NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi has confirmed an ESPN report that Orton will open the season at quarterback. That is a complete reversal from a week ago, when it seems that a combination of Orton outplaying Tebow and veterans lobbying for Orton led to the reversal.
I completely disagree with the decision and think they should start Tebow instead. Here are three reasons why I would start Tebow over Orton:
Orton will never be a franchise quarterback
Orton has been in the league since 2005. Everybody knows what he is at this point. He is a steady quarterback that is not very good at improvising when the play breaks down. In 28 starts with the Broncos, Orton has 629 completions in 1,039 attempts for 7,455 yards passing, 41 touchdown passes, 21 interceptions and a QB rating of 87.2. Those are good numbers, but they are not elite. A team is not going to win a Super Bowl with Orton as the starter unless they run the ball and have the equivalent of the 2000 Ravens defense.
Furthermore, the Broncos are 11-17 with Orton as the starter. A lot of those passing yards have been accumulated playing from behind; 619 of his 1,039 passing attempts have come with the Broncos trailing their opponent. That is not completely Orton's fault; the Broncos have a horrible defense and he has been forced to play catch up because of a defense that cannot tackle or stop anyone. However, if the Broncos want to play Orton because he has a better chance to win, history has shown that even with his nice numbers it has not translated into Broncos wins.
The Broncos are not a playoff contender
I think if you play Orton, you are just wasting a rebuilding year. There is no reason to play an approaching 30-year-old quarterback that has not established himself a top-tier quarterback for a team coming off the second pick in the draft. Orton should not be eating up snaps from a young kid that might be able to lead the Broncos in the future and needs to earn his reps this year.
The only reason a rebuilding team should play a veteran quarterback is if he is a proven winner that has a chance to take a team to a Super Bowl once they improve the team. Orton is going to be able to put up good numbers, but he is not going to take a bad team on his back and carry it to the playoffs. He is not going to take a good team to the Super Bowl. If he cannot do that, it does not make sense to play him this year.
Teams do not like to play young quarterbacks, because they make mistakes. Veterans do not like to play with rookie quarterbacks, because it costs the team games. I understand that; I would not want to lose games either. However, every star quarterback has to develop; they do not become stars overnight.
Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the position. Even he struggled as a rookie, leading the NFL in interceptions (28) for a 3-13 team. However, that year was an important year of experience and the Colts have been rewarded with a record of 138-54 since 1999. You will take a 3-13 season if it means winning 10-plus games and competing for Super Bowls for the next decade.
The Broncos need to put Tebow in the lineup so they can see if he is capable of becoming a franchise quarterback. They do not have a good team anyway; this is the perfect year to answer that question.
The Broncos have to find out if they need to draft QB Andrew Luck
Playing Orton does two things. First, while he cannot lead the Broncos to the playoffs, he might win enough games that the Broncos will not be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. It is going to take the first pick in the draft to land Luck and that means two or three wins, tops. Second, even if they do lose enough games, they will not know if they need to draft him, because they will have an unproven Tebow entering his third year without extensive starting experience.
I believe that Luck has the potential to be the best quarterback in the NFL in five years. He is probably the closest thing to a sure bet since Manning entered the draft in 1998. He has great mechanics, a solid work ethic and great physical abilities. Barring an injury, the sky is the limit. If Tebow cannot play quarterback at the NFL level, the Broncos need to find that out this year so they can position themselves to draft Luck in 2012.
It is possible that the Broncos are talking about starting Orton to try to boost his trade value. However, they do not have much time to play that poker game. The problem with a quarterback is teams do not like to trade for one once the season starts. Last year the trade market was not good for Buffalo Bills RB Marshawn Lynch in training camp. The Bills played him for a month to show teams he could play and were able to find a taker in early October, when they dealt him to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Broncos are not going to be able to play Orton for a month and trade him. Running backs can come in and learn the offense on the fly; a quarterback needs time to digest the offense. If they are going to trade him, they have a couple weeks at the most.
It is going to be a rebuilding season for the Broncos. If they are not going to win many games, they need to take the time to figure out if they have the right young quarterback to lead the franchise.
Tebow has been in the NFL for a year. He needs to be on the field so that he can either succeed or fail. It is not going to be any easier to play him next year and go through a season of losing games while he develops. If you wait until the team is 1-7 to play him, you do not get to see how he plays in must win games. The Broncos need to pull the Band Aid and see what they have.
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