The NFL is often called “The Show”. Broncos QB Kyle Orton is proving that in today’s NFL, the quarterback position is more about substance than show.
Analysts, commentators, radio hosts and the average fanatic, pegged Denver Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels and the Broncos organization idiots for trading star QB Jay Cutler for a pedestrian, middle-of-the-pack Orton.
Cutler, the golden-armed and erratic signal-caller is as talented as it gets. People thought it unfathomable that in a time when there’s such a scarcity of young All-Pro QB’s, Denver and its apparently immature rookie coach would even entertain trades for Cutler, a 26-year-old gunslinger who just set Broncos single-season passing records with 4,526 yards, 384 completions and eight 300-yard passing games.
It’s not like Orton was performing exceptionally in Chicago. The scruffy, former Purdue QB was much maligned in The Windy City. He was often yanked from games, demoted and his ordinary play didn’t exactly make fans think he was the next Sid Luckman. Orton’s never thrown for over 3,000 yards and he’s never had more than a modest 18 TD passes.
What he does do better than Cutler, however, is win. Orton’s 27-12 career record is impressive. And it’s a direct indication of his worth as a QB. Orton used to give Bears coach Lovie Smith fits. Smith would replace him with Brian Greise or Rex Grossman, but he always had to come back to Orton because he won games. He just was pretty ugly doing it.
Orton’s accuracy is his other value. His 9 TD passes and one pick can attest to that. Orton is no Eli Manning. He has pinpoint accuracy and many of his passes are indefensible. If he throws a pass it is with purpose. Having strong offensive players in Brandon Marshall and Brandon Stokely, along with the always effective Denver ground game, has made Orton a better player. We are seeing how much of a play-maker he can be, in the right system with the right coach.
To the untrained eye, it still seems like a trade that never should have happened. Most felt that McDaniels and Cutler needed to cut the crap, sit down and make peace for the good of the team. But looking back, it is obvious that McDaniels didn’t let bravado influence him. He decided from early, that Cutler was not the type of quarterback nor personality, that he wanted leading his team. Just look at the irrational manner in which Cutler reacted to the trade rumors.
McDaniels, as a proclaimed quarterback guru, entertained the Matt Cassel trade talks because he felt he could continue to smoothly mold Cassel into his offensive system. Cassel was a hot commodity because he thrived under McDaniels’ tutelage. Cassel replaced Tom Brady as Pats QB, after Brady was injured and led the Pats to an 11-5 record in 08’. With McDaniels as his QB coach and offensive coordinator, Cassel shocked the NFL with his veteran-like poise.
If McDaniels could eliminate the problem of having to reign in Cutler enough to get his precision-based system executed properly — and get a young QB with potential in return — then of course he was trying to trade Cutler. McDaniels understands that numbers don’t always equate to wins. And his confidence is undeniable. He believes in his system and himself more than any QB Denver could have.
The past decade has seen the NFL change offensive philosophies from an emphasis on downfield passing, to a quick strike, efficiency first, approach. This style enabled a mistake-free, bland QB like Trent Dilfer to win a Super Bowl. No picks. No mistakes. Just run the offense with little fan fare.
It’s like a choice between cars. Denver had the Lamborghini in Cutler, but the maintenance costs and gas mileage was killing them. On some days, the car wasn’t worth the trouble. On other days, it was the most beautiful thing on wheels. It made heads turn and people get excited. It’s a brash, statement car. It’s performance shows obvious superiority.
Orton is like a Toyota, delivering unimpressive, but dependable and easy to manage performance with humble excellence. There are fewer burdens and less risk.
Cutler’s gun-slinging style and combative and highly sensitive personality made him a bad fit for what McDaniels was trying to do. He couldn’t afford to have Cutler questioning his authority and trying to usurp power before McDaniels even established a locker room presence or set a tone for the season.
Well, the trade that shocked Denver set the tone. A new sheriff was in town and he called the shots. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could happen.
On April 2, 2009, the Bears traded Orton (along with their first and third-round draft picks in 2009 and their first-round pick in 2010) to the Denver Broncos for Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler and the Broncos’ fifth round pick in 2009. It was supposed to live on as a day of infamy for Denver fans. The day a young, punk coach came in and traded away the next John Elway because of a personality conflict.
Instead, getting off to a fast start and being undefeated has squashed public backlash. Maybe this kid knows what he’s doing after all. McDaniels, 33, is the second youngest coach in the NFL. He is also a disciple of Bill Belichick. He has a wealth of football knowledge. He worked under Bill Saban in 1999-2000 at Michigan State. And then rose from Belichick’s personal assistant to offensive coordinator of the most prolific offense in NFL history. With McDaniels running the show, in 2007, the Patriots set records for touchdown with 75 [67 on offense, 50 passing, 17 rushing TD’s].
For now, McDaniels has turned a potential disaster into a minor miracle. As long as the Broncos win and Orton plays mistake free, efficient football, McDaniels will be the man. The new Mike Shanahan.
Denver is a decade –thirsty for a Super Bowl trip and they don’t care who delivers. The town’s love affair with the prettier choice at QB is slowly waning. They just want a winner, and the team of McDaniels & Orton is delivering that.