Home > NFL > Last Second Audibles: Kyle Orton and Cold Weather

Last Second Audibles: Kyle Orton and Cold Weather

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Through this preseason, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton has been one of the most improved players in all of football.  Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels may say he’s not surprised, but that would not be entirely truthful.  Last season, McDaniels went to painful measures to take games at the end of the year out of Orton’s hands: he simply couldn’t trust his hand-picked quarterback.

All season, McDaniels was criticized for running Jay Cutler out of town, but at this point, it’s clear that two first round picks plus for a quarterback who is young-but-ultimately average was a huge steal.  Denver’s problem is that they essentially wasted the draft haul by having one of the worst drafts of any team in 2009 despite having the most picks in the top 40.  CB Alphonso Smith has already been traded.  RB Knowshon Moreno could be the starter for many years into the future, but his first season was average.  LB Robert Ayers did not have an impact in his first year, and could be overmatched as an NFL pass rusher.

The jury is out on a controversial but promising 2010 NFL draft class, and will ultimately be graded by how QB Tim Tebow and WR Demaryius Thomas play, even though the best picks in the draft might have been their 2nd through 4th rounders.  But you can forget about Tebow for right now: Kyle Orton has been on point since the very first day of Broncos camp, and hasn’t just won the job from Brady Quinn, but left absolutely no question for a possible in season quarterback change.

There’s one hurdle left to beat for Kyle Orton: cold weather.  You can look at his career splits: every October, he lights it up.  Every November, he has a tendency to throw games away.  By December, coaches from Ron Turner to McDaniels have looked to limit his workload.  It won’t shock anyone if Denver gets off to a very hot start again, with Orton running point in one of the AFC’s most efficient passing games, and a win in October is worth the same in the standings as a win in December.

This is critical for Orton: he can either establish himself has a quality NFL quarterback this year, or if his summer success turns into late-fall unreliability again, Quinn or Tebow could find themselves leading a playoff bound team late in the year.  Orton is from Iowa, so this isn’t going to take him by surprise, but he’s played on two teams in cold-weather cities, and the story remains the same.

Look for Orton and Eddie Royal to be a dominant duo this season, but McDaniels isn’t concerned about the team that will take the field on Sunday — great defense seems to follow Orton wherever he goes — McDaniels best be worried about how he can stave off teams like the Raiders and the Chargers in November and December if Orton cannot break historical trend, and his veteran defense fades badly down the stretch again.

We can all agree if the Broncos win a single playoff game this year, it will be considered a successful year.  If they fail to get into the postseason, McDaniels can’t live off of being right on Cutler forever.  The results have to come soon, and no matter how well he plays in the preseason, Orton is going to be the team’s scapegoat if the team can’t finish just like it starts.

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