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Kyle Orton vs. The 4th Quarter

 

Kyle Orton vs. The 4th Quarter

Kyle-orton_medium

via thestarsaysitall.files.wordpress.com

 

 

Just hear me out before you whip out the QB ratings, and stories of how neckbeards get more girls.  In all of the Bronco articles, and forums I have read, most of them seem to be written in the tone of having a bias towards Orton.  This is written to give a balance of perspective.  

Mostly the articles I have read are justification pieces of how good Mr. Orton is, and why he is just misunderstood by detractors.  I am not saying Orton is horrible, but I am not saying he is great in the starting role either.  In these "give orton a chance" arguments many statistics are thrown out such as winning percentage, and quarterback rating.  While the writers are not saying that Orton is an elite quarterback they are explaining why he is worthy to lead the offense as a starter.  However, with all due respect to the Orton supporters, I see a backup quarterback who can win you some games when the starter is knocked out by a 300lb club of meat, and that is for specific reasons.  I am challenging these notions with observations from what we have witnessed of Orton in the fourth quarter. 

            I will pull out some statistics to back up my point, but the main point I really am trying to make is what makes a starting QB good, and worth paying millions, and millions of digital credits to lead your team.  What I am getting at is the top notch starting quarterback protects leads, and provides comebacks to close out games.  That is what separates Manning, Brees, and Brady from most of the other quarterbacks.  The closing of games is done in the fourth quarter.

Supporters say that Orton is clutch when the game is in his hands.  Maybe he was in a few games, but when you break down his performance in the fourth quarter of all 15 games he was in the fourth quarter it tends to show a different reality.  I think most fans that are supporters of Orton remember the 6-0 streak, and the fact that he wasn’t a jerk like a previous quarterback.  They hold on to that streak and think "We can win with Orton and even go deep into the playoffs".  Sadly even in many of those W games it was the defense that did the work, and a diva Wide Receiver that made the big plays on bad throws. 

The big statistic that I am going to throw out is directly linked to the quarterback.  It has very little to do with how the running game is, or how the defense performs.  It has everything to do with the quarterback’s role specifically; converting third downs in the fourth quarter.  Most teams average at least two possessions in the fourth quarter.  Keeping these drives alive means everything in a close game.  A majority of games are close enough in score to be decided in those last 15 minutes. Most of the time it is up to the quarterback to convert third downs in the fourth quarter.  Denver had some games where it was close and even won.  So people naturally associate that type of win with clutch QB play.  However, that really wasn’t what was happening all of the time.  The lack of clutch play at the quarterback position truly was shown when the defense wasn’t playing lights out, and the game eventually got out of hand.  So without further discussion let’s get into the numbers.

 

Fourth Quarter third down Conversions (Only plays where Orton threw or ran the ball)

In 15 Games

QB att

50

QB Conv

16

32%

 

 

Orton was 16 for 50 attempts on converting third downs in the fourth quarter.  I know what you are thinking.  That’s not too bad.  Well, if Orton had a 32% conversion rate for every game in 2009 then that might be.  However, we are seeking the truth of these statistics to see how Kyle truly performed.  His performance can be best broken down into two groups.  There are the six games where Orton was over 30% in third down conversions, and the nine games where he was under 30% in third down conversions.

 

Good Orton >30% 3rd dn conversion rate

Six Games

Record 4-2

QB att

25

QB Conv

14

56%

 

KC Wk 17

4th Qtr

QB att

5

QB Conv

3

IND WK 14

4th Qtr

QB att

4

QB Conv

2

KC Wk 13

4th Qtr

QB att

2

QB Conv

1

NYG WK 12

4th Qtr

QB att

5

QB Conv

3

SD WK 6

4th Qtr

QB att

4

QB Conv

3

NE WK 5

4th Qtr

QB att

5

QB Conv

2

 

This is the Orton that I think many people, who are fond of the QB, think of when they say they believe in him as a starter.  Orton went toe to toe with Manning, Brady, and Rivers, and won two games.  They are however, missing the last game of the season where Orton threw three picks and the Broncos lost 44 to 24.  This is not to say that the Orton that won those games doesn’t exist.  All I am saying is that he is the best Orton.  That Orton requires a very good defensive effort however as all four of the wins came when he only had to produce 17 points or less.  The San Diego game Denver’s offense was spotted 14 points from Edie Royal. Now let’s look at the other side of Orton

Bad Orton < 30% conversion rate

9 Games

Record

4-5

QB att

25

QB Conv

2

8%

 

Phi WK 16

4th Qtr

QB att

5

QB Conv

1

OAK WK 15

4th Qtr

QB att

5

QB Conv

0

SD Wk 11

4th Qtr

QB att

3

QB Conv

0

Pit WK 9

4th Qtr

QB att

3

QB Conv

0

Bal WK 8

4th Qtr

QB att

3

QB Conv

0

Dal WK 4

4th Qtr

QB att

2

QB Conv

0

Oak WK 3

4th Qtr

QB att

1

QB Conv

0

CLE WK 2

4th Qtr

QB att

0

QB Conv

0

CIN WK 1

4th Qtr

QB att

3

QB Conv

1

 

 

This is a bit sobering.  56% and 8% are huge differences.  When you look at the games that were on the line where Denver could have won, or where Denver should have lost, you start to see the limitations of Orton.  Sure Denver won some of these games, but it wasn’t because of Orton’s great play to keep drives alive.  Against Dallas and Cincinnati Orton threw hail marry passes on second down.  The receiver ran 30 + yards after a miracle catch.   The Dallas game was a great throw.  The Bengals game not so much.  He was one for five on those two games.  If he had kept drives alive there would have been no need to heave the ball as far as Orton accurately could.  If not for the amazing catch and runs of Stokley and Marshall Denver only has wins over Oakland and Cleveland in the >30% games.

