DANA POINT, Calif. (AP) - Broncos coach Josh McDaniels says the team is committed to Jay Cutler as Denver's quarterback. Still, he says no options - including trades - are being ruled out.
McDaniels spoke with the media for the first time Tuesday since the rift between the new Broncos coach and the Pro Bowl quarterback became public. He reiterated that Cutler is his quarterback and he'll do what he can to improve the relationship.
The relationship became strained when McDaniels failed to inform Cutler about trade talks in which the Broncos showed interest in Matt Cassel. Cassel wound up being traded by New England to Kansas City, and Cutler asked to be traded.
"I've always been optimistic," McDaniels said at the NFL meetings. "He's on our team, he's under contract, and I understand there's things we have to work toward in our relationship.
"I've heard (Cutler's trade request), but have not heard it from him personally. No one has contacted me, called me, text-messaged or e-mailed me."
The 32-year-old McDaniels is in his first head coaching job after serving as offensive coordinator for New England, where he developed the untested Cassel into a top quarterback in 2008. He's never denied that "conversations took place" this month about acquiring Cassel, nor does he apologize for them.
"You take into consideration what anybody is trying to offer up," he said. "If the quality of the trade you feel, in the long run, improves your team, you analyze it.
"It's been made very clear to me it's my job to listen to a number of scenarios that would improve the team."
McDaniels did wonder why Cutler insisted on having agent Bus Cook present when the coach and quarterback met face to face in Denver.
"One thing I continually want to do is meet with players one-on-one about myself, and find the best way to fix any issues," McDaniels said. "It's not an issue for an agent; we're not talking contract. It was not mutual. He invited his agent."
Cook did not immediately respond to messages left by The Associated Press.
Cutler did not show for the Broncos' first team meeting last week and hasn't participated in the team's offseason program, which is voluntary.
McDaniels smiled when asked if this ordeal was difficult for a young, rookie head coach.
"You hope certain things don't get out before you have a chance to meet and explain them," he said. "So my attitude is I'm going to work hard to improve the team and in this case, the player, when I have an opportunity to, get to the point where he respects me for what I can do for him on the field. I hope that that's mutual."
Cutler has said he'll be at a mandatory minicamp April 17-19 - if he's still a member of the Broncos. When asked if he envisions Cutler being the team's quarterback five weeks from now, McDaniels emphatically said, "Yes."
Cutler is halfway through the six-year, $48 million contract he signed as the 11th overall pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2006 draft. He's 17-20 as Broncos starter, although that's misleading because of Denver's dismal defense. He's 13-1 in games in which Denver held its opponents under 21 points.
He was upset when Mike Shanahan was fired as coach, and even requested that members of Shanahan's offensive staff be retained, which didn't happen.
"It's not an ideal situation, obviously," McDaniels said. "We want him to be here, but it has to be two ways. It's a challenge for him. I understand the position he is in and I respect that."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.