5 Reasons Why the San Francisco 49ers Should Trade for Kyle Orton
Let me first say I doubt it would happen. Too many teams need a veteran starter, and someone will offer more than San Francisco could afford to top.
Besides, San Francisco re-signed their own veteran, Alex Smith. The 49ers say they have faith in Smith, but the fans aren't sold, and neither am I. Unfortunately for us (and fortunately for them), the fans don't run the teams.
1. Win Now
The San Francisco 49ers have had the same problem for years now. In fact, since Jeff Garcia left town, the 49ers haven't had much in the way of stability or good play at the quarterback position.
With a mega-beast in Patrick Willis to lead a solid-if-unspectacular defense, and all the tools you need on offense, the 49ers are already competitive in a relatively weak division.
It is an offense that needs stability and consistency at the quarterback position. As usual.
Enter Kyle Orton.
Orton—who gets little respect—has improved his game every single year he's been in the NFL.
This is despite having been pressed into service too early in his rookie year, in place of an injured Rex Grossman, and then getting buried on the depth chart in Chicago.
And despite being traded in an afterthought to a Denver Broncos team that thought so much of him that they also acquired the former No. 22 overall pick, Brady Quinn.
In Denver, Orton played very well his first year with a new team and a new coach. Naysayers gave almost all the credit to star receiver Brandon Marshall and some to pressure-valve tight end Tony Scheffler.
When those two left town the next year, Orton did even better—with career-journeymen Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney. Unfortunately, his team did not fare well either year, owing largely to a defense that collapsed the first year and never got off the ground in the second.
The point being, while Kyle Orton might not end up with a spot in Canton, he is a good—Top 15, even—quarterback who could instantly give the 49ers what they need to overcome a still-growing St. Louis Rams, a declining Seattle Seahawks, and a lost-at-sea-even-in-the-desert Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers could win now with Orton.
2. From Captain Checkdown to Mister Mentor
With the No. 36 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, San Francisco nabbed its hope for the future: Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick is a big-armed, athletic quarterback who can really move when he wants to. He set records left and right in college, becoming the fifth quarterback in NCAA Division I-A history to throw for more than 2,000 and rush for more than 1,000 yards (2,849 and 1,130, respectively).
So the kid has talent.
What's the knock on him, then? Well, his throwing motion and footwork need some help, his short and deep accuracy could be better, and he lacks experience under center. There are some questions about his ability to make NFL progressions and reads, too.
Coach Jim Harbaugh knows a thing or two about quarterbacking, so Kaepernick has help there.
Where Orton can be of particular use is in the areas Kaepernick is less developed. Orton doesn't have Kaepernick's athleticism. Hell, Orton doesn't have Harbaugh's athleticism, maybe even now.
No, Orton gets by on his wits, using his brain to compensate for limited physical skills.
Most scouts and analysts say that Kaepernick is several years from being ready to take the helm.
Kyle Orton is 28, several years away from the time when his physicals skills begin to deteriorate, and for a guy who started with far less in his physical repertoire than the Kaepernicks and Michael Vicks of the world, that spells doom.
It's a good match: a solid veteran who plays from his head to help along a raw natural talent who needs to marry his athleticism to a comprehensive understanding of the game.
3. Mr. Smith Should Go to Washington—or Anywhere Else, Really
First, lets face an ugly truth: Alex Smith is a bust. Even if he had been a late first, early or late second, or even third round pick, he'd still be a bust.
It's not like he hasn't had chances. He's had those in plenty. Some blame his inconsistent play on the lack of a supporting cast, repeated changes in coaching, and/or too many different offenses.
Maybe one or all of these are true, but just like with Tim Couch or David Carr, at some point you have to declare him damaged goods and move on.
The 49ers should have done it already. It's unlikely that they still can.
But if there was a sliver of hope, I would reach for it, because Alex Smith will not be much use in mentoring Colin Kaepernick. He won't help the 49ers win now. And every day his trade value plunges further.
Don't laugh. How many GMs would trade a second-rounder for three to four years of worry-free quarterbacking and a crafty mentor for their QB-of-the-future?
And what if he could get to the playoffs at least once as a result of the deal?
What if he could turn around in three years and get a fourth-rounder from a team looking for the services of a thirty-one year old quarterback to play a season and teach their shiny new passer a few tricks?
Best case scenario (according to my speculation)? GM Trent Baalke trades a second-rounder for one or two playoff runs, four years of job security, a more savvy young quarterback of the future and a fourth-rounder.
Sounds like a bargain to me, especially in today's win-now climate.
Worst case (barring injury)? The team doesn't do as well as expected with Orton—you're out one second-rounder, your QB-of-the-future learns pretty much what he was going to before and your team has slightly higher draft picks.
Remember, the 49ers went 6-10 in 2010 with a QB situation second worst only to the epic turd-aclysm that went on in Arizona. Somehow I doubt they do worse than 7-9 with Orton at the helm.
The risk is relatively low; the possible reward is high and the price is doable. What's not to like?
5. The Other Candidates
I've been a Donovan McNabb fan since the days when he was backing up Doug Pederson. But he is done. Does he have anything to teach? Sure he does. Can he do it while playing at a high level? Not anymore.
The results if you plug in any number of other free agent or "get-able" QBs are similar.
Carson Palmer? If this was before the injury and the Bengals organization wasn't playing chicken with their soon-to-be-former franchise signal-caller, I'd say yes. Palmer might resurrect his career some day, but "mights" and "some days" are not enough when you have someone surer and more immediate as an option.
Kevin Kolb? Why draft Kaepernick if you're just going to trade for his older, less athletic doppelganger? Plus, not only is he not as sure a thing as Orton, but he also costs more.
Marc Bulger? Fragile, thirty-four and, like Carson Palmer, not the same quarterback he once was.
Matt Hasselbeck? Same problem: the level of play. Hasn't had a decent season since 2007.
Matt Leinart? Child, please.
It only gets uglier from there, starting with Alex Smith himself—whose only real upside is that he's already on the team. Put simply, Kyle Orton is the best of what's available, for a number of reasons.
If you want a guy to put your team on his back and carry them across the finish line sixteen-plus games a year, wake up.
Those are Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks, and you can't have one via trade. You have to game and luck your way into one, just like everyone else.
On the other hand, if you want a guy who plays smart, can win some games for you when your team is down, can mentor a young guy and do it with class and comes at a fair price, you want Orton.
He may not be the best fit for every team, but I think he fits right into the current situation in San Francisco.
Just a thought.