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Orton's Oracles

By George Ofman

"You win because of the quarterback."

Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo uttered those prophetic words at the beginning of the year.

And now the Denver Broncos are saying the same thing.

Captain Neck Beard is 1,000 miles away and he's still winning games. Not bad for guy tagged as a game manager.

Orton also manages to win games.

He's 5-0 as a Bronco and 26-12 as an NFL starter.

While there should be no argument who is the more talented QB, Orton is calmly proving he might be more than the guy whom the Bears were dumbing down the offense for.

"I guess some people would rather win and have the quarterback throw three interceptions and somehow do it flashy" Orton told the Tribune. "I like to try not to put my defense in bad situations. I try to play complementary football."

Nice dig at Jay Cutler but few quarterbacks who fancy themselves complementary pieces win Super Bowls - or even get to the big game.

End tables are complements. Elegant sofas and eye-catching art make the room.

But an undefeated start gets you notice, especially when the team you play for was destined to win no more than three games by some prognosticators. So does going 35 of 48 for 330 yards and two touchdowns against the New England Patriots.

These aren't complementary numbers.

Don't get the wrong idea. Angelo was dead-on when he declared "we must get the quarterback position right." No one around these parts disagrees he did exactly that when he sent Orton and two first-round draft picks to the Broncos for Cutler. But in Denver they must also be saying "we got the quarterback position right."

I guess one man's end tables are another man's elegant sofa.

It's working there and it's working here.

The real question isn't who the better quarterback is.

The real question is who gives his team a better chance to win.

Orton did when compared to Rex Grossman. Now Cutler does when compared to Orton. But in Denver, it's the other way around. Cutler no longer has what Orton does: proven wide receivers. He had the luxury of having Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall last year. They combined for more than 2,200 yards in receptions. Now Cutler is trying to cultivate the likes of Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett into more than just a questionable lot of receivers.

He is. Cutler didn't get a Pro Bowl nod just because he has cannon for an arm. Throwing for more than 4,500 yards garners you tributes.

And a ticket to Chicago.

There is no doubt the Bears will be better off having Cutler at the helm, but let's not underestimate Orton. He did throw for nearly 3,000 yards last season and, remember, was hobbled by an ankle injury against the Lions. Prior to that game he had averaged 273 yards in his previous five games. When he returned not nearly 100 percent, Orton's numbers were a meager 169 yards in the final seven games. But the Bears didn't make the playoffs because he was ineffective; they lost because of their defense.

In no way is this to suggest an upgrade wasn't needed and Angelo did it right by getting a guy perceived by many to wear the gaudy title of "franchise quarterback."

This could wind up being a win-win situation. Denver is thrilled with Orton, probably as thrilled as when it dumped Cutler.

The Bears are overjoyed to have Cutler, the man they truly believe will get them back to the Super Bowl one day soon.

I'm certainly not predicting a Bears-Broncos fling in Miami next February, but the NFL is full of surprises, none more so than the one being fashioned by Captain Neck Beard In Denver.


George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021