Coach's Corner - Mike Shanahan 11/27/06

As expected, Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan announced a change at quarterback this afternoon, shifting rookie Jay Cutler into the starting lineup. Check out the full transcripts.

Mike Shanahan

Opening statement
"We did make a change at the quarterback position. Jay Cutler will be our starting quarterback Sunday night. I'll bet you there are some questions."

On when he came to this decision
"Well obviously with the extra couple days it does make it much easier, but that wasn't the deciding factor."

On what the deciding factor was for moving QB Cutler into the starting role
"Just like we have talked all along it is a process. You go through your summer camp, you go through your OTA days, you get an evaluation every practice and every game and then you make a decision with what you think is in the best interest of the organization with what you think is the best choice and you make that choice."

On how much better QB Jay Cutler will make the Broncos
"Well we will let the process take care of itself. Jay has the opportunity to obviously be the guy. We understand that there is always a process involved. I like the way he has practiced, I like the way he handles himself and I think he gives us the best chance to win."

On how much of this decision is based on the future of the team and how much is based on the present
"I think you know me well enough that I usually work in the present I don't work in the future. I think that he gives us our best chance to win now, and obviously you have got to go out there and get it done and with Jake (Plummer), I love the way he has handled it. He is a competitor, he is a winner, he has done a lot of great things for this organization and he has won a lot of football games and I really believe that this is for the best interest of our football team."

On how much the upcoming schedule has factored in the quarterback decision
"Well I think it is a combination of all of those things. Like I said before it is a process, it just doesn't happen overnight. It happens on the way that Jay (Cutler) is handling himself through OTA days, the way he is handling himself through summer camp. You evaluate the way people practice on a day-to-day basis, week in and week out, and then you have to make some tough decisions and this is a very tough decision considering all the games, obviously, that Jake (Plummer) has won for us."

On how long the quarterback decision has been brewing
"Well like I said, you think about not only every position on your football team but it is an evaluation process. You don't just think of it as week six, week seven but through your summer camp, through your first week you have an evaluation process not just of the quarterback position but of every position. Obviously this gets the most notoriety."

On how he plans to counter rookie QB Cutler's youth and inexperience
"Well obviously for us to get where we want to we have got to play better as an offense. It is not just the quarterback position that is involved we have got to get better at many positions. Right now we are average on offense and it is not due just to the quarterback it is due to a lot of different segments and we have to get better at those segments."

On whether he will have to scale down the offense for QB Cutler
"For us to make that decision that we have made, we feel very comfortable that he is got complete knowledge of the offense."

On when QB Cutler was drafted if he considered the impact it could possibly have on the team
"I think a lot of it has to do with us not being as successful running the football this year compared to previous years. It put a little more pressure on the quarterback I think that has a lot to do with it. I think that there is always pressure involved at every position especially when your back-up is a first round draft choice."

On QB Jake Plummer's reaction to the loss of his starting roll
"Class. I don't think obviously that he likes the move. Any competitor would not like the move, but he is a winner and he is going to do everything that the can to help this football team. He knows that he is one play away from being the starter and he is going to do everything he can to help us win. It surely doesn't surprise me on how he is handling it."

On if he thinks QB Plummer has the mentality to be a long-term backup quarterback for the Broncos
"Well I think it all depends on him. Would I like him here long term? As long as he would like to be here. He is a winner and he has done a lot of good things for us and I would love him in that role if he wants to be in that role. I think time will tell."

On if the speculation of the quarterback has affected the team in its last game at Kansas City
"No I don't think it has affected us at all. I think that obviously it always affects the quarterback. It is tough when you have a first round draft choice behind you, I think the pressure is always there. I think that is human nature but has it affected our football team-I don't think so."

On if he had a timeline in mind when QB Cutler was drafted
"Well I was hoping it was going to be at the end of the season. Give him a season to learn and kind of learn the system and get comfortable with it."

On QB Cutler's improvement in practice
"Well now with OTA days what you do in your summer program he has probably had more reps with our offense than most veteran quarterbacks of 10 years- for example Gary Kubiak and John Elway. We didn't have all of those OTA days, we didn't have those throwing camps and so in the past it has been very hard for a quarterback to get many reps if he wasn't the starter but he has a good feel for the offense and a good feel for the system and that is one of the reasons we made the change."

On if he worries that there will be an extra burden on QB Cutler being a rookie
"There is pressure. There is pressure in every position."

On if he would have made the change if the Broncos had won against Kansas City
"I don't like to talk about ifs and buts. I can't answer that."

On whether QB Tony Romo's and QB Philip Rivers' performances so far this season give him a positive outlook on Cutler's potential for this season
"No. 1, (Dallas QB) Tony Romo has been in the league for four years. He is not a first-year guy, and (S.D. QB Philip) Rivers has been in the league for a couple years and he is not a first-year guy, so it is quite different. There is a lot of pressure on a first-year quarterback there is no question about it, but I think this kid (Jay Cutler) can handle it."

