The answer to why the Broncos aren't 3-0 or 2-1 isn't anything profound or terribly complicated, It doesn't have much to do with Tebow or Orton either, though I don't discount them as an issue entirely. Here's how I see the factors that have led to our current record.
1. The Lockout. Everyone said the lockout would hurt teams with new coaches, and it has proven an accurate prediction for the most part. When Elway Fox were hired, thye couldn't evaluate the free agent field as well as they would have liked since no one was certain what the salary cap would be, or even the make-up of the free agent class. In addition Fox had no mini-camps or off season program to install his new defense, evaluate his team with the eyeball test, coach up young players (like Tebow), make trades, etc. Instead, when the lockout ended, all the teams had little time to sign free agents, install their offense and defense and learn their players' strengths and weaknesses. Teams that are pretty well set with veteran line-ups had a clear advantage over teams with lesser talent and depth and new coaching staffs. As with everything there is a learning curve. The Broncos especially had too little time to get up to speed, at all three levels: Management, Coaches and Players. Frankly that they have been in close games each week is a good sign, despite the fact we couldn't close the deal against the Raiders (a very good team when McFadden is healthy) and Tennessee.
2. Lack of Roster Depth. In my mind, the single biggest tragedy of the McDaniel's error was his inability to assess talent.and stock the shelves with enough good players, both as starters and back-ups. Our offensive line is shaky after you get past the starters, three of whom, by the way, have been in the league for less than two full years. They are young and still learning and god help us if we have to play their backups. And don;t get me started on our running backs. We may have the worst running back depth in the league, but in any event we are down in the bottom quartile at the least. A young offensive line and no stud running backs is a recipe for an inconsistent running game, which we have seen. Then there are our receivers and tight ends, the deepest position on the team, but also the one most impacted by injuries so far. When your starters are are your third and fifth string receivers, with Tebow as your emergency back-up, well that sort of says it all, doesn't it. As for Quarterbacks we don't have a stud QB yet. Orton is in the last year of his contract and he is what he is. Good when the running game is working and he doesn't face a lot of pressure in the pocket, but downright horrible at times when the run game isn't working and his receiving corp is limited to backups. Tebow is still a work in progress.
On defense, we made strides in the draft to acquire talent (Von Miller, and Rahim Moore in particular) and we improved our pass rush and pass coverage. The defensive line was completely overhauled to fit the new scheme, and overall its an improved bunch from last year. Unfortunately, injuries to key starters (Dumervil, Warren, Baily, DJ Williams) have taken their toll. That the defense has played as well as it has is a credit to Dennis Allen and his staff, but there is no doubt the defense isn't as good as it could be with Doom and Champ in the line-up, and Thomas and Warren available for rotational duty along the line.
3. The QB Controversy: Neither Orton nor Tebow (or Brady Quinn either) are ready for prime time. The management tried to trade Orton for draft picks which should tell you something. When that deal fell through, they were stuck with plan B. Play the journeyman and hope for the best or play Tebow now and see what they have in him as he develops. Well, Tebow didn't show much improvement from last year in the shortened training camp, which considering he missed the OTA's and mini-camps isn't much of a surprise, Fox is a conservative guy, so he went with playing Orton instead, despite Orton's well known flaws. Ultimately this may prove a benefit for Tebow in the long run, because by all accounts he hasn't convinced the locker room that the keys to the Broncos' offensive car should be handed to him yet, and he needs time to develop. Certainly he hasn't convinced his head coach. Nonetheless, with all of the problems on offense due to injuries, new and young offensive linemen, and mediocre backs, Orton's inconsistency is something we should have expected. This is a new offense too, in many respects, and it is still searching for an identity. Until the QB picture is settled or the running game explodes (not something I foresee happening soon) we will continue to struggle putting up points or establishing an offensive identity.
4. Injuries. I've mostly discussed this above in the section on our depth issues, but it bears repeating. Injuries have cost us games this year we could have won had we been at full strength. I suppose many teams can say that, but it is especially true of a team with a new coach, new defensive schemes and a new offensive emphasis (if not a complete overhaul of the playbook) and no time in the Spring during OTAs to get the team and coaches up to speed regarding those new schemes and how to best utilize the players we have, respectively.
If we had been honest with ourselves, we would have recognized that this team was going to take some time to gel. We would have foreseen that this was always going to be a rebuilding year, even in the best of circumstances, and frankly this year we haven't had the best of circumstances by any means. I don't think its time to write off the season yet, but it is time to recognize the reality of the Broncos situation. A lot of things will have to go wrong for front runers Oakland and San Diego, and a lot will have to go right from here on in for the Broncos, if they are going to have a shot at winning the division title and make the playoffs. Replacing Orton with Tebow isn't the panacea for all of this teams current shortcomings, though I do expect him to play at some point in the season, if only because Orton has a history of injuries and I don't believe Quinn is a starting QB in this league (though maybe he'll prove me wrong if given the chance).
In the meantime, patience with the ups and downs of this team as it develops is what we need to practice as fans. The Broncos are getting better, even if it hasn't shown up on the scoreboard yet. The mess McD left isn't something that can be fixed overnight (I really do see this as a three year project), so suck it up Broncos' fans and support your team while it struggles to become significant in the NFL again. Enjoy the good things you see, and don't be disheartened by the inevitable losses and regressions that any team such as the Broncos must suffer before they can return to prominence.
One thing I know, bitching and moaning about things you have no control over and cannot change is a recipe for frustration, anger and undue stress. There's a long road ahead, this season and the next, so enjoy the adventure that comes from being a fan of the Denver Broncos. The alternative is a practice in futility.