Let's clear the air.
At least this year.
With all the Cutler talk that has been going on, it's time we focus on the other side of the trade and the man who will lead Denver into the playoffs, and put them in contention once again to win the AFC West.
Before people begin to list Orton's NFL statistics with the Chicago Bears, let's address them.
2005 (Rookie Year): 51.6 percent completion, 1,869 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He started 15 games for the Bears, leading them to a 10-5 record before he was replaced for former first round draft pick Rex Grossman. Minus a five interception game against the Cincinatti Bengals, a decent rookie season for a fourth round pick out of Purdue.
2006: Chicago decided to sign free agent Brian Griese, demoting Orton to third string. Grossman "led" the team to the Super Bowl, but poor performances both during the regular season and post season, led to him being replaced in 2007 by Griese, and then Orton.
2007: Orton played in the final three games of the season, in his debut he was 22-38 for 184 yards and one interception. He ended the year with 478 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He improved upon his 51.6 completion percentage to 53.8 percent.
2008: Kyle was named the starter, out right. He started 15 games, completing 58.5 percent of his passes for 2,972 yards 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
These may seem like mediocre numbers at best to many critics and skeptics out there, but the Bears, for the past four years have not only lacked a premiere quarterback, but a starting wide receiver as well; at least when Orton was at the helm.
In 2005, Muhsin Muhammed led the team with 64 receptions for 750 yards and four touchdowns. Behind him was Justin Gage with 31 receptions for 346 yards and two touchdowns. The third leading receiver?
Running back Thomas Jones.
In 2008, rookie running back Matt Forte was the team's leading receiver with 63 receptions for 477 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olson was the second leading man with 54 receptions, 574 yards and five touchdowns.
Lastly, was return man-converted-to-wide-receiver, Devin Hester with 51 catches for 565 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2008 for the Broncos, Brandon Marshall had 104 receptions for 1265 yards and 12 touchdowns. Rookie Eddie Royal had 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns.
After him was slot receiver Brandon Stokley with 49 grabs for 528 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Tony Scheffler rounded out the group with 41 receptions for 645 yards and three touchdowns.
Last time I checked, all four of these men were still in Denver (no matter how hard one wants to get out).
With that being said let us travel back to 2005, when a college senior from Altoona, Iowa was preparing to enter the NFL Draft.
Coming out of Purdue, Orton was one of the nation's best passers.
A preseason All-American, rated the third best quarterback in the nation by Phil Steele, he was considered by The Sporting News to be the preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and was touted to be the Most Accurate Passer, have the Strongest Arm, and be "Coolest in the Clutch" in the Big Ten by Lindy's Sports.
In his final game as a quarterback, Orton threw for 522 yards, tying a record held by a former Boilermaker QB, Drew Brees. Needless to say, Orton was in good company. He ended his career with 9,337 yards, with 63 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions.
Every scout praised Orton for his accuracy:
"does not make many mistakes with the ball, and is accurate in most areas.."-Len Pasquarelli
"...can fit the ball into some tight spots in coverage. Shows excellent touch and accuracy when throwing vertically..."-ESPN Draft Tracker
Yet, they all criticized him for the same thing as well, slow delivery and his lack of experience in a pro-style offense:
"Elongated delivery is a big concern. He needs to improve his mechanics by getting the ball up and quickening his delivery...is he a bit of a system quarterback?"-Draft Tracker
"Played in a quarterback-friendly offense, often works out from the shotgun, and lacks top-shelf arm strength. Has an elongated throwing motion, and throws sidearm way too often..."-Len Pasquarelli
As Aaron Rodgers can attest, when scouts begin to knock your throwing motion, your stock falls.
So he was drafted in the fourth round, and has done nothing, besides get better since he entered the league.
He led the team to a 10-5 record as a rookie, and was wrongly benched.
Then came back in 2008 and led the Bears to a 9-7 record without a number one receiver.
He improved his completion percentage from 2005 by nearly six percent in 2008, and in the last three games of the season Orton completed 71 of 109 passes for 903 yards with five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 106.2 passer rating.
That's a 65.1 completion percentage.
The comparison may be unfair, but it took his predecessor Drew Brees, three years before he cemented his place as a good, if not great quarterback in the NFL.
Is it fair to say that by Orton's eight or ninth year in the league he'll be throwing for 5,000 yards in Denver?
But I think Orton is wrongly perceived by the media, and possibly Broncos's faithful. He is not a conservative, dink and dunk passer. You don't throw for 522 yards by throwing screens, and you don't throw for nearly 10,000 yards in three years by throwing ten yard out patterns.
Orton is a gunslinger, do not underestimate him.
Just give him the weapons he needs, e.g. Marshall, Royal, Stokley, Schleffler.
Denver fans, if you were worried about Kyle Orton, you need not be.
In Illinois we have a theory; when a player leaves a Chicago team, he naturally gets better.
Just sit back and enjoy watching Orton get better Bronco fans.
To encourage thought here's one more statistic:
He's 21-13 as a starter, Cutler was 17-20.
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