Rookie Jay Cutler will take over for Jake Plummer as Denver's starting quarterback the rest of the season, beginning on Sunday night against Seattle. The Broncos haven't played well on offense most of the season and the coaches felt a change was needed.
"With the losing streak we're going on, it doesn't hurt to try," receiver Javon Walker said.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan knew the move wouldn't be unanimously accepted as the best one for the team with five games remaining in the season. He said he didn't want to repeat the mistake he made in 1999, when he started the season with untested Brian Griese at quarterback instead of veteran Bubby Brister and many players weren't on board, but he thought putting Cutler in was necessary.
"Is it 100 percent? I would say definitely not," Shanahan said. "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."
Plummer still has some support in the locker room. He has guided Denver to three winning seasons and a 7-4 record this year, and the Broncos knew that what happened on offense wasn't all his fault.
Denver's offensive line is in disarray because of injuries and the running game has struggled. The Broncos have scored 17 or fewer points in eight of 11 games this season, a stunning statistic for a Shanahan-coached offense. Plummer hasn't played well, with 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but he hasn't been the only problem.
"It's tough from my standpoint to pin all of our troubles on one player when I watch the film and there's a lot of guys that need to play better," tight end Stephen Alexander said. "Whether it's Jake under center or it's Jay under center, we all have to play better as a unit."
The players said they supported Cutler, and could see his potential in practice. If nothing else, Cutler should be able to make some plays and add some excitement to the offense the rest of the season.
"We haven't been playing our best football," Walker said. "Hopefully with Jay coming in there and bringing his energy and his style of play, maybe that's what we need going into a big game."
Cutler said there was no big deal made of the change this week. The veterans went about their business and he took the snaps with the first-team offense without any fanfare.
Plummer has supported Cutler all season and the first-round pick said he expected that to continue even though there has been a change on the depth chart. Cutler said after Shanahan told both quarterbacks of the move on Monday, he had a conversation with Plummer.
"We kind of talked and said it didn't change anything between me and him," Cutler said. "He's going to be there for me. It's good to have him around."
--Running back Tatum Bell, who has missed three of Denver's past four games because of turf toe injuries, said he is ready to play. He has 649 rushing yards this season and still wants to reach 1,000.
"My goal is to get back on track, try to end up with 1,000 yards and I want to help put the team in better positions by making plays," Tatum Bell said. "I'm going to be back, watch. I'm hungry."
--Rookie quarterback Jay Cutler said he isn't worried about playing in cold weather this weekend. The temperature for Sunday's kickoff against Seattle should be less than 30 degrees.
Cutler played his college ball at Vanderbilt but grew up in Indiana and said he has played well in bad weather before.
"Once you get in a game you warm up and that's the last thing you're thinking about," Cutler said.
Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said he wasn't behind the extra sprints; the players stayed on their own.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- The Broncos have had seven rookies start at quarterback; Jay Cutler will be the eighth. Those seven quarterbacks had a 5-2 record in their first start.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think he gives us the best chance to win now." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan when asked if he was thinking about the future when he decided to make Jay Cutler his starting quarterback.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos offense will look a lot different this week because it has been a while since Jake Plummer wasn't under center. Aside from some snaps by Bradlee Van Pelt in meaningless situations last season, Plummer has taken every important snap since the middle of the 2003 season. He missed a few games that year because of injuries.
Jay Cutler hasn't taken a snap this season but he will start Sunday against Seattle. Cutler isn't as mobile as Plummer, but he can get out of the pocket, and he has a stronger arm than Plummer.
PLAYER NOTES --C Tom Nalen will pass Billy Thompson for second place on the Broncos' all-time list for games started when he starts his 179th career game on Sunday.
--WR David Kircus has been a good deep threat for the Broncos, averaging 22.6 yards per catch. Kircus has also had some crucial dropped passes. He needs to be more consistent.
--RB Mike Bell should continue to get carries, even if Tatum Bell returns. Tatum Bell hasn't played much in the past month and is unlikely to get 25 carries against Seattle.
--OT George Foster would fill in for Adam Meadows again if Meadows misses Sunday's game because of a hamstring injury. The Broncos need Foster to bounce back from a bad game against Kansas City, which came after his benching earlier this season.
--LB Al Wilson will get consideration for the Pro Bowl again. Wilson leads the Broncos with 89 tackles. He has 69 unassisted tackles.
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