Sports

James Burns: Steitz caught in Broncos' soap opera

James Burns, sports editor
James Burns, sports editor

He's been out of the NFL for two years now, but little about his life's work has changed.

Nick Steitz is still opening up holes and providing protection. In the financial arena. Not the trenches of the NFL.

The former offensive lineman who played with the Patriots, Redskins and 49ers works in investments now, helping middle-class America lay its roots in this rough-and-tumble economic climate.

"Just trying to help out those who can't afford to walk into Merrill Lynch and pay somebody $2,000 to handle their finances," Steitz said.

He lives his life away from football in Colorado Springs, which, ironically, hasn't helped much with closure and moving on.

Less than an hour away, in Denver, the NFL's biggest offseason storm continues to rip and roar above the Mile High City.

Jay Cutler vs. the Denver Broncos.

For those living under a rock, Cutler is the Broncos starting quarterback.

Or was. Or... Whatever.

No matter the tense, the Pro Bowler is at odds with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and new head coach Josh McDaniels, who dangled Cutler's name in trade talks a nano-second after landing the job.

After a series of public spats -- McDaniels back-tracking on the trade and then voicing his support of Cutler, and of course, Cutler crying foul -- the two sides appear headed toward a messy divorce.

Irreconcilable differences. Love lost.

Cutler has taken a vow of silence, cutting off communication with Bowlen and McDaniels and holding out of camp.

Tired of the standstill, the Broncos' management team has caved into Cutler's demands.

They will accommodate trade offers for the former first-round draft pick after three remarkable seasons.

"Everyone has their own opinion," said Steitz, who played for McDaniel in New England and alongside Matt Cassell, the quarterback Denver hoped it could land in secret.

"There are people who say, 'Hey, what happened to Jay was wrong' or 'Jay is being a sissy.'

"I think both sides have handled it bad."

Now that Cutler's career in Denver appears over, you wonder what will become of the franchise quarterback.

He will be traded away, maybe to Tampa Bay or Cleveland, and he will slide into a starting job.

But because of his rift with management and pouty-pants holdout, Cutler has made himself into a character of the same ilk as...

Dare I say, T.O.

Polarizing and selfish. A combustible force that can blow up a franchise.

"Jay is a sensitive dude. And by sensitive, I mean he's young, only 25 or so, just coming off his first trip to the Pro Bowl," Steitz said.

"There's a sense there that, 'Hey, I'm the guy.' And then they try to trade him? It's sort of a slap in the face."

Can he recover from that? Will he be the same quarterback in Tampa Bay or Cleveland or Detroit as he was in Denver?

If Cutler keeps his focus trained on the field -- and not the sidelines or owner's box -- Steitz seems to think so.

What gives Steitz, an out-of-work player, the authority to speak on such a matter?

The former Los Banos standout has been in an NFL locker room.

Multiple times.

And he's blocked for quarterbacks of all personality types and pay grades.

Multiple times.

And his assessment is this: the only thing standing in the way of Cutler is Cutler.

Whether he returns a head-case or a worker bee, Cutler's new teammates won't give up on him the way he has bucked the Broncos.

Because it's the NFL -- the Not For Long league.

Cutler needs to worry about his play on the field and worry less about organizational direction.

"Everybody in the NFL knows that it stands for Not For Long," Steitz said. "If you're not doing your job, they'll find somebody to replace you.

"It really doesn't matter who you are."

You hear that, Jay.

Steitz may not be in the NFL anymore, but his life's work -- in this case financial advice -- still rings true.

Quit pouting. And play.

James Burns is sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at jburns@mercedsun-star.com.

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