Denver Broncos' Kyle Orton Vs. Tim Tebow: Is Orton Trade Bait Or Franchise QB?
As the Denver Broncos prepare to finish out the last four games of what has been one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, it becomes time for one to look past this year and start to focus on what could transpire in the coming months.
In moving toward the presumed inevitable, many speculate that the Broncos should start grooming their rookie quarterback, Tim Tebow, for more action in the final games of the season.
This course of action would be necessary to prepare him for the starting job that he is supposedly going to have at the beginning of the 2011 season.
Yet, if this transpires, what would become of Kyle Orton?
Many suggest that Kyle Orton is the only Broncos player, save Brandon Lloyd, that is worth anything this season. In spite of the year he is having, it has been argued that the Broncos should trade Orton while his stock is high. In doing so, the team would then be able to acquire substantial picks in the upcoming draft.
These draft picks would provide Denver much needed ammo to improve their fledgling defense. This trade would also pave the way for Tim Tebow, a fan favorite of colossal proportions, to become the starting quarterback.
What follows will be an examination of this scenario, which serves as an antecedent to what will dominate Bronco airwaves throughout the remainder of this season and well into next summer. Orton vs. Tebow: because that is what it really boils down to, isn’t it?
Orton Is Making His Case
Kyle Orton is having a career year and one of the best passing seasons in the entire league. The self-proclaimed pundits, myself included, want to try to make Orton out to be a bush league player, and blame Denver’s shortcomings on him.
Unfortunately for us, the fact is with his stat line, it becomes a weak argument.
It is impossible to absolve Orton of any blame, but it is definitely not entirely his fault.
Orton has thrown for 3,487 yards, 20 TD’s and only six INT’s for a QB rating of 93.0. One could argue that his stats are “padded” and he is the benefit of his receivers making plays in the Yards After Catch department. Once again, this assertion is incorrect as well. Orton is in the Top Five in passing with regard to completions over 20 and 40 yards.
In the dreaded Red Zone, where Orton's predecessor struggled, Orton is utterly flawless. He has 13 TD's and ZERO INT's with a passer rating of 95.7 (NFL.com).
The Orton contingent also argue that he is able to do all of these things without the services of a viable rushing attack and a makeshift offensive line anchored by Ryan Clady and two rookies. For an added treat, some will even offer the fact that the defense is pitiful and it is hard to come back week after week when your defense is giving up over 30 a game.
All of these stats, as futile as they may seem to a team that is 3-9, still lead one to believe that Orton is indeed more than capable of playing the quarterback position in the NFL.
However, are they impressive enough to keep him as the franchise quarterback of the Denver Broncos?
...and His Critics Are Making Theirs
As loud as the cries are in defense of Orton, there are those who shout just as loud against him. Many critics of Orton suggest that regardless of his stats, his inability to come through in the clutch, coupled with a winning percentage of 22.7% in his last 22 games, leave this contingency demanding other options—namely Tebow.
If the stats in defense of Orton are convincing, the statistics against him are equally as compelling.
To delineate between the two it becomes important to look at situational stats; it is here that one can get a better view of what Orton is actually able to do in precise situations in a game. For instance, five out of Orton’s six interceptions have come when the Broncos are losing by 1-8 points. In this instance, Orton is 65/123 for 786 yds with 2 TD’s and 5 INT’s for a quarterback rating of 61.2 (NFL.com).
Other glaring statistics, which speak to Orton’s ability to perform marvelously ATOTSPPD (After The Opposing Team Started Playing Prevent Defense) as opposed to BTOTSPPD (Before the Opposing Team Started Playing Prevent Defense) are as follows:
1. In the fourth quarter this season, Kyle Orton is 90/154 for 1,104 yds with 9 TD’s and 3 INT with a QB rating of 92.0—not bad…
2. Except when you consider the fact that in those same fourth quarters, when the Broncos are within seven points (BTOTSPPD), Orton is 33/67 for 366 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT’s for a QB rating of 58.4 (NFL.com). Blatant evidence of this can be found in Sunday's loss at KC.
3. The Broncos conversion rate on third down is 34%; which cannot be directly attributed to Orton, but when the offense fails, isn’t the Quarterback usually the one who is held accountable? Just look at the situation Peyton Manning is in right now.
