The dark cloud of Josh McDaniels' coaching tenure still hovers over the Denver Broncos franchise like a murky smog eight months after being fired. McDaniels may be gone, but his personnel moves are causing quite a headache in Denver. New Broncos head coach John Fox has inherited three quarterbacks brought in by McDaniels: Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn.
Orton was acquired from the Chicago Bears in exchange for the disgruntled Jay Cutler in 2009. McDaniels wasn’t enamored with Orton so he traded for Quinn in 2010 to compete for the starting job. The next move by McDaniels was the drafting of former Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow with the 25th pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
McDaniels loved Tebow’s potential, but was fired long before he’d ever get the chance to see it through. Meanwhile, Kyle Orton had the two best seasons of his career statistically under McDaniels. When McDaniels was fired on December 6, the Denver fans clamored for Tebow to start the rest of the season.
Tebow was given the chance to start the final three regular season games of the 2010 season. Tebow provided a spark to the franchise and the fan base, raising the question: Could Tim Tebow be the Broncos franchise quarterback?
Broncos legend John Elway came back into the fold as executive vice president of football operations in January. Elway seems to be a fan of Tebow, but has stated several times that Tebow must learn to be a pocket passer to win in the NFL. Elway also is on record saying that Kyle Orton was very much in the equation to be the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
It seems as if Elway and company like the guys they have at quarterback, but don’t love them. It is no secret that Elway loves Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who would’ve been the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft had he decided to declare. Elway, a Stanford alum, said that Luck was the best football player in the draft and would consider drafting him if they got the No. 1 selection in 2011.
If the Broncos would’ve had the top overall pick instead of the Carolina Panthers, Andrew Luck might have entered the draft and been a Bronco, but things didn’t work out the way Elway had hoped.
Throughout the NFL lockout, rumors ran wild that Kyle Orton would be traded and Tim Tebow was going to be the starter in Denver. The Broncos started to shop Orton around the league once the labor dispute ended. The Miami Dolphins were thought to be a serious and viable trade partner for the Broncos, but the deal crashed and burned as soon as it started. Denver’s asking price of a first, second or third-round pick was too rich for Miami.
Most teams avoided trading for Kyle Orton because the Broncos were dragging their feet in trade talks. Fox, Elway and general manager Brian Xanders were willing to trade Orton, but only at the right price. If they couldn’t get what they wanted, they would have no problem hanging onto Orton for the final year of his contract.
Orton earned a $1.5 million roster bonus on July 29 when the Broncos were unable to trade him, making it unlikely that Orton will be traded this season. Also the likelihood of Orton backing up Tebow with nearly a $9 million salary seems like a stretch.
Is this Denver Broncos quarterback conundrum really a controversy? No, it is not.
The Broncos are stuck in an awkward situation where Orton makes too much money to sit on the bench and Tebow is too popular in the Mile High City to be the backup quarterback.
The fans in Denver want Tebow to start sooner rather than later, regardless if he is ready or not, and Orton refuses to be the backup again. Whatever decision management makes, it will upset someone. Orton gives the Broncos a better chance to win right now, but Tebow brings the excitement and energy that this proud franchise has been missing.
Either way, the Denver Broncos will be a .500 team at best. A conspiracy theory would be that the Broncos wanted to trade Orton away and start Tebow. The fans would be happy that Tebow is finally getting his opportunity to play despite the team's struggles. The Broncos would be bad enough to land the top overall pick in 2012 and draft Andrew Luck.
All and all, it appears that Broncos management is in a loveless marriage with their quarterbacks and only time will tell who will be the Denver Broncos starting quarterback in 2011...and beyond.