Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Nov 2009

ESPN: Kyle Orton Reconsidered

This week's Monday Night Football feature asks fans to look at Kyle Orton's rookie season in its proper context, and consider how he's played over the past two seasons. What if Orton is a much better quarterback than anyone gives him credit for?

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 08 Nov 2009

20 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2009, 6:01pm by Matt (not the registered one)


by Alexander :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:06am

Blast ESPN insider.

That being said I agree with the premise. I'm a Bears fan and Orton always seemed pretty good, in fact the Bears would have probably would the Super Bowl if he was at the helm instead of Rex Interception.

However, the Bears are now a bad team, and Jay Cutler is far superior as the QB of a team with woeful(and overpaid *cough* Hester) wide receivers and an abysmal defense.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:57am

I agree. The bears could've been looking at a top-5 pick (and this year that really says something) without Cutler. No chance that Orton would be able to keep games close with his questionable arm strengh. Cutler will occasionally end the game prematurely with a big mistake - but he's been his teams only weapon almost his entire career (including college), that'll teach a guy to gamble 'cause it's the only way he has a prayer of winning!

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:54pm

Dude, Hester isn't even making that much. Like have his contract is incentives.

He is 11th in DYAR right now though.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:03pm

I also agree with the premise. He really wasn't that bad his rookie season, considering he was thrust into the starting position unexpectedly and didn't have great offensive personnel around him. He made enough good plays to help the team win and usually avoided making the bad plays that would make his team lose. Kind of what he's doing now.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:09pm

His job his rookie year was something that stats can't measure easily. It was to throw deep 3-4 times per game, usually near the sideline where a chance for a pick was low. This was to keep the defense honest so Thomas Jones would only have to face 8 men in the box and not 9-10.

Now this just looks like incomplete passes that aren't helping the team when you look at the stats.

In retrospect, I think Ron Tuner actually quite a good job with 2005 team.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 5:32pm

The wide receivers are far from being the problem with the Bears offense. The biggest problems are:
1. Pass blocking
2. Run blocking
3. Ron Turner's mysterious play-calling
4. Forte's newfound indecisiveness (probably due to #2 above)
5. Raw receives (of which, Hester is not one)

Hester has been developing quite nicely. He has pretty good hands and is not afraid to get hit. He also is a willing and fairly good blocker.

by Yinka Double Dare :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 12:43pm

Bingo. They can't block anyone. Cutler's running for his life out there on most of the pass plays that aren't quick-hitters off a three step drop, and rare are the holes for Forte. And like you said, now he's not as quick hitting the smaller holes because the blocking is usually so poor he's scanning for anywhere he can go and not get stuffed in the backfield.

I think they've got the basis of a good receiving corps. Hester has developed surprisingly (at least to me) well as a receiver and is an asset, Knox has the tools and just needs the time, Bennett seems like a reasonable possession receiver, and they still have Olsen and Clark at tight end with Kellen Davis also there as well. It's not going to be Rice and Taylor, but it could develop into a clearly above average group. I wish they had a big receiver among the group, but I think Olsen more or less is that guy and just happens to be listed as a tight end.

by JBS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 5:28am

I think Josh McDaniels is taking the idea of the "system QB" of college and applying it to the NFL. He did it with Cassel last year, and this year he is doing a good job of putting Orton in situations in which he can thrive. He isn't asked to look down the field; an overwhelming majority of Bronco passing attempts are short yardage, slants and comebacks and flats and pivots. Orton is intelligent, and careful; he has his series of reads, he makes them, he throws the ball to the guy he's supposed to. Does he throw it well, or accurately? Sometimes, as in the New England game; sometimes not, as in ... well, most of the other games. But even an inaccurate QB will complete a higher percentage of those passes than passes down the field.

