With the recent release of QB Kyle Orton by the Cowboys, its possible there will be a new QB in the mix for the backup job behind Jay Cutler. Orton was a 4th round pick by the Bears way back in 2005. He was forced into service his rookie year after an injury to Grossman and he went 10-5 in 15 starts. It wasn’t always pretty (51%, 9 TDs, 13 INTs) but Orton came through when it counted and won over a lot of fans in Chicago. Personally I was behind him at a concert at Schuba’s his rookie year and he included my friends and I on the rounds of JD shots he was buying for his buddies, so I will always root for Orton.
After filling in admirably for Grossman in ’05, Orton didn’t play in ’06 and had just 3 starts in ’07. In ’08 Orton got another chance to be the starting QB and went 9-6 with much better numbers than his rookie season (59%, 18 TD, 12 INT). Of course the Bears traded him before the next season in the Jay Cutler deal. Orton had his best statistical season his first year in Denver (62%, 21 TD, 12 INT) but only went 8-7. The wheels came off for Orton the next season and a half going 6-15 before Denver released him. He spent a brief stint with the Chiefs, before signing a lucrative deal with the Cowboys to be Tony Romo’s backup (3-yrs, $10.5M). Unfortunately for Orton, Romo is durable and Orton has only thrown 61 passes over the last two seasons.
Orton technically had one year left on his Cowboys contract, but made it clear that he would rather retire than come back to the Cowboys and forced his way into being released by not showing up to training camp. There are rumors that Orton just doesn’t want to be in Dallas and there are rumors that he doesn’t want to play at all. No one is sure what the reality is, but if the Bears think he would be an upgrade then he is available at least.
The Bears have tried to bring Orton back twice since they traded him to Denver. They put in a waiver claim when he was released by Denver, but the Chiefs had a higher waiver priority and the Bears ended up with Jason Campbell instead. The Bears also made Orton an offer when he was a free agent before he ended up signing with Dallas for considerably more money in 2012.
Will the Bears make a third attempt? Or is their interest purely a media creation. That could very well be the case, but it does make sense to at least consider the possibility of bringing Orton in as the #2 QB.
For one thing, Orton has considerably more experience than the three current Bears backups combined. Jimmy Clausen has the most experience with 10 NFL starts, Orton has 70. He also has a 35-35 career record as a starter and would give Bears coaches a sense of stability they currently don’t have with the untested Palmer, Clausen, and Fales combo.
I think the question the Bears need to ask is whether Orton is a good fit for Marc Trestman’s offense. When you consider the QBs brought in over the last two seasons (McCown, Palmer, Clausen, Fales) they all have a few things in common. They are all over 6’3, are athletic enough to run if needed, have a quick release and better than average accuracy, and they can all throw a decent deep ball (jury is still out on Fales).
After 9 years in the league, we know what Orton can and can’t do. So let’s look at how he fits in with what the Emery / Trestman regime looks for in a QB. Orton has good height (6’4), the best neck-beard in the league, a quick release and an accurate arm. Orton’s best trait is his brain; He knows when he can fit a ball in a tight window and when he can’t. Orton still holds the Bears record for most passes without an interception (205). He has a reputation as a game manager and it’s well deserved as he rarely makes the wrong decision. His smarts and accuracy have kept him in the league for 9 years, but the reason he has been a backup for the majority of his career is his lack of athleticism and arm strength.
I am an Orton fan, but he had limitations in his prime so they aren’t going to be any better at 32 years old next year. Orton is a statue in the pocket without the ability to run for a first down or avoid the rush. The Bears O-line is improved, but Orton’s lack of mobility will result in more sacks. The biggest issue I have with Orton is that he throws an ugly deep ball. He has good arm strength, but doesn’t have the touch or accuracy necessary when forced to throw over 20 yards. Most QBs struggle to throw an accurate deep ball, but when you have the best tall receiver combo in the league with Marshall & Jeffery you need a guy that can put the ball up where they can catch it. We saw McCown have plenty of success last year with the deep ball and it adds a much needed explosive element to the Bears offense. It doesn’t make sense to put a QB in the game that can’t take advantage of Jeffery, Marshall and maybe Wilson deep. It’s like having a Lambo and avoiding the highway.
Orton will always be one of my favorite Bears for his improbable success early in his Bears career and for being an all around cool guy, but this is a vastly different Bears team than the one Orton played for previously and he’s just not as good of a fit for Trestman’s Bears as the QBs already on the roster.