Orton Release Gives QB New Life

"God, I can't wait to get out of here."

If you didn’t know this already, professional football is a different occupation than the ones you and I have.

Imagine working somewhere. You go to work every day, give all you’ve got to the organization. You have some successes, too. No, your stock isn’t the highest, and you haven’t bested every competitor. But you’re winning certain battles, losing others, and looking fairly good while doing so.

Then your boss comes to you and tells you to enter a backup role, since there’s a hotter prospect with some new ideas. Not only are you not taking the lead on projects, you’re barely there; a footnote in the history of the organization.

This is what happened to Kyle Orton, who rode a good Chicago defense in his rookie campaign to an 11-5 record while Rex Grossman was injured, made the playoffs, and then was promptly benched as soon as Grossman was healthy. Just didn’t seem right.

A few years later, you’re being the good soldier. You haven’t demanded a raise or another shot at the project lead. The hotter prospect has flamed out — as hot prospects are known to do — and it’s suddenly your job to lose.

Then, your organization removes you from the equation completely. You’re traded to a different company, asked to do the same job. Except the guy you were traded for is another hot prospect, a guy with stronger measurables and someone who is well thought of by the client. When you arrive at your new post, you’re immediately told that you’re awful, that the guy you’re replacing cannot be replaced, certainly not by the likes of you. Every trade publication says the same thing: that your new company is nuts for even considering adding you to the team.

This is what Kyle Orton went through upon his arrival in Denver. He was castigated from all sides, fans and media alike, torn limb from limb and told, to his face, that he wasn’t any good at his job. Just didn’t seem right.

On the same day you’re introduced to the company and the public, another man with the same job description is added. He’s your competition. This guy’s had some success, but has fallen off in recent years. It’s all the clients can do not to want this second-in-command to be the leader of the organization.

This is what Kyle Orton went through in Denver, the day of his first press conference, which suddenly became a joint press conference for both he and Chris Simms. The media fawned over Simms, but asked Orton questions like, “How do you think you can replace Jay Cutler?” Just didn’t seem right.

Finally, it’s time to stop talking and do some work. You get your first opportunity to see what this organization has under the hood, and in your first practice run-through with the new material, you’re booed. I mean, coming into the conference room, you’re booed. All because you’re not the guy you were traded for. The trade wasn’t your fault; you didn’t ask for the trade. Yet, here you are, being booed for someone else’s transgressions.

This is what Kyle Orton went through in Denver. In his first scrimmage at Invesco Field, Orton was booed coming out of the tunnel, then all afternoon, because he wasn’t Jay Cutler. Keep in mind that it was Cutler who wanted out, not Orton who wanted in. Keep in mind that, regardless of who wanted what, the people upstairs controlled the fate of these two men; they did not have a say. The least culpable person on that practice field was Kyle Orton, yet here he was, boos raining down upon him.

Just didn’t seem right.

Finally, the real meetings start. You’re meeting with the people you must impress and win over, and you’re doing it. You don’t look great in these meetings, a couple flubs here and there, but ultimately, the drop off from the last guy to you wasn’t that great. You’re winning. you sign 6/6 clients in your first six weeks on the job, and you look impressive doing it. But sickness blindsides you. You’re out for a week, and suddenly the client is getting a look at that other guy. He looks terrible.

He looks so bad, in fact, that they rush you back before you’re healthy. You don’t look good for the rest of the year, but there are good things happening, and there’s a solid foundation for the future.

Then? The company President signs up his kid, just out of college, and gives him the same job description as you. The kid is likeable, young, thinks well on his feet, but isn’t quite ready for prime time. Doesn’t stop the clients from once again booing you as soon as you walk into the room, demanding that they see the kid.

This is what happened to Kyle Orton. His tenure in Denver was over the moment Tim Tebow’s name was called at Radio City Music Hall during the 2010 draft, but he had to twist in the wind a bit longer first.

Kyle Orton is a quarterback. He just wanted to play quarterback. And he just wanted, like all of us do, to be wanted, to be celebrated for what he does well.

Frankly, I liked the guy. He came into a hopeless situation, with a less-than-10% chance of success. I liked that he wasn’t flashy, that he came to work on time and worked hard on getting better. That he had his two best seasons as a pro in Denver are testament to a guy who deserves much more from his fanbase.

I’m not going to suddenly become a Chiefs fan. I don’t like Orton that much, and I follow the team, not the players. But I do wish him the best in Kansas City. I hope the people there realize that, given time and kept upright, Kyle Orton is a damn good quarterback.

I sincerely hope that he is able to shake off the classless and altogether unknowledgable fans and media in Denver who, when asked who they wanted to start at quarterback, repeatedly answered “someone else.”

Kyle Orton deserves better than the treatment he got in Denver. Because he’s a human, just like you or me, and everyone deserves better treatment than what Kyle Orton got in Denver. I would guess he’ll look back on his time in Denver and consider it the worst he’s ever had.

Good luck, Kyle. Thanks for coming in and trying in the face of unbelievable criticism and scrutiny, for keeping your head up when, time and again, the organization tried to throw you to the dogs. Thanks for being a quarterback in Denver.

Now go win a Super Bowl somewhere other than in Kansas City.


  1. […] As I said a few weeks ago, Orton getting into a situation where he’s appreciated by the coaching staff, fans and teammates for his ability is exactly what he needed. It’s also what he could have had in Denver. […]

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