With Cutler Gone, Denver QB Job Is Wide Open

Brian FlaggContributor IMay 7, 2009

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MAY 03:  Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 has the ball jokingly tipped form his hands by  sixth round draft pick rookie quarterback Tom Brandslater #3 during Denver Broncos Minicamp at the Broncos training facility on May 3, 2009 in Englewood, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Unless you have been living under a rock you know that since the retirement of John Elway in 1999 the Broncos have searched tirelessly for a QB who could once become again the face of their franchise.  After failed "experiments" with the likes of Brian Griese and Jake Plummer Denver thought they had found their man in Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler.  Well they could not have been more wrong.

With the abrupt firing of 14 year head coach Mike Shanahan the Broncos set the stage for the departure of Cutler.  The Broncos hired Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels to succeed Shanahan and he subsequently tried to bring along "his" QB from New England, Matt Cassel.  Cutler was offended and the relationship was finished before it ever even started.  Thus, #6 was traded to the Chicago Bears.

Now Denver is faced with starting from scratch with a new head coach (McDaniels), a new GM (Brian Xanders) and a new quarterback who will emerge from the likes of Kyle Orton, who Denver obtained from Chicago in the Cutler trade, Chris Simms who has played a total of 20 games since coming into the league in 2003 and Tom Brandstater who Denver drafted in the sixth round this year out of Fresno State.

Brandstater had a 59 completion percentage during his four years as a Bulldog and threw 47 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. 

Chris Simms came into the NFL in 2003 after being one of the top passers ever at the University of Texas.  He is second or third in most categories including second in most touchdowns in a single game, single season and career.  Drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Simms was expected to be the successor to Brad Johnson.  After serving as backup to several QB's including Brian Griese and Jeff Garcia and a rather severe spleen injury his relationship with the team and head coach Jon Gruden deteriorated and he was released in August of 2007.  He signed with the Tennessee Titans in September of 2008 after Vince Young was sidelined with an injury.  Since his entrance into the NFL he has a 59.1 completion percentage and has thrown for just under 3,100 yards in 20 games.  With 12 touchdowns versus 17 interceptions he does not have very much to tout as a starting QB.

Four year NFL veteran QB Kyle Orton is most likely to win the job for the season opener.  Orton was obtained in the Jay Cutler trade and brings a completely different style than Cutler.  Drafted by Chicago in The 2005 NFL Draft Orton (Purdue) was thrust into the starter role after an injury to then starter Rex Grossman.  He also was demoted after the 2005 season in favor of Brian Griese. 

Orton certainly fits Josh McDaniels' style of a controlled passing game.  His career yards per attempt stands at 5.83 and his longest career pass to date is 65 yards.  With the Broncos traditional focus on the running game and McDaniels' method of controlled passing and taking what the defense gives you, Orton certainly fits the profile.

This will most certainly be the battle to watch as training camp unfolds this summer.  True, the Broncos defense is going to be a focal point.  They were nothing short of horrible last year.  However, Denver is a QB town.  The fans WANT another John Elway.  They love the running game and the smash mouth defense (until last year that is) but nothing gets them making more noise than lighting up the scoreboard with an electric passing game.  They had it for years with Elway and they saw flashes of it with Griese and Plummer.  They potentially HAD it with Cutler and McDaniels sent him packing.  All eyes will be on McDaniels and that passing game.  You can bank on it.