On what Cutler had shown to convince him he could start
"Consistency. We've talked about this all along. It's a continual evaluation process at every position. It just doesn't happen one week to the next. It happens throughout the offseason program, throughout summer camps, throughout games, game situations, throughout practice situations. And then you go with your gut, what you feel is in the best interest of your football team."

On how Cutler's situation compares to John Elway's taking over as starting quarterback with Denver in 1983
"When you take a look at a situation like that, take a look at a quarterback that, at least in my opinion, didn't have a really great supporting cast. All the pressure was on the quarterback. I think it's almost impossible for a guy to come in his first year without a supporting cast and be successful. You have to have an excellent defense. You have to be able to run the football. You can't put all the pressure on that quarterback. There are a lot of quarterbacks in this league that have been around for a lot of years that you can't put that pressure on, and they're still pretty good quarterbacks. Looking back at John's situation, for him to do the things that he did, to me, was nearly impossible because he put the weight of the team on his shoulders. He didn't have the supporting cast, but was still pretty darn successful. That's a freak of nature. They don't come around very often."

On how the supporting cast is for Cutler
"Hopefully it'll get better in that running game. I think we're a little healthier right now. I think Tatum (Bell) will be back. I think our backs are in a little better shape than they have been. We've got to take a little pressure off that quarterback, as well as all the other positions."

On what Cutler brings that hasn't been there
"I'm not going to go into that. We'll see down the road. As we've talked about, you do the thing that you feel gives you the best chance to win. It's one of the reasons Jay Cutler is our quarterback."

On what he saw from Cutler in the preseason
"To be honest with you, I think you saw a quarterback operate in a game situation. He wasn't awed by a preseason game. I think we all know the defenses are much different during the regular season than they are during the preseason. But this guy is a guy that handles himself quite well. There will be growing pains. There will be many mistakes that happen, but he's going to be our guy. He's the guy for the future. He's the guy for the present. I think I explained why."

On whether he got any indication on whether the locker room was ready for the change
"I can't tell you exactly, but I did tell you I think that I made a big mistake when I named Brian Griese the quarterback (in 1999) instead of Bubby Brister. Bubby had won four games the year before when John wasn't the quarterback. Even though I thought it was in the best interest of the football team, I don't think everybody else thought it was. Is it a 100 percent? I would say definitely not. It never is, especially when a guy has played as hard as Jake has through the years. But that's why you get paid what you get paid, to make those tough decisions, and you've got to do what you think is in the best interesting of the team. That was one of the reasons why we went with Jay."

On whether he could compare Cutler's arm strength to any other quarterback's
"One time, I compared Brian Griese's arm strength to Joe Montana. Then coming out of this meeting I was comparing Brian Griese to Joe Montana, so to compare arm strength is not a very good question for me."

On a young quarterbacks' growing pains
"You don't have that experience that you'd like a quarterback to have. Everybody's got to go through it."

On whether Cutler will see a different side of him in games
"I don't know. We'll see as time goes on. Are you saying I'm not a lovable, likable guy?"

On whether he talked to any players before making the decision
"Even if I did, I wouldn't share that with you. It stays within the confines of our walls for obvious reasons."

On what he has learned about Cutler that couldn't be learned from a scouting report
"He's very mature. He's very confident. He's a worker. He's got all the tools that you look for. That's why he's getting this opportunity, on how he's practiced."

On whether the schedule played a factor on when he would begin starting Cutler
"I don't think about that. Prime time – what's the difference between 6:00 or 2:00? A game's a game. They're all important to us, and you've got to go out there and perform. He'll handle it well."

On whether having RB Tatum Bell healthy will make the difference needed in the running game
"I'm not sure it's just one. It's just kind of having the switch with people coming in and out and people going down with sprained ankles, sprained toes. Not quite as good as we'd like. It's a combination not just of the backs. It's a combination of everybody. So we've got to get better in that area, and I think we will."

On the status of T Adam Meadows
"Don't know yet."

On making a tough decision
"Like I said, Jake has done a lot of great things for our organization. He's played extremely hard. Jake gives you everything he's got, so yeah, it is tough. You've got relationships with a guy that's busted his rear end for you. To call him in and say, ‘Hey, I'm going in another direction,' it's tough. That's the tough part about this business."

On whether Cutler will show a different side as the starter
"I'm not sure it will be much different than it has been. Jay's been a class act as well. He's going to say the right thing at the right time. He's a very smart individual and understands what it takes to be a team. But I'm sure when you do ask him questions that he's going to give you a very honest answer. I think he'll be very forthright."

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