4. When Denver is trailing by 9-16 points (ATOTSPPD), Orton is 49/71 for 681 yds with 4 TD’s and 0 INT’s with a QB rating of an astonishing 118.3! (NFL.com)
It is with these statistics in mind that the conglomerate against Orton rests its prosecution (or persecution). Yet at the same time, the quarterback of an NFL team is never going to be perfect. There are a bevy of franchises that would give an appendage to have a QB that could put up Orton like numbers. The loathing of Orton, coupled with the adoration of Tebow, may be the great equalizer.
If Orton is out, then who will save the franchise? Does Pat Bowlen give the fans what they want…
Is It Really Tebow Time?
Tim Tebow is arguably one of the most hyped up draft picks in recent memory. With all of the talk regarding his throwing motion and inability to play QB at the professional level, there were just as many who, like the Orton situation, defend Tebow—almost to a fault.
These individuals speak of the heart of a champion that Tebow possesses along with the intangible things that cannot be taught; all of which will propel him to greatness in the NFL. His tenacity, willingness to learn, and even his ability to bench press a car have all factored in to his capacity to make William Wallace type speeches and are the things legends are made of--at least at the collegiate level.
These facets, coupled with being one of the most decorated college football players in the history of the sport, led head coach Josh McDaniels to make another questionable decision; trading up to draft Tebow in the first round of the 2010 Draft.
When given very limited opportunity, Tebow has actually played well. He has three rushing touchdowns and completed his sole pass of the season for a touchdown. Even during scant action in the preseason, Tebow competed well in compiling 375 total yards with 3 TD’s (one rushing) and 3 turnovers (one lost fumble). Tebow's ability to shine, even if it comes in bits and pieces, leaves Bronco fans wanting to see more of what he has to offer.
This stance permeates through Broncos Country as the team continues to lose, and Tebow continues to sit on the bench as the season wears on.
At this juncture, fans are getting to the point of, “what difference does it make?” On the other hand, McDaniels has stood by his assertion that Orton gives his team the best chance at winning. Unfortunately, his plan has blown up. After another dreadful performance on Sunday, one that officially falls on Kyle Orton’s head, next Sunday at Arizona may be the time where it officially does become Tim Tebow time; whether fans like it or not.
Of course, all of this is speculation. The next speculative statement is the assumption that the Broncos can get high end draft picks for Orton.
"But Denver Could Get High End Draft Picks For Orton Right Now"
Theoretically yes, realistically, not so much. Most individuals would think that a QB that has accomplished as much as Orton has through the passing game this year would be worth a first rounder, maybe a couple of second rounders, or a solid defensive player.
Well, what do you think a team should get for a QB that took his team to five conference championship games, one Super Bowl and went to six Pro Bowls? The answer—a second round pick in 2010 and a either a third of fourth round pick in 2011.
This is what the Washington Redskins paid for one Donovan McNabb after the Eagles were willing to deal him last summer.
McNabb is arguably one of the Top Five QB’s over the last decade. Conversely, Orton, although having the season of his life right now, is recognized around the league as a “game manager”. Any intelligent GM (unlike what currently resides in Denver) is not going to give up substantial draft picks for a guy who may be a one hit wonder. Isn't this where the New York Jets ran into trouble with Neil O'Donnell in 1996?
It could also be argued that Orton has been able to flourish solely because of McDaniels’ style of offense. Which unfortunately makes him a “game managing, system quarterback”—the double whammy of quarterback labels.
But does Orton even go on the block? If McDaniels gets fired, and a new coach is brought in, chances are he does not. Here’s why…
Good Head Coaches Do Not Trade Away Good Quarterbacks
If McD is not given the proverbial clemency, and Divine Intervention does not occur, then the Denver Broncos will have a new head coach in 2011. This is according to Woody Paige, in an article written last week. So, if a new coach comes in, he will realize a few things that need to happen.
1. Defense is in dire need of attention.
2. The quarterback position does not.
3. The running game needs a tune up.
4. Re-sign Champ Bailey...PLEASE!!!
5. He needs to win right away.
In processing through this list, the new coach will realize that the offense is not going to be the root of his problems. He will look at his draft board and decide that the Broncos are going to need another pass rusher to compliment Dumervil. Solid interior defensive linemen, some linebackers, and maybe even another safety or two will probably get the team moving in the right direction.
