Orton once again miles ahead of Tebow

Aug 9 2011 - 6:19pm

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have a quarterback quandary on their hands even if it's not panning out as much of a competition.

It features constant critiques and criticisms and more tweets than touchdowns.

And it boils down to this: Tim Tebow is much more popular, Kyle Orton is much more polished.

If Orton is disappointed about not being traded, he isn't showing it. He just keeps his head down and completes throw after throw in practice, directing an offense that's more balanced and beefier than last year's version.

Tebow isn't making much noise on the football field but nevertheless keeps finding himself in the news.

Two weeks ago, Orton was on the trading block and Tebow had to figure this was his team, especially after All-Pro receiver Brandon Lloyd came out and said he had prepared all offseason to catch passes from the second-year lefty who won a national title and Heisman trophy at Florida.

Orton showed up the next day for the team meeting, however, and within 48 hours, the Miami Dolphins had decided to go in another direction.

No deal.

So, the Broncos were left with Orton's $9 million contract and a pretty good quarterback.

Orton was greeted by cheers from just three fans when he stepped onto the field for the Broncos' first practice under new coach John Fox. Tebow followed minutes later and was showered with love -- until the snaps started.

Orton, a seventh-year pro who has 61 career starts, was spot-on in his decisions and his darts. He was polished and precise.

Although he'd been working exclusively under center and out of his comfort zone in the shotgun, Tebow's motion and mechanics were still clunky, and he still tended to tuck and run when his primary read was covered.

That mentality doesn't translate well from college to the pros, and it's something the Broncos are once again trying to get Tebow to shake.

Before long, Orton was getting almost all the first-team snaps. The depth chart for Thursday night's preseason opener at Dallas has Orton listed No. 1, followed by Tebow and then Brady Quinn, who appears to be pushing Tebow for the No. 2 job.

John Elway, the Broncos' Hall of Fame quarterback and new chief of football operations, said back in January that a long lockout would hurt Tebow more than anyone on the roster.

Although Tebow worked out like crazy, as evidenced by his bulging biceps, the protracted labor impasse kept him from working with the new coaching staff to refine his messy mechanics.

Orton doesn't excite the masses quite like Tebow, who penned an autobiography at age 23 and has been all over Madison Avenue pitching products in between his maniacal workouts.

At 28, Orton is in his prime, though. He's thrown for nearly 7,500 yards and 41 touchdowns to go with 21 interceptions the last two seasons in Denver, and by listing him the starter, the Broncos are acknowledging he gives them the best chance to win games right now.

Orton hasn't posted enough fourth-quarter comebacks to keep the fan base from getting restless, but his middling 11-18 record with the Broncos has a lot to do with the anemic ground game and poor pocket of protection he worked with under former coach Josh McDaniels.

Fox has upgraded both areas, which should provide balance and keep the quarterback's jersey a little cleaner.

Orton was beat up last season and Tebow started the final three games, going 1-2 with six TD passes and six TD runs, providing plenty of fodder for both his supporters and his detractors alike.

Just like last summer, the quarterback competition at Broncos camp hasn't been much of a contest. Orton is clearly the best, if not the flashiest QB on the roster.

"I feel like I'm playing the best football of my career," Orton said. "All I'll do is let my play speak for itself."

Tebow, usually very calculated in his comments, was quoted in a Denver Post column last week saying his boyhood dream of being a starting quarterback in the NFL seemed imminent, "then, I felt like it was grabbed away."

Tebow met with the media the next day to say he didn't feel he was entitled and didn't want to be anointed.

"I don't feel like anything was taken away from me and I don't want anything given. I want to work for anything I get, that's for sure. And I've always been like that," he said.

Tebow added that he's never been given indication from the team it was his job.

"Absolutely not, and they never would have said anything to me like that, at all," he said. "The whole time it was 'Come in and compete,' and that's what you want, that's what I love doing."

Right now, it's Orton's job to lose, and he hasn't lost a single drill to anyone over the last year and a half unless you count the post-practice wind sprints that Tebow always dominates.

Tebowmaniacs suggest their man is a gamer who will outwork everybody to become an NFL quarterback much like he inspired teammates and won so many games in college.

He hasn't refined his game enough since leaving Gainesville, but it was some old film from his rookie year that sparked some consternation at this camp.

ESPN analyst and former NFL running back Merril Hoge reviewed tape of last season and harped on Tebow's throwing motion and inaccuracy in tweet after tweet, suggesting, among other things, "It's embarrassing to think the broncos could win with tebow!!"

After several posts, Tebow responded: "Hey Merril...... 'ppreciate that"

A day later, LeBron James chimed in, suggesting Tebow will indeed succeed in the NFL and imploring Hoge to cut the man some slack.

"Guys get on that TV and act like they was all WORLD when they played. How bout encouraging him and wishing him the best instead of hating!!" James tweeted.

Hoge later suggested on air that McDaniels had no business making a first-rounder out of Tebow, whom he said should have had a sixth- or seventh-round grade with so many flaws.

Tebow insists the criticism won't get him down.

"I'll tell you this, I'm very much, just my own nature, a people pleaser," he said. "I like making people smile. I like making people laugh, pleasing coaches, teammates. So when I hear criticism, when I hear negativity, on one hand I try to block it out and on the other I hear it and it motivates me."

He said he looks at the condemnation as an evaluation of his play and not a personal attack, "so I want to improve my game and what people are criticizing. And, if anything, I appreciate it. I really do, because it will motivate and fuel me."

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