The Broncos Success - Is it Orton or McDaniels?

Editor's Note - I thought this posst was an excellent example of how to have doubts about the Broncos, specifically Kyle Orton, and do it in a PRODUCTIVE manner.  Excellent Post! - Guru

Note: I wrote this post during the bye week, when the Broncos' record was still without a blemish... Only getting around to posting it now...

When I read BroncosNL's post this week about which of our upcoming free agents we should prioritize, I was surprised to watch the ripples in my mind created by Kyle Orton slipping like a stone to the bottom of the list. Now I don't consider myself an Orton basher, and have been very happy with his development over the season. But when I dug a little deeper, I realized that there's a question burning in me like a southbound habanero burrito, and at risk of courting a little controversy and criticism, I'm really curious to hear what the MHR masses think.

My question is quite simply this:

How much of Orton's success is his own, and how much is directly and unequivocally attributable to the wundercoach, Josh McDaniels.

(Let's jump)

There's no right answer, of course. That's why the question is rattling around my brain like a bad penny in a garbage disposal. A QB is always largely a product of his system. And I'm honestly not trying to drag us into the tired old "should we have or shouldn't we have" debate comparing Kyle with he-who-will-not-here-be-named. I'm just trying to tease apart player from coach to gain a clear assessment of Kyle Orton through six glorious games [and one clunker], and it's not proving easy. I don't have the leisure time and/or self-discipline and/or Tivo/NFL Network capabilities of Lebowski or other posters here who do such a great job citing stats and specific examples in their posts, so I'm just going to throw some stuff against the wall and see what sticks and what comes back in splatters on my face.

My own current opinion is that Orton is nothing special. I think he has a good head on his shoulders, and he is an capable, if not excellent, game manager. I like his leadership, and his team-first attitude. But I think his greatest asset of all is his coachability, his willingness to buy into an excellent system. I think that what McD sought and found in Orton was a QB with some smarts who wouldn't push back, who would be willing to embrace without hesitation a program that plays to his strengths.

I suspect this observation won't be objectionable to many of the posters on MHR. It's pretty common knowledge that Orton's strengths reside between his ears rather than in the tendons of a rocket arm or elusive feet. But the natural follow-up question is: How exceptional are his strengths, really??
How many of the QBs in this league--starters or otherwise-- could have achieved what Orton has achieved were they in his cleats. What would this team look like with Peyton Manning taking the straddle handoff from Casey Weigmann 75 times a game? Or Matt Cassell? Brady Quinn? Tom Brandstater?? I have to confess that what I see when I look at Kyle Orton is a bland extension of McDaniels' philosophy and mental approach, wrapped up in a basically average NFL QB. Just how hard is it to find a QB that could do what Kyle has done this season?

McD may have dropped a clue in his presser last week:

“I don’t think there’s one specific type of quarterback that fits our system. I think the quarterback has to be smart. He has to understand what we’re asking him to do, which is a lot,” McDaniels said. “We ask him to try to really know the defense each week. We ask him to do a considerable amount in the running game, and be accurate, take care of the football and finish drives in the red zone and get it to the guys we think need to have it.

“So, are there a lot of players that could do that? Probably. Are we really happy with Kyle? Yeah. Because Kyle does those things. He is smart. He takes care of the football. He reads defenses. He’s learning more and more every week.”

To me, that line: ..."Are there a lot of players that could do that? Probably." says a lot. It says that McD thinks that he could slot other players in behind center and receive comparable results. The extension of this for me is that at least some of those players would have better skills--more mobility, a stronger arm, better accuracy--than Orton possesses.

Cause, with the admittedly notable exception of the New England game, there have been at least a few throws from Kyle in every game that made me cringe. Some of them have even been completions, but instead of leading a receiver into space they've made him stop or dive or drop to his knees. To my thinking, what has saved Kyle and by extension, the Broncos, has been the extraordinary soundness of McDaniels' approach. The coach's prioritizing of ball security and good decision-making have been a revelation to me. I have seen the light that, assuming the whole team is basically solid, a great game manager can beat a flashy QB more often than not.

But I want both. Call me greedy, if you will, but I want a QB who will show the intelligence and field generalship of a Kyle Orton and also make the exceptional play semi-regularly. And I'm not sure that Kyle Orton can do that. I'm eager to be proved wrong, and after the New England game  I thought I had been. But I'm still not sure.  I tend to think that the when the offense performs well, what we're seeing is McDaniels coaching. When it performs poorly, we're seeing the limitations of our QB.
And I have have nagging doubts whether Kyle is the kind of QB who can ever win a Super Bowl. For all his strengths, I still am afraid that when the screws tighten and every cable of this team is pulled taut and tested in the pressure cooker of NFL playoff football, Kyle will be the weak link that snaps. And I have caught myself wondering whether when Orton misses a throw, Josh McDaniels makes a mental note to save his pennies for an offseason outing to the quarterback store--because I think there are other quarterbacks out there that could out-Orton Orton.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong and either Orton deserves more credit than I'm giving him just for being who I perceive him to be, or  he will continue to get much better and the bad throws will go away (like they did, more or less, against New England, when he was excellent).

So what do y'all think?

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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