Saturday, August 15, 2009

Orton Hears A Boo

That's going to be the title of a book summarizing this Bronco season, I'm afraid, if new Bronco quarterback Kyle Orton doesn't improve on his public performances so far. After a horrid scrimmage a week ago Orton followed up with a 3 interception first half in his inaugural Bronco preseason appearance against the 49'ers Friday night.

In my 40+ years of being a Bronco fan I have learned one lesson "Don't take preseason games too seriously!" A couple of weeks ago I compared this year's team to the 1977 team. In that 77 preseason new Bronco qb Craig Morton looked terrible and was booed by the home fans. You know what happened the rest of 77 - Morton's preseason struggles gave no hint to the remarkable year he would have in leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

Enough with the 77 analogies, though. There is cause for concern with Orton's play. Orton doesn't show the arm strength of Jay Cutler or even an average NFL quarterback. He was billed as a quarterback who "doesn't make mistakes" but Denver fans are seeing no evidence of this so far.

If Orton continues to struggle it'll be interesting to see long new head coach Josh McDaniels sticks with him. A wrong quarterback choice has doomed Bronco head coaches in the past:

  • In the late 60's Lou Saban traded two #1 draft choices to get Steve Tensi. Tensi struggled, and was replaced in the latter half of the 68 season with the unorthodox and exciting Marlin Briscoe. Briscoe was a better quarterback for that team - a terrific scrambler with a good arm. Yet in 1969 Saban went back to Tensi and traded Briscoe away. Saban paid a high price for Tensi and was not about to give up on his hand picked choice for qb. This decision eventually cost Lou his job.
  • After a mediocre 1975 season John Ralston decided to stick with his quarterback, Steve Ramsey, instead of making a change. Ralston had hoped Ramsey would be a solid replacement for the retired Charlie Johnson. Ramsey had a bad 1976 season, and Ralston was shown the door soon thereafter.
  • In 1980 Bronco head coach Red Miller traded for NY Jets backup Matt Robinson. I remember reading an anonymous nfl scout saying at the time "this move will be the end of Red Miller." The scout was right, as Robinson was a disappointment for the Broncos and Miller was replaced by Dan Reeves.
The one ray of hope last night for Bronco fans was the play of backup quarterback Chris Simms. Simms showed good arm strength and presence in the pocket - after a fumbled snap he improvised to throw a 52 yard td pass to rookie Kenny McKinley.

This preseason is starting to remind me of 1999. Bubby Brister entered camp that year as Mike Shanahan's hand picked successor to John Elway. Brister struggled in exhibition games and Brian Griese was named the starter for the regular season. The 2 time defending Super Bowl champ Broncos got off to an 0-4 start. As 1999 showed, it's never good for an nfl team to make a starting quarterback change in the preseason. If McDaniels does decide on Simms as the starter how much practice time was lost with Simms watching Orton take 1st team snaps?

Here's hoping Kyle Orton bounces back and has a good game on the road against the Seahawks this week. Maybe like Craig Morton in 77 he'll go on to have a successful season. Orton will need a boost of confidence before the Jay Cutler showdown at Invesco field on August 30th. I can guarantee you if Kyle struggles in that game, the boos aimed at Cutler will be redirected to Orton. Multiply "Orton Hears A Boo" by 75,000!

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