Broncos: Orton embraces notion that he’s a ‘game manager’
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo.- His coach, offensive coordinator and even some teammates shy away from the term “game manager” when talking about Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, figuring it has a negative tenor.
He embraces the term and doesn’t see it as an insult at all.
“Not in my mind. I mean, that’s my No. 1 job description as a quarterback is to manage the game and it’s tough to win games if you beat yourself,” Orton said. “So, that’s really my approach going into every game.”
Orton’s style is a far cry from his predecessor, Pro Bowl passer Jay Cutler, who famously bragged that his arm was stronger than Hall of Famer John Elway’s and often seemed intent on proving just that.
Orton isn’t nearly as exciting as Cutler, but he’s certainly been more efficient and effective so far.
Ten times in his career Cutler has thrown for 300 or more yards. Orton, who was traded to the Broncos for Cutler this offseason, has but a single 300-yard game to his name.
Yet, Orton is 22-12 as a starter in the NFL, Cutler 19-21.
While Cutler gives the Bears (2-1) their first franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman in the 1940s and hope for a Super Bowl, Orton has given the Broncos (3-0) steady play that includes a lot of low-risk passes and quick throwaways when he’s in trouble.
“I try to obviously play smart football, not put our offense or our defense in bad situations – and make plays when they’re there,” Orton said. “It’s certainly not a style of play where you’re scared to take chances or scared to take shots. It’s just knowing the right time to do them.”
Orton doesn’t have the powerful arm or the lofty passing statistics of his predecessor, whom former coach Mike Shanahan used to encourage to take chances downfield, reasoning that an interception on a deep third-and-long pass was just as good as a punt, so why worry?
Cutler has such faith in his fastball that he often tries to fit darts into small spaces, resulting in either a spectacular play or a forehead-slapping interception.
Through three games with the Bears, Cutler has completed 64 percent of his throws for an average of 253 yards with six touchdowns, five interceptions and six sacks. He’s also lost a fumble.
Orton has completed 56 percent of his passes for an average of 221 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and three sacks with the Broncos.
Both are averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt.
In Chicago, Orton ran a conservative offense that complemented the defense-first philosophy that had reigned in the Windy City for half a century, so it’s no surprise that he has averaged just 175 yards passing per game over his career while Cutler’s clip is 245 yards.
So far in Denver, Orton has been asked to do the same thing he did in Chicago: stay out of trouble, make smart decisions and let the defense do its thing.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels bristled, however, when it was suggested that he had the ultimate game manager in Orton.
“We don’t ever talk about our quarterbacks as game managers,” McDaniels insisted. “But you want a quarterback to be efficient. You want him to be able to run the operation at the line of scrimmage, in the huddle, very well.”
Efficiency and effectiveness aren’t just measured by a lack of turnovers.
“Nobody talks about the quarterback when you talk about running for 215 yards, but when he’s talking you out of a play that’s going to go nowhere and you gain 26 on the other play, he plays a part in good running,” McDaniels said of Orton’s call changes at the line of scrimmage in Denver’s 23-3 win at Oakland last week.
Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy also seems to view “game manager” as a dirty word.
“I don’t think we really tell our quarterbacks to manage the game,” McCoy said. “Our quarterback’s going to go out there and be efficient, he’s not going to turn the ball over. … But I wouldn’t say he’s a ‘game manager.’ I don’t want to think that somebody’s going to go in there and ‘not’ lose a game.”
McDaniels said he’d love to see more production out of his quarterback but the bottom line is playing smart football.
“We don’t go into each week saying, ‘We’re only going to throw for 140 this week. Just make sure you don’t do anything negative,'” McDaniels said. “We’re going to try to attack the defense in every way, shape or form we can and then once the game declares itself, once you have a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter, you’re not going to do too many things that put the game in jeopardy. And that’s what happened (Sunday).”
Receiver Brandon Stokley has a suggestion for what to call Orton.
“I just see him as I guess you’d say a winner, however you want to categorize that,” Stokley said. “He’s not the type of quarterback that worries about 300-yard games. He’s a guy that just gets the job done and just wins ball games for you. And I think that’s a good thing.”