Respect Eludes Orton Despite Wins, Numbers

Denver's Kyle Orton, who will face Green Bay on Sunday, has had a good career since joining Aaron Rodgers in the quarterback Class of 2005. Still, he wasn't wanted in Chicago and he's not wanted in Denver — by the fans, at least, though he's got a supporter in John Elway.

Kyle Orton is enjoying being around John Elway.

Orton's career, however, would have been better served had he been able to meet with the late comedian, Rodney Dangerfield.

You know, no respect.

As a rookie fourth-round pick out of Purdue by the Chicago Bears, Orton was asked to replace injured starter Rex Grossman for the 2005 opener. He compiled a 10-5 record as a starter, including an eight-game winning streak, to lift the Bears to the NFC North Division title. When the playoffs rolled around, though, the Bears pulled Orton out of the lineup and went back to Grossman. Chicago promptly lost to the Carolina Panthers as a rusty Grossman was a horrid 17-of-41 passing.

After the 2008 season, the Bears traded Orton to Denver as part of a package to get Jay Cutler, even though Orton's record as a starter was 21-12 compared to Cutler's 17-20.

In 2009, Orton enjoyed the best statistical season. Starting 15 games, he enjoyed 62.1 percent accuracy with 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 3,802 yards.

His reward? Broncos coach Josh McDaniels drafted Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 draft.

Orton won the job in 2010 and put up big-time numbers in the first five games with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. His five-game average of 346.6 passing yards included a 476-yard performance against the Colts. By late in the season, though, the Broncos were 3-10 and McDaniels turned to Tebow for the final three games, even though Orton was at 58.8 percent accuracy with 3,653 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

John Fox has taken over as Denver's coach but the only change at quarterback was a change back to Orton. Talk about no respect, though. In a Week 1 home loss to visiting Oakland, Broncos fans chanted for Tebow, even though Orton put up fine numbers while getting pummeled by a leaky offensive line.

Hey, at least they weren't chanting for the third-string quarterback, 2007 first-round bust Brady Quinn.

"No, I don't really care (about the lack of respect)," Orton said during his conference call with Packers beat reporters on Wednesday. "When you're 1-2, your only thoughts are what can you do to get to 2-2, and after that, what can we do to win the next game. That's one of the good things about playing this position is on a week in and week out basis."

Orton will be the starting quarterback as the Broncos make a rare visit to Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon. Denver's last game in Green Bay came in 2003, and the Packers haven't faced the Broncos since Brett Favre's 82-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings on the first play of overtime in 2007.

While the Broncos are what coach Mike McCarthy likes to call an "uncommon opponent," that certainly doesn't hold true for Orton. Orton is 3-1 against McCarthy's Packers, though his numbers are horrible: 49.4 percent with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 58.3. Oddly, his best game came during that dreadful windstorm at Soldier Field in 2007, when the down-and-out Bears demolished the powerful Packers 35-7. Orton completed 9-of-15 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, with a lofty passer rating of 103.2.

"I liked him coming out (of college)," McCarthy said. "I think he throws the ball very well, especially playing in Chicago and the ability to throw and play in bad weather. He's doing a very good job managing their offense. They seem to be very efficient trying to shorten the game. He's done a nice job, their run and pass mix, and they're not taking a lot of big chances, but you say that and they'll throw deep every snap. It seems that's how this league goes. We've got to be ready for his game and everything they're capable of doing."

It's been a year of change for the rebuilding Broncos, who finished 4-12 last season. Orton has had to adjust to a new coach, a new system and a new receiving corps with starter Eddie Royal sidelined. There's also a new man in charge in the Hall of Famer Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operation and the boss of Fox and new general manager Brian Xanders. While Orton said he and Elway don't talk about X's and O's too often, he's relished having a mentor to talk about the game and leadership.

"I played at a pretty young age (in Chicago)," Orton said. "Really, the only time I had a situation like that was when Brian Griese was with me in Chicago. We talked a lot and I learned a lot of stuff from him. Other than that, it's been nice to have somebody a little bit older than me that you can lean on and throw some ideas off of."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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