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Jay Cutler, Bus Cook, and the Soil From Which Record-Setting Contracts Grow

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You have all seen the IQ test or logic test questions where they ask you to "complete the next element in the series."

Try to complete this series:

  1. Largest rookie contract in NFL history.  (Steve McNair, 1995)
  2.  Largest contract in NFL history.  (Brett Favre, 1997)
  3. First $100,000,000 contract in NFL History (Brett Favre, 2001)
  4. Record setting contract paying out the most in the first three years in NFL history (McNair, 2001)
  5. Largest non-QB contract in NFL history.  (Randy Moss, 2001)
  6. Innovative contract structure involving guaranteed money for Record setting Rookie contract.  (Calvin Johnson, 2007)
  7. ______________________________________??????

My guess, is it was supposed to read:  Largest Contract in NFL History (Jay Cutler, 2010).  All by Bus Cook.

But these kinds of deals don't just happen.  There has to be groundwork laid down, the soil has to be "cultivated" if you will, and it this kind of cultivation that leads to the desperation and knee-jerk reactions needed to sign these kinds of deals.

You gotta believe that you are signing one of the best of all time.  And you gotta feel like if you don't do it NOW, there won't be a second chance.

Enter Bus Cook, and his Methods of Madness.

Bus Cook has no doubt broke some ground and blazed some phenomenal trails for players in terms of earnings.  But he has some methods that shouldn't be considered particularly tasteful.

The William Joseph Saga 

It's not often that a #25 pick in the draft has the leverage to hold out, but in 2003, DT William Joseph was advised to do just that by Bus Cook, as they tried to work a top-of-the-line deal for the player.   The holdout would extend into training camp and cost Joseph almost 3 weeks of practice, and standing with his team and coach.

''I thought we got real close again,'' Fassel said of the negotiations with Joseph and his agent, Bus Cook. ''But I thought we were going to get a response from him last night. We didn't get a response, nothing. Sometimes it bothers me, the lack of urgency. If we're apart and we can't see things, I'd understand. But it's all slotted. It's all there. Now I want to see a sense of urgency to get things done. I don't care if you've got to go sit in a phone booth together, just get it done. My occupation isn't that way. I'm always operating under a sense of urgency.''

The contract that was eventually settled on was record-setting in duration and upfront cash, with creative voiding situations to make the deal legal.  Even as the deal was grinding to a stop, many in the Giants organization suspected what the trouble was, but refrained from speculating.  Reporters working the beat however, took the hint.

''We've always got our guys,'' Fassel said in reference to the ability of Giants General Manager Ernie Acorsi to get players into camp on time. ''I have an idea what the holdup is, but I'm not going to say. All I know is we've not had a problem getting guys in.'' 

Cook did not return a phone call seeking comment on Fassel's remarks.

Most observers felt that this was Bus Cook getting back in on the record-setting action, after a two-year hiatus from the news.  What particularly stood out to fans of the Giants, and to reporters covering the beat was how long the saga drew out to be.  Instead of being settled quickly, one issue followed another in an unending news-cycle that wouldn't let it die.

It seemed that Bus had found a new way to cultivate the soil of record-setting contracts.

The Steve McNair Saga

When Steve McNair's health started to fail him, Cook stepped in quickly and issues came out about what kind of testing was done, and what kind of rights McNair had pertaining to the practice complex for the Titans.  Normally this is a non-issue, settled between liability lawyers.

Instead it was a multiple-week saga that would not die, marred by misinformation about the stances of both the Titans and McNair.

Cook said. "Steve will be sad (to leave Nashville). He gave his heart and soul to that team and that town. But he'll be fine."

Like the Joseph saga before, McNair was routinely "out of town" or unavailable, yet there was always info available for the media, including speculation with the Ravens that would eventually blossom into a full-on trade.  But initially, the trade talks had no legs:

"That's not going to happen," said Titans General Manager Floyd Reese, who downplayed the seriousness of the talks. "We talked early and they made an offer and it was insufficient, and it died right there. Right now all that is dead."

But Cook wasn't hearing of it.

When you raise something up yourself, care for it, craft it, and bend it to your will, you don't just let it die. McNair would eventually be traded to Baltimore, amidst legal ramifications involving suing the Titans and grievances filed by the Players Association.

The Brett Favre Saga 

The Favre saga is recent history, so no need to re hash it, but here quickly is a breakdown of the length of time required to resolve the situation:

  • March 6, 2008: Favre retires from the Packers.
  • May 6, 2008: With the NFL draft out of the way, Packers general manager Ted Thompson visits Favre in Mississippi and has lunch on his back porch.
  • July 2, 2008: Favre reportedly has "itch" to come back and play.
  • July 3, 2008: Favre saying comeback is just a rumor.
  • July 8, 2008: Favre meets with McCarthy and Thompson and expresses a strong desire to play in 2008.
  • July 11, 2008: Favre asks the Packers for his unconditional release.
  • July 12, 2008: Packers refuse to release Favre.
  • July 27, 2008: Favre does not show up for Packers training camp.
  • July 29, 2008: Favre finally faxes his official request for reinstatement to the league.
  • July 30, 2008: Reports leak that Packers president Mark Murphy flies to Mississippi to extend a lucrative olive branch: $20 million over 10 years for Favre to stay retired and remain with the Packer organization in a marketing capacity.
  • July 31, 2008: Favre flies to Green Bay.
  • August 1, 2008: Favre is reportedly leaning towards taking the buyout.
  • August 3, 2008: Commissioner Roger Goodell reinstates Favre into the league.
  • Aug. 4, 2008: Favre and McCarthy have a one-on-one meeting which lasts five hours. The length of the meeting forces McCarthy to postpone a scheduled press conference.
  • Aug. 5, 2008: Favre and McCarthy indicate that it's likely better for both parties if Favre does not stay with the Packers. Favre goes home to Mississippi and trade talks heat up.
  • Aug. 6, 2008: Packers trade Favre to the New York Jets. 

That is a lot of time, all of it tough on fans who didn't know whether their hero was staying or going, or who the bad guy was.  Fans turned on Favre.  Fans turned on the Packers.

In the end, Bus Cook got what he wanted.

Jay Cutler Saga

This one has only just begun, but make no mistake, Bus Cook is after something, and he will use Cutler and the Broncos to get it.  Before the Shanahan firing, Cook was sure that Cutler was going to get the largest contract in NFL history in 2010.  But with the advent of McXanders, and the Broncos new cap-friendly cash plans, that contract isn't realistic.  For the Broncos

The Broncos are trying to clear up this inexplicable mess.  What they don't realize, is there is no cleanup possible as long as Cook is in control.Notice the similarities between the "leaks," "rumors," and "talks" that have occurred between the Favre and Jay sagas.

With contract uncertainties existing for the future, and Cook's penchant and insatiable desire for long-term guarantees, there is no doubt that SOMETHING will have to happen.  Cutler will have to fire Bus, or the Broncos will have to make a substantial contract extension offer, or a big-time trade will eventually come to pass.

But as Cook's last three experiments have shown, the teams and coaches involved in these deals tend to come out scarred on the other end.  While Cook pads his millions, and the players themselves get windfall via unexpected contracts, these deals tend to spell the beginning of the end for the players.  Joseph ended his career in Oakland, McNair hit rock bottom in Baltimore, and Favre became a soap opera star but failed on the football field.

The Broncos and Cutler need to take back control, because this Bus is destined for a crash.