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The rarity of the Cutler saga

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

A large part of the intrigue of the Jay Cutler fiasco is that it is so rare.

Sudden divorces between young, standout quarterbacks and their teams seldom occur. When teams get ahold of young, talented quarterbacks, they usually try to hang onto them. Every team's goal is to get a franchise quarterback.

The Denver Broncos, who drafted Cutler with the No. 11 pick in 2006, clearly thought he was that player to lead them for the next decade-plus. Now, thanks to the mess that began with Denver considering trading him three weeks ago, which resulted in Cutler publicly asking for a trade, that plan is in jeopardy.

What seemed inconceivable three weeks ago could now happen. A 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback who isn't in his prime yet (he has started only 37 NFL games) could be traded. It just doesn't happen much.

Here is a look, going back 15 years, at some of the QBs who were traded in the middle of their careers and how it worked out for them and their new teams.

We will start with Jeff George, who is the most comparable to Cutler because of age.

George
Jeff George

  • Year traded: 1994

  • Age: 26

  • From where to where: Indianapolis to Atlanta

  • Cost: Two first-round picks and a third-round pick.

  • How it worked: George had some success in Atlanta, but he didn't live up to the trade cost. He got his passing yards in the Falcons' run-and-shoot offense and the team made the playoffs in his second season in Atlanta. But the George-Falcons marriage fell apart in 1996, his third season with the team. He was shipped to the Raiders in 1997. It began a vagabond NFL life for George. He ended up playing for seven teams in 17 NFL seasons.

  • Compared to Cutler: Cutler will be 26 next month. George was 26 when the Colts traded him. He was considered a young gun as Cutler is now.

Johnson
Brad Johnson

  • Year traded: 1999

  • Age: 30

  • From where to where: Minnesota to Washington

  • Cost: First-, second- and third-round picks.

  • How it worked: Johnson played well in 1999. He blossomed into a star and he had one of the best seasons ever by a Redskins quarterback, making the Pro Bowl. It seemed as if Johnson was worth the steep price, but he made a lot of mistakes in 2000 and fell out of favor. He was traded to Tampa Bay after the 2000 season and won a Super Bowl in his second season with the Buccaneers. Johnson, released in the offseason by Dallas, has had an average NFL career and he wasn't worth the bounty the Redskins gave up for him.

  • Compared to Cutler: Not a very similar situation because he was already 30 and the Vikings had Randall Cunningham when Johnson was dealt.

Mirer
Rick Mirer

  • Year traded: 1997

  • Age: 26

  • From where to where: Seattle to Chicago

  • Cost: Mirer and a fourth-round pick were traded for a first-round pick.

  • How it worked: Mirer was a high-pick flameout in Seattle after four years and his career didn't take off after the trade to Chicago. He barely played in Chicago and was cut the following year. The Bears gave up plenty for Mirer and he never was worth the cost. Mirer flopped around the league, playing for five more teams after being cut by Chicago.

  • Compared to Cutler: Yes, Mirer was young when he was traded, but he already was a failure as a starter. Cutler is establishing himself as a premier player.

Green
Trent Green

  • Year traded: 2001

  • Age: 30

  • From where to where: St. Louis to Kansas City

  • Cost: Green and a fifth-round pick for a first-round pick.

  • How it worked: Pretty well. While Green was injury-prone often in his career, he was a solid player for the Chiefs. He was a legitimate starter in his six seasons with Kansas City and the Chiefs were regular playoff contenders. Green wasn't a star, but he was a solid player and he gave the Chiefs a chance to win.

  • Compared to Cutler: Not very similar. Green was older, but he wasn't as established as Cutler -- he had started only 19 games before he was traded.

Schaub
Matt Schaub

  • From where to where: Atlanta to Houston

  • Year traded: 2007

  • Age: 25

  • Cost: Two second-round picks

  • How it has worked: Schaub has the look of a solid player. He has been a starter since going to Houston. He has battled injuries and growing pains. But the Texans remain committed to him and he seems like he could have a good future. It appears that it was a worthwhile trade for Houston.

  • Compared to Cutler: Schaub was young, but he was a backup with very little game experience when he was traded, so his situation doesn't compare as well to Cutler's as George's does.

If you want to go further back, you can look at Brett Favre and Steve Young being traded, but again they don't compare to George and Cutler.

Favre had almost no game experience when he was dealt from Atlanta to Green Bay in 1992. Young, who was 25 when he was traded from Tampa Bay to San Francisco in 1987, was a backup for several years after he was dealt. And, of course, there is Matt Cassel, who played a central role in the Cutler fiasco. He was traded to Kansas City along with linebacker Mike Vrabel from New England for a second-round pick after one effective season with the Patriots. But we have no idea how that will play out.

Quarterback trades are not completely foreign, but their success rates vary and the reasons usually have to do with age and skill level.

Cutler is young and has shown he can play at a high level. Thus, as you can see, there are few trades involving quarterbacks that compare directly to Cutler. That's why this situation is so rare.