Heat is on McDaniels

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The pressure is now on Josh McDaniels in Denver.

The events of Saturday could shape his career in Denver. Frankly, it's going to be challenging.

A source close to the situation confirmed the Broncos were trying to trade for New England quarterback Matt Cassel before he was traded to Kansas City. McDaniels was trying to trade Denver Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler to Tampa Bay in a three-way deal that involved Cassel.

McDaniels apparently concluded that he would rather have Cassel than Cutler in Denver. Cassel starred under McDaniels in New England last season as an injury replacement for Tom Brady.

Five league insiders I polled Saturday consider Cutler a better player than Cassel. However, it is within McDaniels' right to pursue Cassel.

Now that the trade wasn't made and it's public, the heat is on McDaniels. He will have to quickly repair a damaged relationship with his most important player or trade Cutler. But then he'll have to find another quarterback to take over in Denver. That is not going to be easy.

McDaniels is going to be reminded by the media about the Cassel-Cutler fiasco at least twice a year for the rest of his tenure in Denver when the Broncos and Chiefs meet.

The trade talks have changed the relationship between Cutler and McDaniels before it really got started. Can it be saved?

Yes, but McDaniels will have to act quickly. If McDaniels trades Cutler and Cutler blossoms into a star and Denver doesn't develop a star replacement or if Cutler goes in the tank under McDaniels, his career in Denver will be difficult to save.

This can still be a good pairing in Denver, but Saturday's events made it a murky situation more than six months before McDaniels coaches his first NFL game.