In the long run, I think Denver is going to have to stretch the field vertically. They need to give the underneath routes time to breathe. Defenses are going to start collapsing on the short routes, which won't be good for them or be good for the running game. McDaniels is going to have to push Orton out of his comfort zone.

by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 10:02am

Yeah I don't think the Broncos can win in the playoffs with Orton at the helm. He has limitations as a Quarterback that guys like Brady, Manning, Palmer,Rivers and Big Ben don't have. don't have.

by Yinka Double Dare :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 3:41pm

Orton just doesn't throw a good deep ball. I don't know how they can expect to go downfield when Orton simply can't do it, or at least hasn't to this point. The Bears' deep ball play last year went "Hester breaks wide open, Orton throws ball 5 to 10 yards short, pass broken up or Hester interfered with trying to come back to the woefully underthrown ball".

When you have Kyle Orton as your QB you have to accept that you just won't have much of a vertical passing game. He might be able to get the ball 20 yards downfield but the bombs aren't really an option. He's good at other stuff and if you have good players around him he can be a more than adequate QB.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:13am

I remember when everybody used to make fun of Orton and call him neck beard. Now he might not be as bad as everybody says? Cannon fodder?

The Broncos traded with the Bears and not the Redskins because Mcdaniels saw more potential and promise in Kyle Orton than Jason Campbell.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 11:59am

Really, you remember when everyone used to call him neckbeard, literally weeks ago?

by Sifter :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 5:48pm

He can bring up Jason Campbell's ineptness anywhere this man...

by Dice :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 1:10pm

Still do call him neckbeard. That or Kid Whiskey.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:20pm

Gah. Blasted Insider. I thought FO was supposed to try to warn us when a tempting looking article was an Insider article, so we could not get our hopes up?

Anyway, I've seen a couple of posters comment that Orton will make good decisions and will be accurate as long as he only has to throw short, but will never be able to win consistently because he doesn't have enough physical tools. Funny...people said the exact same thing about Tom Brady in 2001 and 2002. Arm strength (along with speed) used to be the biggest knock on Brady. Which goes to show how overrated it is. I once read one scout's statement that if you can throw a 15 yard out diagonally across the field, you have enough arm strength to succeed in the NFL, and Orton can do that. More arm strength is certainly gravy, because you can get the ball into tighter places and stretch the defense a little more, but it's not critical.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/09/2009 - 6:53pm

The ESPN label means insider.

Orton's problem isn't arm strength it's accuracy on passes longer than 15 yards.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 3:58am

The Broncos can continue to win and be an annual playoff contender with Orton despite his lack of arm strength. Keep in mind, this is McDaniels' first year and most of us (I had torch and pitchfork in hand in the preseason) thought it was going to be a disaster.

What happens as he continues to build this team to his mold and further strengthens Denver? The team has a lot of upside with a number of young and developing players who are still in their first year with their current schemes.

So, Orton's just fine going forward. He doesn't have to be Brady or Manning, because if the team's been this good when we were thinking disaster, how good might it be after McDaniels has signed more impact players and the young guys have another year of experience under their belt?

by Capt. Nemo (not verified) :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 8:06am

Might it be time to reconsider our reconsideration? Once the Steelers figured out that the Broncos were running the same two or three plays out of different looks, it was easy pickin's out there.

I have yet to see anything out of Orton that convinces me he's a playmaker in the NFL at his position. That is what you need at this level to make championship runs.

by Matt (not the registered one) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 6:01pm

Thank you. Maybe Orton is exactly what he seems to be. A perfectly mediocre NFL quarterback. It's not so much that he just lost to two good defenses, but that he was so totally ineffective scoring points and taking care of the ball against them.

by Kal :: Tue, 11/10/2009 - 11:34am

Orton really looks like he's hit another 6 week 'new qb' slump. Teams have film on him, he's atrocious under pressure, and he makes a lot of mistakes that were previously covered up by bad defenses and/or simply not a lot of film.

I think that the 6 week rookie qb slump can easily be ported to 6 week 'new system' qbs. Teams just needed to get a handle on him. Once they did, he's played about as well as he did in Chicago - which is to say not great.