The week three Oakland game, and Cleveland game were good wins, but the games were not on the line.  Against Cleveland, Denver had such a lead Orton was not relied upon and didn’t even have to attempt to convert a third down in the fourth quarter.  In other games where Denver was looking to have a shot at winning Orton fell short. 

In games against Oakland at home, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, Denver desperately needed to keep drives alive.  Orton was only able to convert a single third down in those four games.  

 

The Baltimore game is the one that really allowed Bronco nation to see what Orton was really all about.  Orton didn’t get any gimme points from the special teams.  He didn’t have any miracle 40 yard touchdowns.  He was in a game where he had to keep drives alive and the defense wasn’t lights out.  Though they were pretty good through the first half.  Yes, Denver ended up losing the game 7-30, but it was 6-0 at half time.  Denver had a chance to go into the locker room with a scoring drive with 4:58 left, but that didn’t happen with Orton failing to convert on 3-3 and 4-3.  Orton was finally able to score some points with the single touchdown drive in the third quarter.  The fourth quarter of that game started with the score being 7-16.  After the scoring drive early in the third quarter Orton failed to convert a single third down. 

Here are the third downs after that drive.  These are on four separate drives.  Most were third and long, but that is where a top QB is supposed to be able to throw a pass for 11 yards.

41. 3-11-DEN 21 (4:11) (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass short right to 28-C.Buckhalter to DEN 30 for 9 yards

14. 3-3-DEN 44 (11:03) 8-K.Orton pass incomplete short middle to 19-E.Royal

24. 3-15-DEN 19 (7:56) (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton sacked at DEN 9 for -10 yards

48. 3-7-DEN 40 (:38) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass incomplete short right to 19-E.Royal.

 

Orton’s total third down conversation for the game was 2 for 11.

I am only pointing out one game for this type of example,  but  from looking at the nine games where Orton was 2 for 25 I fail to see what makes him worthy of starting and leading Denver into the playoffs. Any playoff team would shut Denver out with this conversion ratio.  Most of the playoff teams will be able to put up over 20 points and will have defenses similar to Baltimore. 

Scoring in the Fourth Quarter

Converting third downs does lead to scoring, but there are other downs too.  So we have to take the work as a whole.  So how did Denver do when Orton was leading them in the fourth quarter.

4th QTR points

Result

Orton Points (Pass TD or run TD)

INT

Week 1

7

W

7

 

Week 2

14

W

0

 

Week 3

3

W

0

 

Week 4

10

W

7

 

Week 5

7

W

7

 

Week 6

10

W

7

 

Week 7

Bye

 

 

 

Week 8

0

L

0

 

Week 9

0

L

0

2

Week 10

 

 

 

 

Week 11

0

L

0

1

Week 12

10

W

7

 

Week 13

10

W

0

 

Week 14

9

L

0

 

Week 15

3

L

0

 

Week 16

3

L

0

 

Week 17

0

L

0

2

86

35

5

 

 Orton’s TD/INT ratio in the 4th QTR = 5/5

Out of the 15 fourth quarters Orton was responsible for scoring in five of the games.  We’re not counting field goals or running back touchdowns.  This is about how Orton performed.  He threw five TDs and five INTs.  He scored only score five touchdowns in 15 fourth quarters.   To me this does not say clutch.  He was clutch in only three games (Dallas, New England, and @ San Diego).  He was not clutch in 12 games.  Those were big games against big opponents.  So people really gave their loyalty on only three games.    They were back to back to back.  So maybe that was a nice three week memory. 

Fourth Quarter Evaluation

However, I think Josh McDaniels remembers the other 12 games where Denver had to rely on miracle plays by Wide Receivers or Denver was out of contention.  McDaniels remembers going 2-8.  After McDaniels poured over tape of the fourth quarters that we have discussed in this article I think he sees what I have attempted to convey.  He had seen a quarterback that can’t do the things that Josh wants to do.  Josh would have seen a quarterback that can’t convert third downs when the game is on the line.  Josh knew he had to make a change because Orton is average in the fourth at best.  From the performances given Josh only sees a team that needs to develop its future QB before attempting to venture into the playoffs.    The quarteback that is smost obvious is the one taken in the first round in this years draft.  In the fourth quarter McDaniels really doesn’t trust the ball being in Orton’s hands and will be looking to give those opportunities to someone else.

Part II: Cutler Comparison 4th Q  Link to Part II

Part III:  QBs With Top Defenses: Palmer, Campbell, Sanchez

Part IV: The Elite 4th Qtr QBs Brees, Manning, and Favre

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

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