Talk about an issue having tentacles in a lot of different directions. The Cutler saga is dominating the discussion in the NFL to such a degree right now that I almost feel sorry for Terrell Owens. Nobody's even talking about the poor guy. His jump to Buffalo is so yesterday that it might as well have occurred in 2006. Maybe things would perk up if he demanded a trade.
The top three most popular questions in the NFL today are who's going to trade for Cutler, what should Denver do with Cutler, and why is it that AIG thinks it can get away with paying Cutler a bonus? OK, I made that last one up, but give it two days and somebody will run with it.
Here's just a sampling of what I read about Wednesday:
• The Dallas Morning News shooting down a notion that has taken on a life of its own on Cowboys blogs: Trading Tony Romo for Cutler straight up. No word on whether Jessica Simpson goes, too.
• Various outlets pooh-poohing the idea that a Cutler for Donovan McNabb trade makes sense in Philadelphia. It has been correctly noted that the thin-skinned Cutler might just get his feelings roughed up a bit in a town of Philly's ilk.
• Redskins personnel executive Vinny Cerrato re-affirming that Jason Campbell is the team's starting quarterback and that Washington has no interest in trading for Cutler.
• The Bears starter Kyle Orton saying he's unfazed by rumors that Chicago might be interested in trading for Cutler.
• Lions general manager Martin Mayhew refusing to address the issue of whether Detroit will attempt to trade for you-know-who for the second time this offseason.
• Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer responding to questions from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about whether Cutler would represent an upgrade at the position for the Vikings. His take? Not really.
• The Tampa Tribune warning that acquiring Cutler -- the Bucs too already tried to trade for him earlier this offseason -- may not be a move worth making.
• The Tennessean of Nashville making the case that the Titans missed out on drafting Cutler over Vince Young in 2006, and have a rare opportunity to correct that mistake.
• Texans fans wanting their team to trade for Cutler as a replacement for the injury-prone Matt Schaub, but the Houston Chronicle reporting that J.C. won't be playing for ex-Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak any time soon.
• In Cleveland, the Plain-Dealer saying a three-way deal that involves the Browns shipping quarterback Brady Quinn away to Denver in exchange for a draft pick or picks -- with Cutler going to the third team in the deal -- makes the most sense for Cleveland's muddled QB situation.
• Former Jets quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst Boomer Esiason makings no bones about it, telling the New York Post that the Jets should go "guns a-blazing and try to get'' Cutler in a trade.
• Newspapers in South Florida weighing in on the side of the Dolphins needing to think long and hard about opting for a trade for Cutler over the combination of ChadHenne's future and ChadPennington's present.
• And fan blogs in places like Buffalo, Jacksonville and Arizona brimming with dreams of trading the likes of Trent Edwards, David Garrard or Matt Leinart for Cutler.
Indeed, Cutler has become the all-purpose savior of choice among teams not making the playoffs last season. And quite a few that did. Best I can tell, the only teams or fan bases that have absolutely no interest in acquiring Cutler are Indianapolis (which is a pity, since Cutler was born in Santa Claus, Ind.), New England (the Pats have a guy coming off knee surgery who they think could be pretty good), and maybe assorted recent Super Bowl winners such as Pittsburgh and the Giants. But that's about it.
And I don't know about you, but my sense is Cutler-gate isn't going away for a while yet. For a guy with a 17-20 career record as an NFL starter, who's still waiting to make his first playoff appearance, Cutler certainly seems to be creating a lot to talk about.
• It's good to hear that the NFL's competition committee didn't find much support among the players or the league's 32 clubs for tinkering with the overtime format. On a conference call Wednesday afternoon to set up next week's NFL annual meeting in Dana Point, Calif., competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay of the Falcons made it very clear that the vast majority of people within the league don't feel there's any need to fix what's not broken.
"We've got nothing to propose, because there's just not enough support at this time to change [overtime],'' McKay said. "We think overtime still achieves its major goal; it breaks ties. With the players and with the membership, there's great support for the current system. I sense more concern within the media than with either the players or the membership.''
Not this media member. I've come around to believing that there is no perfectly "fair'' fix for overtime, and there's no compelling reason to ditch the current system of a coin flip to start a sudden-death 15-minute period. If your team didn't get the ball in overtime, it's because your defense didn't stop the other guys. Case closed.
My colleague Peter King and I have been arguing back and forth about "fixing'' overtime for months now, and I got to relay to him Wednesday that no OT proposal is forthcoming at this year's league meeting. He wasn't happy, a sentiment he'll no doubt expound on at some point soon.
