Broncos gave Jay Cutler silent treatment before drafting him

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Just this week, the guy who makes the football decisions for the Denver Broncos, John Elway, made it clear how important it is to get to know draft prospects.

He made it clear how much he values face-to-face conversations, the quality time, as he prepares to select fifth overall on Thursday.

"When you have them in on a visit you get to know them better," Elway said. "You still don't get to know them really well, but you get to know them better and you learn about the personalities. I don't jump to conclusions that they are true. I draw my own conclusions, so no matter what's been said out there, I try to draw my own conclusions and get as many viewpoints on a kid. The bottom line is I have to draw from my own and with the feel I get from them. ... It's hard to draw from too many different opinions until you get around them and get a feel for them yourself."

But more than a decade ago, one of the Broncos' quirkier draft chapters involved little power of conversation, limited quality time and absolutely no face-to-face meetings. As the Broncos look hard at another draft board with several high-profile quarterbacks under review, there is the silence-is-golden story of the Broncos and Jay Cutler.

Because when the Broncos traded up -- not once, but twice -- in the first round of the 2006 draft to select Cutler at No. 11, the man making the decision then -- Mike Shanahan -- had not spoken to Cutler face-to-face at any point leading up to the draft. The Broncos didn't even attend Cutler's pro day at Vanderbilt.

"Not once," Cutler has said. "Never. The first time I talked to him was after they picked me."

It seems so out of place now as every crumb of information, every sliver of body language, is shoved through multiple levels of review, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. So much so that earlier this year when Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield was presented with the idea of a team selecting him without first talking to him, it seemed foreign.

"At all? Not at all?" asked Mayfield, one of the most highly rated quarterbacks in this year's draft. "Wow, I don't know, just from my own experiences, I'm not sure I can even see that happening."

Wyoming's Josh Allen, too, wasn't quite sure how to consider such a thing.

"I can't say that's happened," Allen said early in the draft process. "I already feel like I've talked to every team or at least somebody from every team with [the Senior Bowl], combine and everything."

Shanahan has always maintained it was all part of special circumstances. Coming off an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, the Broncos were slated to pick 29th in 2006. Shanahan liked Cutler enough as a player to want to draft him, but knew that wasn't going to happen near the bottom of the first round.

Years later when Shanahan, as the Washington Redskins head coach with the No. 2 pick in hand, was deciding between Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, he openly discussed both, met with both and did nothing to hide the pursuit.

"We were picking 2, and if you're there, you have to like both guys, be willing to pick either guy and we were, as an organization, willing to pick either guy then," Shanahan said. "[The 2006 draft] was different. I was trying to get in position and it was going to be close."

So Shanahan called on a friend. Jeff Fisher's Tennessee Titans had the No. 3 pick and team owner K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr. had already pointed at Texas quarterback Vince Young. Because the Titans had such a high pick, they vetted, met with and worked out the top three quarterback prospects in that draft: Young, USC's Matt Leinart and Cutler.

"We had sat down with them all," Fisher said this past season. "And we knew Vince was going to be the pick, so in that situation I talked to Mike about the guys as people. We knew, in our situation, Vince was the pick, we weren't compromising that in any way."

"I could see the rest on film," Shanahan said. "So, we didn't have to participate in the talk ... it was a little different."

Information in hand and with a desire to select Cutler, the Broncos made a trade with the Atlanta Falcons on the first night of the 2006 draft to move up from 29 to 15. But Shanahan didn't believe that would be quite enough, as the top nine picks were made with Cutler and Leinart still on the board.

The Arizona Cardinals then selected Leinart at No. 10, so Shanahan made a trade with the then-St. Louis Rams to get to No. 11 -- where the Broncos selected Cutler.

"I've said it was kind of the same way we did when we got [linebacker] John Mobley [in the 1996 draft]," Shanahan said. "We never talked to him before that draft before we took him [at No. 15]. Jimmy Johnson called me after that one. I think he wanted to take him, too."