Unless you have been living somewhere other than the planet Earth these past few weeks, chances are, the hype about Kyle Orton hasn't escaped your ears.
Orton is now the savior of Chicago. He's getting hyped for a Pro Bowl appearance. He's getting chants for a new contract. He's the eighth-ranked passer in the league. He's orchestrating the league's highest scoring offense! And on and on and on...
While I'm certainly not in line to vote Orton into the Pro Bowl, with plenty of QBs in the NFC North alone that physically and mentally outplay him every week, I can't deny that I think he's done well these past few weeks.
But, before I think of Orton even coming close to the Pro Bowl, I think of players like Drew Brees, who is on pace to decimate some long-standing records with his current play. Tony Romo, who even when he's on the bench somehow still is the top ranking QB in the league. And Kurt Warner, who has been playing lights out and has 14 TDs to just six INTs and averages a 102 QB rating.
Please, Orton supporters. Come back to reality. Orton's play of late has been very good, but he's in no place right now to command a Pro Bowl spot.
And while Orton ranks higher than anyone expected him to on the QB charts, please realize the circumstances under which he's doing so. He currently ranks 12th on a chart that has no Tom Brady, Tony Romo out, Peyton Manning coming off a huge injury and playing shaky, Ben Roethlisberger playing hurt, Matt Hasselbeck out with an injury, and a multitude of other shortcomings that just seemed to happen out of the blue.
When you take those guys out of the mix, hell, even I could rank high on that QB list.
So let's actually sit down and take a look at how well Orton's done this year:
He played average and conservative against Indy, which turned out to be what we needed with the defense playing like they were. Orton nearly had two picks, threw no TDs, and came away with a very average 83 passer rating, but we still came away with the win.
The next week against the Panthers, he once again threw no INTs but also once again threw no TDs and nearly had two picks again, one in particular at the end of the game that killed a potential comeback drive. He and the offense's inability to capitalize on four defensive turnovers was the downfall of the game.
The week after, against Tampa, he finally put up two TDs, but he put up two INTs as well and played another very average game posting an 83 rating.
The following week in Philly, he showed up for one half and played dismal in the other, putting up three TDs and two INTs and posted his second-lowest rating of the season at 75.5.
Have we all forgotten it was Orton and the offenses' inept inability to score in the second half, and turnovers, that almost cost us the game, if not for a goal-line stand by the Bears' defense?
The next week, he played nearly flawless against Detroit. But need I stress that he was playing Detroit? Six of the seven QBs Detroit has faced this year have put up career numbers. My grandmother could post good numbers against Detroit, so it's hard to put that up on a pedestal.
The week after, he played mediocre nearly all game against Atlanta before pulling it together for the final drive. However, it didn't matter, thanks to Matt Ryan's 11-second comeback. Most people will blame that loss on the defense and a squib kick and somehow overlook the fact that Orton and the offense only managed three points after three quarters of play against a bottom-five defense...strange.
The following week, he came out swinging against Minnesota and played great, answering each of Minnesota's TDs with a drive of his own. But need I stress, again, that he was playing another bottom-five defense? Minnesota has ranked in the bottom-five along with the Detroit Lions for the past four years—they're not hard to pass against, people, and certainly nothing to pin a Pro Bowl or franchise QB lock on.
The plain fact is, except for the Falcons and the Eagles, we haven't exactly played the cream of the crop in the league. And Orton's best games have come against Detroit and Minnesota.
I'll say that again. Orton's best games have come against Detroit and Minnesota. Do you want to know how easy it is to throw against those teams?
Let's put it in a fashion that the Orton lovers/Rex haters can understand: Orton is hailed as being far better than Grossman after his 90 percent average/10 percent great type of play this year.
Grossman's 2006 campaign against the Lions (he did not play them in 2007):
5 TDs, 0 INTs, 486 yards, and a 114 QB rating
These numbers are on par basically with Orton's one game against the Lions this year, where he's put up two TDs, zero INTs, 199 yards, and a 121 rating. If you want to get technical, in Grossman's first game against the Lions in 2006, he put up four TDs, zero INTs, 289 yards, and a near perfect 148 rating—So game by game, Grossman has the advantage.
My point: It's not hard to pass on Detroit, and Minnesota, who ranked dead last in pass defense last season, doesn't make it too hard, either.
Orton has had more inept games than outstanding this year, and for some reason, we've chosen to ignore that. Maybe it's because the majority of Chicago is so ready to get past Rex Grossman that they're willing to celebrate Orton's stats, even if they do come against the worst of the worst in the league.
I need to see more from Orton before I hail him as the next coming of the messiah in Chicago and feel comfortable about committing to him long term.
And this isn't because I'm a Rex fan, which I am—but because simply logic and research shows you Orton hasn't put up numbers that blow me away this year. And when he has, it's been against teams that pretty much every QB in the league has put up great numbers against.
His only two games with a rating of 100 or higher have come against—you guessed it—Detroit and Minnesota.
And Chicagoans need not worry about Rex Grossman taking the reigns again. Chances are Rex will be gone next year, with many teams expressing an interest in him even right now.
The Chiefs are drooling over Grossman, with their current QB roster right now that reads like the obituaries, and don't be surprised if you see Grossman end up in Detroit or Minnesota, whose depth chart reads: Jackson, Frerotte, Kitna, and Orlovsky, right now—not exactly starting material. And as stand up of a guy as Grossman is, you better believe he would love to stick it to the team and fans that put him on the bench.
My point is, if you're simply cheering for Orton because he's not Grossman—it's time to stop. And it's time to really look at Orton for what he's done. He's put up very average stats against very average teams and has Chicago at a very average record right now at 4-3.
I'm not willing to praise Orton just because he's not Grossman, and frankly, I'm tired of hearing others do so. Seven games is not 16, half a season is not a full season—and I need to see more than seven games from Orton, which consist of five mediocre games and two great games.
Orton's true tests will come against teams like the undefeated Titans, the Packers, Saints, and Jaguars. To judge him against teams like the Lions and Vikings is simply searching for scraps, and I'm tired of searching. Orton needs to show me something. And playing well against two bottom feeder teams is not showing me anything.