Kyle Orton: What Is Being Said Versus the Evidence

Randy GarciaAnalyst IJuly 21, 2009

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MAY 03:  Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 particiaptes in practice during Denver Broncos Minicamp at the Broncos training facility on May 3, 2009 in Englewood, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

New Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton has received a lot of criticism lately. He has been called weak—armed and interception prone.

Are these charges true? Let's take a look.

Kyle Orton’s interceptions

Ever since the Cutler—Orton trade much as been made of Orton’s interceptions.  In 2008 Orton threw 12 interceptions out of 465 pass attempts. The interesting thing is that nine of those interceptions came during games in which Orton was sacked three or more times. Chicago split those games, going 2—2.

Orton does throw two interceptions against New Orleans, a game where he was only sacked one time. He goes on to lead a drive at the end of the game to tie it and another drive in overtime to win it.

The very next game was against Green Bay. This was a game in which Orton was sacked three times but also led a game tying drive in the fourth quarter and a game winning drive in overtime.

Clearly Orton can be pressured into throwing interceptions. Does that mean he will always throw interceptions when he is under pressure? This video suggests otherwise.  Note that the longest completion on that drive is thrown by Orton as he is taking a fierce hit.

The evidence suggests that given reasonable time in the pocket Orton can make the throws he needs to make.  It also suggests that Orton is capable of standing in and taking a hit while delivering the ball.

Orton has a weak arm

One of the more bizarre charges against Orton is the he can’t throw deep. What makes this such a strange accusation is that it completely ignores a draft system that is set up to choose the best players from the hundreds of colleges and universities across the country.

While at Purdue Orton managed to pass for enough yards to be fourth on the Big Tens all time career list. 

Any quarterback who gets drafted will have been thoroughly scrutinized and no coach will ever handicap himself by taking a quarterback who can’t make all the throws he needs to. Generally when a quarterback is called ‘weak—armed’ it is because they strongly prefer to throw short passes.

‘Weak—armed’ quarterbacks have included guys like Joe Montana and Tom Brady. A quarterback in an offense that emphasizes short passes is often the target of the term ‘weak—armed’.

Orton’s scouting report from Scouts Inc., the service ESPN uses, says the following: “He has a strong arm and can make all the throws.” 

Pro Football Weekly says,  “Can zip the ball with velocity, make back-shoulder throws and shows good overall accuracy when his feet are set and he steps into his throws.”

Maybe the best evidence is this video which pretty well shows off Orton’s ability to get the ball down—field.

Just by way of comparison, Peyton Manning, in 2008, completed passes over 20 yards at a rate of 35 percent while Orton is at 37 percent. 

Orton is immobile

Perhaps the most serious charge against Kyle Orton is that he can’t move in the pocket. Even many of the scouting services list him as ‘heavy footed’.

Needless to say the two videos previously referred to in this article show Orton moving quite well while rolling out and getting back to pass as does this video

One of the striking things about Orton’s statistics is the difference in quarterback rating before and after the November 2 game against Detroit. He goes from an average rating of 89.92 in the first eight games to an average of 66.95 in the last seven games, nearly a 23 point drop.

Eight of Orton’s twelve interceptions are in this last half of the season, after he injures his ankle against Detroit.  He also, in consecutive games during this period, leads drives in the fourth quarter that force overtime and ends up winning both of those games.

Orton’s mobility in the last half of 2008 was poor and that drastically affected his performances.  During the first half of the season Orton played well and his mobility was fine.

The verdict

Kyle Orton doesn’t really have a long track record in the NFL but what there is suggests he is a decent quarterback that was on a poor offensive team.  His poorest games came when he was pressured by the opposing team and that pressure was made worse by his ankle injury.

His arm is average by NFL standards with good accuracy when he is allowed time to throw.  Given the targets he had in Chicago he had a reasonable career so far.

He’s never had the kind of multiple targets he will have in Denver and his protection will be better.  While it is impossible to know how well he’ll be able to use all those targets his history suggests that given the time to throw he will do very well.


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