Kyle Orton vs. Alex Smith: Comparing Two Very Similar Quarterbacks

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJanuary 7, 2010

DENVER - NOVEMBER 26:  Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 of the Denver Broncos delivers a pass against the New York Giants during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 26, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

With the 2009-2010 NFL season now in the books for the majority of the NFL's 32 teams, it is time for fans to discuss why their clubs failed to qualify for the postseason.

Fans around the league will argue over what went wrong, what they can do better and where they need upgrades.

The majority of these fans are going to throw out absurd ideas about who should stay and who should go from their team. Likewise, owners will often make rash decisions about player personnel before giving enough time to diagnose what went wrong.

Now in particular, their are two teams with quarterbacks who while are very similar, are players who should be looked at in completely different lights.

The Denver Broncos fell apart after a 6-0 start and missed the playoffs and the San Francisco 49ers went through a quarterback change despite a 3-1 start and also missed the playoffs.

Denver became just the third team in nearly 40 years to start the season 6-0 and fail to qualify for the playoffs, but their quarterback Kyle Orton was part of the solution, not the problem.

The 6' 4", 217 pound 2005 draft pick played at a higher level than his team's 8-8 finish.

San Francisco fell short of the playoffs for the seventh straight season, as Alex Smith got back on the field only to show the same inconsistencies he has shown throughout his career.

This 6' 4", 217 pound 2005 draft pick played at a level expected for a team who finished the season at 8-8.

Both quarterbacks led their teams to .500 records in their first years under a new offensive scheme and both were with completely different teams.

Orton was traded to Denver over the offseason and Smith hadn't appeared in a game since 2007 when he had a completely different 49ers roster around him. The 2009 49ers had a Pro Bowl version of Vernon Davis, three different starters on the offensive line, Michael Crabtree and a vastly improved defense. Smith hardly had any of this talent around him in '07.

Add the new coaches and Smith almost had an entirely different team supporting him.

So going into the 2009 season, you had two quarterbacks who had shown flashes of success but weren't exactly thought highly of by the majority of NFL fans.

Orton had completed just 55 percent of his career passes for 5,319 yards in 33 games including 30 touchdowns against 27 interceptions prior to 2009.

Smith had completed just 54 percent of his career passes for 4,679 yards in 32 games including 19 touchdowns and 32 interceptions.

After this past season the numbers remained quite similar when you look at the quarterbacking statistics for the 2009.


W-L: 8-8   Rating: 86.8   Comp%: 62.1  Yds/G: 237.6  Yds/A: 7.0  TD: 21   INT: 12

Fum: 4  FumL: 2


W-L: 5-5  Rating: 81.5  Comp%: 60.5  Yds/G: 213.6  Yds/A: 6.3  TD: 18   INT: 12

Fum: 2  FumL: 1

Looking at the statistics both quarterbacks were similarly awful prior to this season, especially when you consider the lack of weapons they had around them in their first few years.

Now after the 2009 season, it is clear they both improved.

This time around, they were similarly average (again, when looking at the numbers).

But any Bronco fan who bashes Kyle Orton needs a reality check. Orton led your team to a 6-0 start. Three of those wins came against teams currently in the playoffs and of those three, Orton posted quarterback ratings above 115 in two of them. And his 96.7 rating against New England wasn't too shabby either.

Orton unfortunately suffered an injury in the week 10 contest against the Washington Redskins and in the following week's rematch against San Diego, Orton wasn't healthy enough to play his best football.

Against the Chargers Orton turned in an awful 55.4 rating but in three of the Broncos' eight losses he turned in a rating above 90.

Fans can't blame Orton for the Bronco defense allowing JaMarcus Russell of all people to lead a game winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Nor can they blame Orton for Donovan McNabb shredding the Denver defense for 322 yards and three touchdowns.

And in the season finale against the Chiefs, well, it ain't like Orton can go out on defense and help stop the Kansas City running game which broke loose for 317 yards and three touchdowns.

Orton did have a bad game in the finale, but it also didn't help that he was without three of his favorite targets in the passing game with neither Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal or Tony Scheffler in the lineup.

Alex Smith, on the other hand, had all three of his top targets in the passing game available during the 49ers season finale against the 1-14 St. Louis Rams but still accumulated just 23 yards passing in the first half.

But as much as I have diagnosed the last two games of the 49ers schedule which came against the aforementioned Rams and Detroit Lions, these two games had no luster. So perhaps it is understandable that Smith didn't play to his capabilities in meaningless games.

However, let's compare these two quarterbacks in games against teams that made the playoffs.

Orton went 4-4 against teams that made the playoffs this season. Smith on the other hand went 1-3 against playoff teams with his sole win coming in a game where he managed a quarterback rating of just 59.7 and led the offense to just 24 points despite his defense forcing seven turnovers.

The answer is clear: Kyle Orton is the better quarterback. While Denver may have had a better offensive line than San Francisco, Orton was simply much better than Smith when both players had adequate time to throw.

A couple of signature throws from Orton were his beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass to Tony Scheffler in week six against the Chargers and his 75-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall in week 10 against the Redskins.

Signature throws from Alex Smith? Can't really think of any that match the quality of throws Orton was able to put up this season.

While Smith can certainly improve, the 49ers still need to allocate a good chunk of their time scouting for other options because Smith just might not ever become the guy they thought they were getting when they drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2005.

The Broncos on the other hand, they have their guy.


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