Nobody in their right mind picked the Broncos to win the Super Bowl or even compete for a playoff spot this season, and with good reason. The team is inexperienced and undermanned while learning new offensive and defensive systems. With the lockout taking away much of the offseason, the time to learn John Fox's playbook on both sides of the ball was rushed, and injuries have eliminated whatever depth the team had to begin with. Young players are seeing the field and getting better, but the team is having a tough time right now.
So it's no surprise that the team has a 1-3 record after a quarter of the season, or that it was demolished by the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday by the score of 49-23. What is surprising is the way Fox has managed the roster he does have at his disposal through four games, especially at the most important position on the field.
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After months of speculation during the offseason about what the Broncos would do at quarterback, the team decided in August to keep Kyle Orton, to make Brady Quinn the backup and to put fan favorite Tim Tebow at third string. Orton gave the team the best chance to be competitive after having good campaigns the past two years in Denver, albeit in the offense of Josh McDaniels, who did things a bit differently than Fox.
However, after four games, it is time to rethink that order. Orton is still solid, and he still might give the Broncos the best chance to compete in 2011. But if the Broncos want to be better next season than they are now, the coach should give both Quinn and Tebow a shot under center. This has nothing to do with caving to the fans' requests or the billboards around Denver calling for Orton's benching. It's about common sense.
No time would have been better for a quarterback change than the Packers game, where Denver played the entire second half down by double-digit points. While Orton did some good things in the game (273 yards, three TDs), he also made some poor mistakes (three interceptions, one brought back for a touchdown), which would have been the perfect excuse for Fox to trot out one of his former first-rounders. Quinn, a starter with the Browns early in his career, could have shown what he had against a talented secondary, or Tebow — a man so popular in Colorado he likely could run for governor — would have been able to give the fans some much-needed happiness.
The team already knows what it has in Orton — he's a smart and accurate passer who is not going to beat a defense with his rocket arm or quick legs. He has started 65 career games, winning 33 of them and losing 32. He's good enough to keep a team in a game, but not always good enough to win it. The Broncos realize this, a reason why they are going to let him test the free-agent market after this season.
Fox's stubbornness to not bench his starter and see what his backups can do won't change the standings for this year; vintage John Elway could have come off the bench on Sunday and the Broncos still weren't going to beat the Packers. But in the offseason, when the team is determining what it has on the roster and where it needs to improve, the coach and his staff are going to wish they had given Quinn and/or Tebow a chance to show what they can do against a real opponent.
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