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Orton’s 3-10 record in 13 games this year is certainly concerning, especially for a player with such a winning history. While his career stats are favorable (12,774 yards, 71 touchdowns, 48 interceptions and a 79.6 passer rating in 62 games) they are not eye-popping, and if they do not translate into wins, they are of little good beyond one’s fantasy team.
Orton also underwent his share of criticism this year, finally being replaced in favor of rookie Tim Tebow for the last three games of the year.
However, he was not benched until head coach Josh McDaniels had already been fired and the Broncos were eliminated from the playoffs (similar to the circumstances surrounding Grossman’s replacement of McNabb).
The losing record could partly be placed on his shoulders. He turned the ball over once per game (9 interceptions and 4 fumbles lost) and made poor decisions at times—looking very average in a loss to the fledgling 49ers in London. Still, much of the blame for the Broncos woes must fall on the weak supporting cast, and McDaniels.
McDaniels began his treacherous reign in the offseason, ostracizing star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and ultimately trading him to the Miami Dolphins, He then made what many agreed was a major overinvestment, trading back into the first round of the draft to select Tim Tebow.
Tebow served a strange niche role in the Broncos’ offense, acting more like a full back than QB for much of the year, limiting Orton’s potential red zone production and tipping the opposing defense off to the Broncos’ intent. Despite the tumultuous situation, Orton was able to break the 3,500-yard mark for the second consecutive season and turn former 49er WR Brandon Lloyd into a Pro Bowler, something no QB had ever done before.
Orton is reported to be on the block for a second-round pick. That is a little more than the 49ers ought to spend, needing to use their first two picks to bolster their defense. If, however, the 49ers were to package a third-round pick with the likes of Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Josh Morgan, or maybe even Michael Crabtree, they could likely get the Broncos to bite.
Orton could be a fantastic addition to the 49ers, whether he ultimately became the No. 1 answer, or serves as a capable backup behind a prospect from the draft after a few seasons. There will be other interest in Orton, however, and the 49ers need to avoid a bidding war.