• No major rule change proposals are coming at this year's league meetings, but it's the right move for the competition committee to propose an expansion of the list of reviewable plays to include the sort of occurrence that got referee Ed Hochuli on the most-wanted lists in San Diego last season.
In Week 2 of last season, Denver quarterback Jay Cutler (there's that name again) lost the ball in the final minutes of a game against the Chargers, but it was ruled by Hochuli an incomplete pass and not a fumble, and thus couldn't be reviewed. The Chargers ended up losing the game after Denver got that reprieve, and Hochuli later admitted he blew the call. The change would make that play reviewable no matter how it's ruled on the field, just as the league two years ago altered the rules allowing down-by-contact plays to be reviewed.
• The other common-sense move the league appears likely to make involves a bylaw change that will set the draft order of all playoff-qualifying teams according to how far they advance in the postseason. Currently, only the two Super Bowl teams are locked in at Nos. 31 and 32 in the first round, with the other 10 playoff teams put in reverse order based on their regular season record.
For instance, this year Tennessee will draft at No. 30 based on its 13-3 record in the regular season, and Baltimore (11-5) will be No. 26, despite the fact the Ravens beat the Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs and advanced to the AFC title game. If the bylaw is changed, the 10 playoff teams that didn't make the Super Bowl will be slotted according to the length of their postseason run, not their regular-season record.
I've never quite understood why the NFL used regular-season records to begin with in establishing the draft order for playoff teams.
"The [playoff field] re-seeding discussion of last year led us to the idea of looking at the last couple of drafts, and seeing what the impact would be,'' McKay said. "It's a committee recommendation that we would fix the system with regards to treating people by where they go out of the playoffs rather than regular-season standings.''
• Jacksonville submitted a bylaw proposal to the competition committee that will serve to re-start the discussion this year on whether the league should change its playoff seeding format to be strictly based on overall records, rather than giving preference to the four division champions. But from the sound of things, McKay and his committee brethren again this year don't gauge enough interest in getting anything changed in that regard.
Even with the examples that the 8-8 division-winning Chargers and 9-7 division-winning Cardinals provided last season (both won first-round playoff home games against wild-card teams with far superior records in the Colts and Falcons), look for more talk, but no action on the playoff re-seeding issue at the league meeting.
• Don't hold your breath waiting to hear any hard news out of the NFL's annual meeting regarding an increase to a 17- or 18-game regular season. It's going to be a major point of discussion, but the reality is it'll be linked to the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the players union, and thus nothing will get decided about a schedule change until there's a new labor deal. No vote of any kind will occur next week in California.
Decreasing the length of the preseason a game or two, with an corresponding increase of the regular season, is a puzzle with many moving parts, and the league has to address issues ranging from how it impacts its TV partners, to the players' top concern, a longer season producing a greater risk of injury. In other words, the NFL has to get its ducks in a row.
The league continues to contemplate a switch to either a 17- or 18-game regular-season schedule, but my sense is commissioner Roger Goodell will push for the two-game increase all at once, rather than opt to do two separate one-game increases. The NFL has expanded its regular season from 12 to 14 to 16 games over the years, so the two-game increment has a precedent.
• One bit of non-action on the rules change front did surprise me: the competition committee, which is co-chaired by Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, isn't recommending any change to how the game officials keep track of the play clock. As everyone remembers, the Titans got hosed late in their playoff loss to Baltimore when the Ravens avoided being called for a delay of game penalty, despite the play clock clearly having expired.
"Was there a play in that game? I don't recall,'' McKay quipped, before going on to say that the committee's review of the entire season turned up just two plays that were obvious missed play-clock violations, and that wasn't enough to merit a change in how the system works. The league instead intends to re-emphasis play-clock watching to its game officials, McKay said.
Which I'm sure, at this point is a great comfort to Fisher and his team.
• That nine-minute Marshawn Lynch news conference in Buffalo on Wednesday afternoon was a beauty. Lynch said he expects Goodell to suspend him in the wake of him pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge in Los Angeles earlier this month -- his second entanglement with the legal system in two years.
"I got a lot of insight out of it from commissioner Goodell,'' Lynch said, of his Tuesday meeting with Goodell in the NFL's New York office. "Something that he stressed throughout that meeting was that he will not tolerate any more screw-ups by me, so I think that's sinking in to me.''
Lynch said he expects to know within 10 days whether his "screw-ups'' will prompt a suspension, but he's counting on it. Goodell is expected to hand down a suspension of anywhere from one to four games.
"Just from the situations that happened with me before, and people kind of felt that I skated off with not being suspended, I do [expect one],'' said Lynch, with unusual bluntness. "For me, I honestly see a suspension coming.''
Here's hoping Goodell doesn't disappoint him.