Word has come out today that new Denver Broncos coach John Fox is going to go with Kyle Orton, and not Tim Tebow, as his starter next season (assuming there is a season).
It’s only February, so we all know how this goes. It’s entirely plausible, or even likely, that he’ll change his mind ten times between now and the start of the season. But I’ll say this, if Fox does indeed stick with that decision, it will be a horrible mistake.
As Gator fans, it’s difficult for us to look at this objectively. However, even when taking a step back, I’m struggling to really see the logic in this. So let’s look deeper.
Kyle Orton spent the first five years of his career mired in mediocrity. He really came as close as he’s ever going to get to “breaking out” in the first half of 2010, where he put up some great numbers under Josh McDaniels. This makes it less impressive to me, given that McDaniels may be the only true “offensive genius” in the NFL. For all the talk about guys like Brian Billick and Mike Shanahan, McDaniels is the only one that’s ever parlayed that label into actual, consistent production.
When McDaniels was kicked out of town, Orton started looking more like John Brantley than he did the guy who played for Josh McDaniels. Look at these lines he put up with Eric Studesville at the helm.
Week 13: 9-28 (32%) 117 yards (4.2ypa) 0TD 0INT — 6 offensive points
Week 14: 19-41 (46%) 166 yards (4.0ypa) 0TD 3INT — 13 offensive points
Tebow then came in, and while he didn’t exactly light up the world, given what he was stepping into, and given that it was his first three games as a starter in the NFL, what he did is in fact quite remarkable.
Week 15: 8-16 (50%) 138 yards (8.6ypa) 1TD 0INT, 78 yards rushing, 1 rush TD — 23 offensive points
Week 16: 16-29 (55%) 308 yards (10.6ypa) 1TD 1INT, 27 yards rushing, 1 rush TD — 24 offensive points
Week 17: 16-36 (44%) 205 yards (5.7ypa) 2TD 2INT, 94 yards rushing, 1 rush TD — 28 offensive points
And of course those games included the miracle comeback against the Texans, and the near miracle comeback against the Chargers. I’m going to break down all three of these games in a much more detailed fashion in a future article, but this isn’t the place for it.
Like I said, not exactly Peyton Manning type numbers, but very impressive given the awful situation he was put into, and given that it was his first real action in the NFL. Can anyone imagine the insane amounts of buzz that there would have been if a guy like Matt Stafford had started his NFL career in such a manner, rather than starting it with 1 touchdown and 5 interceptions in his first two games?
I’m open to the idea that Tim Tebow is not going to end up being a good NFL player, I really am. But thusfar, all he’s done is answer some of the biggest doubts that many skeptics had (will he be able to run at the NFL level, does he have the arm strength, and will the throwing motion be an issue), while leading his failing, sputtering team to some good offensive performances in games that he was supposed to be doing nothing other than learning in.
Besides, do you really want to be the one to have to tell this guy that he’s back on the bench for no good reason?
So what’s the logic for going with Orton? I’m not convinced that Kyle Orton is significantly better than Tim Tebow right now, and his window to improve and his ceiling are of course both much lower. Orton also certainly does not bring the intangibles and leadership qualities that Tebow does.
So why go with Orton? Simply put, John Fox is a very conservative coach.
Fox is notoriously loyal to veteran players. Those of you out there that are bigtime fantasy football players are surely familiar with this. I’m sure you remember the way that he stuck with an aging Stephen Davis who could barely stand upright while a younger, clearly superior (at that stage in their careers) Deshaun Foster waited patiently for his turn. Then, Foster got older and DeAngelo Williams was repeatedly stuck on the bench in spite of his terrific ypc and flashes of brilliance in his limited time.
Fox is a conservative coach, and veterans provide a nice security blanket. Simply put, Orton is the safer option in his mind, even if he’s not in reality.
The shame in all of this is that no matter who starts at QB for Denver next year, they likely won’t look good. Fox is no good without a running game, and Denver’s running game is atrocious. I really wish McDaniels had been able to stick around as I really believe Tebow would have thrived under him. Under Fox though, I think any QB will have a difficult time there in 2011.
One thing is for sure. This bad Denver team needs a superstar that the fans can get behind, and Orton is not that guy.