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The Denver Dilemma – Orton v. Simms

When the announcement of Kyle Orton being

Denver’s new starter was made, I was in disbelief. He was a mediocre quarterback at best in

Chicago and essentially couldn’t even beat out Rex Grossman for a starting job half the time. Nonetheless, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels must have felt he needed to prove that dealing Jay Cutler wasn’t too bad of a move. By making Orton the starter, it showed the Broncos’ faithful fans that their head coach believed the move that he made alongside GM Brian Xanders was a good one. This took the competition out of training camp and firmly rooted

Denver’s quarterback position.

While listening to talk radio last week, I heard a report that some players in the

Denver organization were quietly whispering that Simms was actually looking better in practice than his counterpart. And unfortunately for McDaniels, his starter did nothing to justify his status

Denver’s first preseason game last week when Orton was just 9/16 for 89 yards and threw three interceptions on top of it. Simms, on the other hand, threw just one more pass, but completed 11 of his 17 throws for 142 yards and two touchdowns. The argument can be made that Simms was throwing against second-string (and lower) players and that’s why he had so much success, but in the game of football, pundits and fans will hone in on those statistics and not let go.

In a situation where the team is looking to replace an All-Pro quarterback, it simply made no sense for McDaniels to carelessly name Orton the starter when he and Simms have proven to be essentially dead even in their careers. Coming into 2009, Orton’s career QB rating is a mediocre 71.1 and Simms’ sits at 71.2. Needless to say, there was no reason for these two signal callers to go into camp with anything but a fierce competition to determine who would win the starting job. By making Orton the starter, McDaniels set him up for failure because anything less than a Cutler-esque performance would be unacceptable to the

Denver community.

McDaniels has stuck by his quarterback despite his rough first outing and continues to note that Orton is still the starter. But what will happen if Orton continues to show a lack of poise in the pocket over the next three weeks and Simms continues to thrive? At some point, the coach will have to admit defeat and say that Orton hasn’t lived up to his expectations which in turn will make the trade of Cutler (minus the acquisition of draft picks) a failure. The last thing that the franchise needed after the Cutler trade and the continuing Brandon Marshall drama was a media and fan-driven QB controversy. McDaniels is already being labeled a bust by some people and his seat might be hotter than he, or anyone in the organization, is willing to admit.

Imagine if the Broncos came into 2009 with Marshall, Eddie Royal, and flashy rookie Knowshon Moreno still being led by Jay Cutler. Now let’s snap back to reality.

While

Denver has typically been known as a fantasy machine in recent years with Marshall, Royal, Cutler, and numerous running backs being ultimate assets for fantasy owners, the

Mile

High

City has become a dead zone in 2009 that I am afraid to touch. Even if

Marshall does take the field, will he give it his all or take plays off a la Randy Moss in his

Oakland years? If he does leave it all on the field in hopes of getting traded at some point, will his quarterback be able to get him the ball regularly? In turn, if the passing game is lackluster, teams will be able to put more defenders in the box which will definitely hinder the numbers of

Moreno.

This entire team is facing numerous question marks and in my mind, Cutler could have kept all of these worries at rest. Instead,

Denver’s offense is being questioned for the first time in over a decade and McDaniels is to thank. Meanwhile, fantasy owners are perplexed as to what to do with

Denver’s personnel. In my eyes, if you’re brave enough to take a chance on someone wearing blue and orange (and I truly am not), just make the selection, close your eyes, and hope for the best because a Denver selection is one of the more risky picks you can make in 2009.

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