This is my first FanPost, so forgive me if I don't come across the way I intend - especially since I know this isn't a particularly popular opinion.
Over the past week, it the wake of the heartbreaking loss to the most hated of teams, fan opinion on Kyle Orton has been decidedly negative. The most strongly stated view is that he is not our "quarterback of the future", so he shouldn't be playing. He is "anti-clutch", good in practice and not a "gamer", a "stats only" QB with no passion or leadership ability, and is said to be playing "as bad as any quarterback in the league". It boils down to this: while Kyle Orton is not the only problem with our beloved Broncos, he is a major problem, perhaps the largest one of all.
I understand this sentiment, and to a certain degree I agree with some of these statements. However, the general negativity goes too far in my opinion. Orton did not play as poorly as we felt on Monday. Our emotions told us that he was beyond horrible because the play with the highest emotional content - the play that we felt the strongest about - was a play where he made a mistake.
I am referring to "The Drop" of course - it has the highest emotional cadence of any play in the game because it was such a swing. The great fake pitch, and just as we realize Orton still has the ball and has a receiver open - a clear big play - the ball just slips right out of his hands and into the paws of the black and silver. It was a heart wrenching play. When it happened, I immediately wanted to start yelling for Tebow. Many fans at the game did just that. The emotional impact of that play on us as fans was huge. It was by far the most memorable play for that reason, indelibly etched in our memory.
The emotional impact of that play is so large that it tends to impact our judgment - it convinces us that Orton did something horrendously wrong on that play because of how important that play was to the game. However, as I watched it again and again, there was no glaring error that he made. Nothing about how he was holding the ball that obviously led to its fall. It slipped. A hard thing to leave it at, but given that the ball was wet and many other players were having a hard time hanging onto it, that is just the truth. Possibly Orton could have put less into the fake - but that fake was why the play was so open in the first place. And the ball still seemed to be in his hands - until it wasn't. The conclusion that I came to was not that Orton has proven himself once more to be "anti-clutch" - but that this game with this oddly shaped "ball" is so cruel and so dependent upon chance. It was a wet and sloppy game - and the play we will forever remember from it happens to be when it slid out of Orton's hands.
If I were a coach trying to tell Orton what to do differently after that play, I would have nothing to say. "Hold on to the ball" is worthless advice - this isn't where a running back didn't put the ball away correctly or when a receiver looked up field before securing the catch. It was a wet spheroid not staying in his hands when he pulled it up to throw the same way he did over 40 other times in that game. There is no glaring mistake - possibly he gripped it too tightly or pulled it up too fast, but it looked the same as every other time to me.
I don't want to hear that analysis. I want there to be blame, something somebody did horribly wrong, some error equal in magnitude to the emotional impact of the result. But that is it right there - the emotional impact of the result. That is the force driving the criticism of Orton, I believe. Now I know there are many other longstanding criticisms of Orton. I am not saying those are without value. However, plays such as "the drop" will color our opinion of Orton beyond what an impartial analysis would. That is why it seems that Bronco fans have so much lower opinion of our starting quarterback than the football world at large.
Losing football games leaves a negative emotional impact, of course. In general, after losing a game, we remember the bad plays more than the good plays. But when we go to evaluate how players performed, we have to completely get away from the emotional investment we made watching the game and look at every performer dispassionately. That is incredibly hard to do, and I know I don't do a good job of it myself. I put much too much blame upon our defense initially, ignoring the solid play of good portions of the game to focus on the plays with the highest emotional content for me: the drive after "the drop" and the final drive of the game. However, realizing that the emotional content of the game colors our analysis should leave us more open to hear other opinions, especially those from people whose job it is to evaluate the game and act upon that analysis - the coaches and the front office.
Fox is not going to start Tebow immediately. Give him the benefit of the doubt for now - he gets paid to make those decisions. He knows exactly how each play was designed, so he can see clearly what went wrong on each play. And, as one so immersed in each play, he is much more able than we fans to distance himself from those single plays and see the whole picture. One game shouldn't make us lose confidence in his ability. Let's continue to root for the Broncos. Let's not start undermining the coach's decision because it doesn't make us feel good (meaning, no "Tebow" chants, no matter how much we feel like it). I look forward to the Tebow era, and hope it does arrive one day (in fact, the best thing about the McDaniels regime in my opinion was that it brought us Tebow) - but that day is not today, and I trust the coaching staff to make the decision about when it does begin.
Remember the impact of our emotional investment in single plays, and fight the tendency to overreact in response to it.