The Broncos’ QB Situation

Tim Tebow fires a pass in front of Kyle Orton at training camp. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

Quick, can you name the top 10 cornerbacks currently playing in the NFL? How about the 10 best offensive tackles of 2010?

How about this: can you name the top 10 quarterbacks playing now? A much easier task, right? Names like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, and Eli Manning jump to mind in no particular order. If you want more names, try Josh Freeman, Matt Schaub, Joe Flacco, Matt Cassel and even Sam Bradford, who looked good in his rookie season.

The quarterback is the face of a franchise, not only to its own fans, but to the entire NFL.

The NFL generally favors the run over the pass with its rules: holding penalties make running the ball more difficult, while pass interference, illegal contact down field and defensive holding all favor the pass game.

The results prove the importance of a good quarterback: only one of the quarterbacks listed above was on a team with a losing record in 2010: Bradford, whose Rams ended the season at 7-9. Again, Bradford was a rookie with a lot of fluctuation at the wide receiver position.

Think about contrasting situations: the Arizona Cardinals played three quarterbacks (Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall), as did the Carolina Panthers (Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen and Brian St. Pierre) and the Cleveland Browns (Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme). The combined 2010 record of those three teams? 12-36.

The Broncos are now in a quarterback unique situation: the combination of Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow are a formidable pair in two different ways. Orton is a more traditional pocket passer whose growth in the NFL is well documented. Orton’s first four years in the NFL were spent in Chicago, fighting Rex Grossman for the starting spot. Orton came to Denver in the Jay Cutler trade and became the face of former coach Josh McDaniels‘ pass-heavy offense. Orton’s 87.5 passer rating placed him 15th in the NFL in 2010, ironically above Cutler (86.3, 16th) but below Dallas backup quarterback Jon Kitna (88.9, 14th) who started after Romo sustained a season-ending injury.

Tebow has very little in common with Orton. Tebow came from a run-heavy offense at the University of Florida, where he set the SEC record for rushing touchdowns. Questions loomed prior to the draft about his ability as an NFL quarterback: according to scouts, Tebow lacked the throwing mechanics necessary to make an immediate impact and was viewed as either a project quarterback or a player that could be developed at another position. However, McDaniels drafted Tebow to be a QB and used him in the first year in special sets. Tebow’s chance to start came with three weeks remaining in the 2010 season, with McDaniels out and Orton injured, where he remained the starter for the rest of the season. Tebow’s passer ratings for those three games were 100.5, 89.4 and 58.2. He also had a rushing touchdown in each game.

Now the Broncos have a quarterback controversy. On one hand, there’s Orton, a solid pocket passer who could provide stability for a rebuilding franchise. Orton will be 29 next season and, if kept on board, w0uld be more likely set the framework for a future quarterback, although he could still emerge as a good quarterback. Tebow is an unproven running quarterback with huge potential. He fits the mold of the new NFL quarterback better than Tebow: strong-armed and athletic who is always a threat to run. However, potential is just that. There is no guarantee that Tebow will be a good or even serviceable quarterback. While he showed promise in the three games he started, the sample size for evaluating Tebow is still extremely small.

Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway has stated that Orton is the starter for the Broncos. The fan sentiment seems to favor Tebow, who is viewed as the future of the franchise. The discussion will wage on through the off season on which quarterback is the future in Denver.

One will be a Bronco for years to come. The other is likely to find themselves on another team next season.

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Topics: Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Broncos, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Florida, Joe Flacco, John Elway, Jon Kitna, Josh Freeman, Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, Tony Romo

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  • Vivian Losser

    Win, lose, or draw.. compare the standium attendance. When Tebow plays, I’m guessing it’s more than when Orton is playing. If owners are interested in money, it’s a no brainer

  • Kim Constantinesco

    Good analysis, David.

  • ben

    The stadium sells out every home game and has done so since the 70′s

  • Carmen

    Here’s the deal… Orton is as developed as he is ever going to be… and he may provide some kind of “stability” for a couple more years and as I’ve said before… he is a good quarterback. Do the Broncos want the same “stability that the last 2 years have shown? ALSO, (IMHO) Orton has never and will never be one of those top 10 quarterbacks. If so, he would be in that conversation by now. I’ve never even heard him seriously mentioned as one of the most under rated QB’s. Tim Tebow has it set in his mind to be great. He has had that since he was in junior high and NOBODY has been able to prove him wrong to date. Yes, he needs to be more fully developed… and he is willing to do the work. If the Broncos let him go… I really feel they will be horribly sorry within a year or 2. The fans want Tebow… he’s a money maker and he is driven to succeed and proven as a success. Tell me – why is there a QB controversy in Denver??

  • David Graham

    With regards to attendance, I feel that making decisions to improve attendance is short-sighted. Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins is a good owner, but he tends to make decisions to fill seats, and it shows. Building a franchise is more important than attendance (generally).

    There’s a quarterback controversy in Denver because John Elway has come out and said that Orton is his starter when Tebow started the last three games last season. The controversy truly is what the Broncos know (Orton, a good-not-great QB) and what they don’t know (Tebow, who could be great and could fall apart). Everyone in the NFL is driven; talent and intelligence generally define a player. Tebow has played three games, and while he looked good, three games isn’t a large sample size.

    I tend to agree that Tebow is the future and feel he has the ability to become a great QB. However, a number of first round QBs never became elite. There is some risk with Tebow that Orton doesn’t have.

    • Carmen

      I understand the risk factor with Tebow. But, if the Broncos want things to change… they need to facilitate the change. Keeping things at status quo because of the risk factor, to me, indicates that things will again be status quo. Something’s gotta give… How much more of a risk is it to go ahead with Tebow for the next couple of years and see how great he can become (or if he falls apart) or to just hope Orton can maintain??

      • David Graham

        My concern lies more with the rest of the rebuilding the Broncos need to do. They are likely switching defensive schemes and bringing in personnel to fit that scheme. They may be moving towards Fox’s run-heavy offense, which could require developments on the offensive line and at running back. If the Broncos are developing their defense and run game, wouldn’t it make sense to have stability at QB?

        Again, I personally prefer Tebow, as he fits the mold of the new NFL QB. That being said, I understand and feel a legitimate case can be made for Orton.

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