By this rationale, Orton remains the starter in Denver and Tebow will remain a solid, developmental number two QB. Tebow will also be used more often in offensive packages, of course, but unless there is an injury, or Orton completely loses his mojo, Tebow does not become the starting QB—yet.
This development process may seem crazy; I am certain that people want to curse my intelligence, rationale, and maybe even my family by now, but so be it.
Trust me, there is logic to be found in drafting a QB in the first round and then taking a few years to develop him.
The Aaron Rodgers Project
In April of 2005, the Green Bay Packers selected Aaron Rodgers out of the University of California with the 24th pick overall in the NFL Draft.
They did so even though Brett Favre was still the starting quarterback in Green Bay, and it would take a career ending injury or a Favre retirement, for Rodgers ever to see playing time.
So what happened with Rodgers?
Simply put, he sat on the bench for three years, seeing scant playing time, waiting for his opportunity. After several botched Favre retirement speeches, Rodgers finally earned a shot to be the starting quarterback—and he has never looked back.
Arguably, Aaron Rodgers is one of the Top 3 QB’s in the league right now. Anyone who has him as their fantasy football QB knows this is empirical truth.
So What Does Rodgers Have To Do With Tebow?
Everything and nothing. The way the Packers handled the Rodgers situation can be a litmus test as to how Denver could handle Tebow. When a team has a QB that is playing well, and the team’s struggles are not solely the QB’s fault, what is the use in rushing a young QB into the fire? What difference can he make if he is surrounded by a substandard defense and an anemic rushing attack?
Although this has the makings of a Rudy type of story, history is certainly not on Tebow’s side. It is very uncommon for a rookie QB to have immediate success in the NFL. However, the trend has been slightly altered as of late. This new trend began with the successes of Big Ben in Pittsburgh and continued in Atlanta with Matt Ryan, in Baltimore with Joe Flacco, and in New York with Mark Sanchez.
Yet, it is important not to be deceived by these anomalies—they are the exception not the rule.
To understand this fact, one must look no further than the myriad of first round busts at the quarterback position. For arguments sake, here are a few names: Akili Smith, Andre Ware, Tim Couch, JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, Cade McNown, and, as far as anyone in Denver is concerned, Jay Cutler.
With this being said, is it possible that fans could be expecting far too much of Tebow coming out of the gate? Unless fans are given access to every Bronco practice, we have yet to see Tebow in any type of extended action this year; particularly throwing the ball. Where does this confidence to trade Orton and let Tebow start come from? Maybe the fans have Tebow on their Madden team at home and he has performed well there, so why not?
Besides, haven't Bronco fans seen this before? That is, the "drop the veteran for the rookie" ordeal? It was slightly over four years to the day when Cutler took over for Plummer--and how did that work out?
The fact is the Broncos are already in trouble, does Denver really trade Orton and gamble three more years hoping that Tebow pans out? If Denver starts 3-9 again next year, won’t the reaction be similar? It did not work out well for Mr. Cutler.
So What Is The Answer? Who Wins?
Hopefully the fans do!
It has been mentioned in other articles that fans of the Denver Broncos are not accustomed to losing seasons—at least in the last 40 years or so. It is a scarcely known, but veritable truth. Another veritable truth can be attributed to fans: all we want is for our team to win. Be it Orton, Tebow, or Quinn--just give us a winner and play as if you understand that people are spending their hard-earned money to come and watch the team they love.
Of course, fans do not get to make the personnel decisions. We merely voice our concerns, support and disdain through publication, voice or internet these days. The popular choice now is fans want to see the future, and they want to see if Tim Tebow is that future. If owner Pat Bowlen wants fans in the seats, he may want to consider giving the fans a more substantial glimpse.
However, if in doing so, Kyle Orton is then considered expendable, the franchise may want to consider recent history and determine if that is indeed the course of action they want to take. There is a big risk in going with a QB who lacks experience. Denver has not seen a playoff game in five years due to a decision akin to this in 2006. What fans really should be asking themselves is if they really want Tebow, and they really hate Orton, are they truly prepared to accept the outcome if the plan fails?
The decision to start Tebow now and possibly use Orton as trade bait is one that is going to affect the outcome, growth and stability of the franchise for years to come. Whether it is in a positive or negative light is still yet to be seen. But the debate will begin--as early as tomorrow.