Kyle Orton is entering the final year of his contract with the Denver Broncos, and he is set to be paid a staggering $9 million this season. That of course depends on whether or not a season is actually played in 2011. Orton has been a serviceable quarterback during his time in Denver. He has done much better than many of us would have believed after his initial preseason performance in 2009 when he threw 3 hideous interceptions. And he has actually been pretty good in the world of fantasy football where he has amassed solid numbers while chucking the ball all over the field after facing big deficits. But in the real world, the one stat where he has suffered greatly is wins, and that is the only stat that truly matters.
In 2010, the worst season in team history, Orton did put up solid statistics. He finished the year with 3,653 yards and 20 touchdowns versus only 9 interceptions. But if the game would get close at some point, or if we ever had a shot to win it at the end, he would look utterly lost and his attempt at a big drive would explode in his face. In a sense, he is the anti-John Elway. He is great when the game has long been decided. He looks really sharp during the early portion of a contest. But when it gets down to crunch time and the pressure is on, he looks like a junior varsity quarterback getting his first start on homecoming night. What’s worse, he looks disinterested while it’s happening.
It’s a safe bet that all Broncos fans can’t remember a season that was more frustrating than the one we endured in 2010. But did anyone else want to pull their hair out when we actually found ourselves in a winnable game, and then the broadcast showed Orton’s face, and you just knew deep down that it was completely hopeless? I couldn’t stand that feeling. In this day in age when it is so easy to score points and the quarterbacks are so protected by the officials, why did it seem like our quarterback couldn’t move the ball 10 yards when we really needed it?
Listen, I’ve cheered like crazy for Orton. I’ve supported him each and every day and have wanted him to succeed worse than anyone. If a guy is wearing a Broncos uniform, than I want him to succeed. I am also the first person to tell you that with our defense, Tom Brady himself couldn’t have led us to the playoffs. Because of that, Orton does deserve some slack. But at this point, it is pretty clear that we can forget about the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl, with Kyle Orton as our quarterback. That is the bottom line. This is a quarterback driven league, so you have to have an elite quarterback in order to win at an elite level. Yes, you have to have a complete team to win a Super Bowl. The coaching, defense, offense, and special teams all have to be above average to get the job done, and the Broncos have a long way to go on several of those fronts. But at the end of the day, you need an elite quarterback to win it all, and Kyle Orton is simply not that guy.
That is not to say that Tim Tebow IS the guy. I don’t know if he is or if he isn’t. But I will tell you one thing; the 3 games he started last season were at least fun to watch. I watched every second of those games with an interest that is hard to fathom towards the end of a 4-12 campaign. Tebow is probably the most polarizing figure in the league right now, which I definitely wish wasn’t the case. But at this point, why not give him a shot and see what happens? We know where the Orton road leads, so let’s try a different road. If Tebow becomes an elite quarterback in this league, great! Then we will actually have one good memory of the ex-coach who shall not be named. And if he doesn’t work out, so be it. We will move on and try to find our next elite quarterback somewhere else.
So, what do the Broncos plan to do with Orton? Keep him for his last season only to lose him to free agency next season? There is no way he will stick around in a situation where he has no guaranteed future, and it would be a big waste to lose him outright without getting anything in return. What about just keeping him to show Tebow the ropes before he exits? $9 million is a massive sum for someone who is either keeping a seat warm or holding a clipboard. As stated previously, keeping him long term is useless if we have a desire to make a deep playoff run in the near future. That leaves only one option that makes any sense: trade him as soon as you can get a good return for him.
Kevin Kolb is clearly the #1 target right now for teams who need a quarterback. But some members of the media have speculated that Orton is probably #2 on that list. That means he has some value the Broncos could exploit in terms of draft picks or other players (We still have some holes to fill on that defense!). The Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, and Miami Dolphins seem to be the 3 teams that would be interested in a deal for Orton. Kolb will most likely go to one of them, so that leaves at least 2 other teams in the Orton sweepstakes. I say trade him to one of those teams, and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.