The Breakdown: Can you shave off mediocrity?
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Summit County, Colorado
At first glance, he doesn’t appear any different to the untrained eye: He still has that same clumsy gait, wobbly arm and even has similar colors on his uniform.
Really, there’s only one thing different about the 2009 version of Kyle Orton compared to previous ones, and it has absolutely nothing to do with his play or Denver’s 5-0 record.
This season, Orton has discovered something that he (apparently) had never found previously in his career, but again this has nothing to do with his play. You see, for the first time since his rookie season, Orton is spending a portion of his million-dollar salary on razors. That is to say, Orton no longer has that tangled knot of whiskers wrapped around his neck; Ol’ Neckbeard has gone clean shaven.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, besides that I’m sad I can no longer use my nickname for him, I simply want everyone that’s geeked about his play – claiming he’s a brand new QB that just needed the change of scenery – to calm down a bit here.
Besides his new-found love of personal hygiene, Orton is absolutely no different than in the past.
In an inept offense with the Bears last season, Orton had virtually the same numbers through five games as he currently does. He had seven touchdowns in five games last year and seven this year; one 300-yard passing game last year and one this year. He also (arguably) faced tougher defenses in his first five games last year than this year: Indy, Carolina and Philly last season against Cincy, Dallas and New England this year.
Then, you have to take into account that he’s now playing for an offensive guru as a head coach and with three potential Pro Bowl receivers. Who would you rather throw to: a freak athlete that’s caught more than 100 balls each of the last two years (Brandon Marshall) or a guy that hasn’t played offense since high school that is simply a good punt returner (Devin Hester)?
I’m not trying to be a downer here, and I’m not saying that Orton isn’t a solid NFL quarterback. My point is that we simply get overexcited at the beginning of sports seasons. Anytime a player starts out the season well, or a team for that matter, we assume that they really are that much better than in the past. We somehow forget that there are still 11 games left to play.
In the case of Orton and the Broncos, we’re looking at a player and team that has really only played two functional teams so far. The Browns are awful, Oakland is, well, Oakland and Dallas is completely in turmoil. That leaves just the Bengals (who the Broncos/Orton needed a miracle last-second play to beat) and New England, which is looking nothing like the Patriots we’re used to.
It’s easy to get enamored by a 5-0 start and you’re “Game Manager” only having tossed one interception through five games, but you have to keep this in perspective a bit.
Let’s wait until the Broncos get into the real meat of their tough schedule (and it is a tough schedule) before we crown them. Sure, if they make it through games at San Diego (Monday), at Baltimore (Nov. 1), against the Giants (Nov. 26) and at Indianapolis (Dec. 13) still looking like a contender, then we can start getting excited.
Until then, let’s just call it a fresh start, similar to a nice, clean shave.
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