Kyle Orton is both Mr. Dependable and Mr. Unspectacular. He has been a solid starting QB his whole career. He's not going to win you a bunch of games with his arm, but he's also not going to lose you games by making stupid decisions. He is to quarterbacking what Gary Oldman is to acting. Oldman's never won an Oscar and he probably never will, but he always gives a solid performance.
Tim Tebow is Kyle Orton's co-star. The golden boy, the chosen one. He won two titles and a Heisman at Florida, but scouts questioned how his skills would translate to the NFL game. The verdict is still out on Tebow. He's a warrior, has a strong arm and is a great runner, but he doesn't throw or think like an NFL quarterback. He's like Daniel Radcliffe; sexy, popular and oozing with potential. But very unproven.
Playing the supporting role in this one is Brady Quinn. Quinn was once considered to be the best college player in the country—Notre Dame has not been able to find any success since he left. But he slid on draft day. We all watched as the guy we thought would be a top-five pick kept not hearing his name called all the way until the 22nd pick. He's only started 14 games in his four-year career and, while he hasn't impressed, it's too early to write him off completely.
The current depth chart is Orton, Tebow and then Quinn.
The common belief is that Orton will begin as the starter, but if he struggles and/or the Broncos are out of the playoff hunt halfway through the season, they'll give Tebow a chance for the rest of the year.
That is probably what will happen. Orton will start the year—and play alright—but the Broncos will start something like 2-6 and they'll realize they don't really have a chance so they'll give Tebow a shot. Tebow will play like he did in his time last year. He'll show flashes and make a few exciting plays, but ultimately he'll show us that he still needs a lot of work and he'll miss some throws that will have Broncos fan shaking their heads.
That is what will happen, but here's what should happen.
Orton should start the year as the No. 1 QB. He's by far the best of the three and is the only one who gives this team a shot at a respectable record. But unless the Broncos are competing in the division or for a wild-card spot, Orton should not finish the year as the starter. In fact, if the Broncos struggle to win (which, due to their defense and new system, they most likely will) Orton shouldn't even be on the team. He should be traded before the deadline.
The NFL trade deadline rarely causes the big-name changes that the NBA and MLB deadline do, but it still provides a chance for teams to improve their rosters. Despite all the rookies drafted in the first round and veterans on the move in free agency, there will still be multiple teams looking for a signal caller at deadline time. Injuries always arise and teams like Miami and Washington don't have a proven veteran or a promising rookie to snap the ball to.
The Broncos could get as high as a third-round pick for Orton. They need to realize that they're a franchise in rebuilding mode, and while Orton is a good player he's not going to be the guy who leads this team deep into the playoffs.
So let's assume that happens. Say the Broncos trade Orton to Miami for a third-rounder. Then what do they do?
Most of you would probably say throw Tebow in there, see what he can do, and if he looks terrible they draft or sign a QB next offseason. Well, that's not what I would do.
I'm not here to debate whether or not Tebow is going to be a good QB in this league. But no matter what I think of Tebow, I know one thing: he's not ready yet. I love his talent, but he still doesn't understand NFL defense (or offenses for that matter), has a slow release and can't hit receivers consistently. The recent success of young QBs (and their teams) like Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford (when he's healthy), have made teams think they need to rush QBs onto the field before they're ready.
But think about a guy like Alex Smith. Smith, in my opinion, had the talent to be a very good QB in this league, but he was thrown in before he was ready. He struggled, lost all confidence and hasn't recovered.
Aaron Rodgers is another guy who came into the league with all the talent, but he wasn't NFL-ready either. I'm not comparing Tebow to Rodgers or the Broncos current situation to Green Bay's circa 2005—they were a playoff-caliber team with a great QB so they could afford to wait—but what the Packers did was perfect. They taught Rodgers until they thought he was ready and then got rid of Favre.
Brady Quinn needs to be Brett Favre, at least for 2011. I'm not saying Quinn is, or ever will be, anywhere near Favre's level, but I honestly feel Quinn can go in there this year for 10 games or so and at least not make Broncos fans want to curl up into the fetal position and cry under their John Elway posters.
The current Broncos aren't going to make a playoff run with Quinn. But guess what? They're not going to make one with Orton either. So why not get what essentially could become a free third-round pick?
I think they should wait until 2012 to hand the keys to Tebow.
Maybe he'll be the dual-threat QB Josh MisHandles (whoops, I mean McDaniels) thought he would be.
Maybe Tebow will have a career as a fullback.
Or a motivational speaker.
Or an anti-abortion activist.
But if the Broncos are smart, they won't find out until next year.
Follow me on Twitter @ZakKondratenko