
The Broncos are the best bluffers in the NFL!
|04-30-2006, 03:45 AM||#4|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Mar 2004
How the hell do you goto the AFCC game then come back the next year and get the best QB in the draft?
Well done Shanny, good god you are the mastermind!
|04-30-2006, 03:52 AM||#5|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Hot Springs, Ouachitah
Rejoice Bronco Nation, this kid is real.
We just couldn't reach Vernon Davis, but we did good today. Jake will roll with it.
|04-30-2006, 03:54 AM||#6|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Hot Springs, Ouachitah