Starting Four: A Comparison of Bronco Quarterbacks

Austin ReinschCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2009

25 Jan 1998:  Quarterback John Elway of the Denver Broncos in action during the Broncos 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport

Over the course of the summer, I have been surprised at the vast number of articles written against Denver. Of course, the arguments rage around two of the biggest switches in the league this year. The hiring of HC Josh McDaniels and trade of Jay Cutler for Kyle Orton (and some draft picks) have combined to make for a good topic.

However, a lot of the arguments are based on opinion, whether you think the changes help or hurt the team. What do statistical facts tell?

In order to compare the two QBs, I have also added the 2005 Broncos under Jake Plummer and the 1993 Broncos under John Elway.

Both Plummer and Elway led their teams to playoff appearances. Culter and Orton did not. So what makes for a playoff QB?

Jake Plummer: Plummer was, by many statistics, the best QB Denver has had. Of the four, he has the highest average at 7.4 yards. He completed 277 passes for 3366 yards. He also threw for 18 touchdowns. Most importantly, he threw only seven interceptions.

Jay Cutler: Cutler was outstanding at some points, but dismal at others. He averaged a very respectable 7.35 yards. His 62.5 percent completion was the best on the list. Jay also threw 25 touchdowns due to the massive 616 attempts.

Kyle Orton: Orton has some poor stats, though he did lack the receiver strength that the other three QBs had. He was lowest in average, managing only 6.39 yards. He completed 272 passes and earned a 58.5 completion percentage. Kyle also had 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

John Elway: The comparison could not be complete without the best QB to play for Denver, using the best season the team had. He had a 7.2 average. He completed 280 passes, but had a mere 55.8 completion percentage. However, he was a scoring machine, throwing 27 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions.

With such a wide range of stats, it can seem difficult to determine advantages amongst the QBs. However, I broke down the stats to determine how each would do if they threw 500 passes.

Jake Plummer: Plummer would complete 304 passes, throw 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He would also gather 3,700 yards. He has a TD ratio of 1:25.33 and an INT ratio of 1:65.143.

Jay Cutler: Cutler would complete 312 passes, throw 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He would throw for 3,675 yards. He has a TD ratio of 1:24.64 and an INT ratio of 1:34.22.

Kyle Orton: Orton would complete 293 passes, throw 19 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He would also get 3,195 yards. He has a TD ratio of 1:25.83 and an INT ratio of 1:38.75.

John Elway: Elway would complete 279 passes, throw 27 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He would gain 3,600 yards. He has a TD ratio of 1:18.593 and an INT ratio of 1:45.63.

So now you can each QBs stats. It should seem clear that Cutler is not the best QB Denver had, nor would he be second (behind Elway). His stats show that he belongs third, or in some stats, fourth on the list.

It seems that the best QBs do not throw for huge yardage, nor do they necessarily have high completion percentages. The QBs that led their team to the playoffs capitalized on opportunities, and did not throw interceptions.

Now, I know some people will blame the defense, the coach, the run game, or some other factor of the game that is not the QB. Sure the defense kept Denver out of the playoffs last year. However, it is still clear that the best QBs have certain strong points. Cutler was lacking on several of those.

Orton also is not the best at some of those strengths seen in the playoff QBs, but he has some areas that look good. He throws less interceptions than Cutler. Blame can also be placed on his O-Line, or the average at best receivers he had, but I will not debate those points now.

You've seen what makes a strong QB. The stats are there and show what each QB is. They show the players for who they truly are, and not for who they have been said they are.


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