From the day he landed in Denver, Kyle Orton found himself between the Rocky Mountains and a hard place.
Jay Cutler, believed to be the QB of the future, was traded for Orton, a move fans loathed.
Orton became the full-time starter in 2009, and his leading Denver to a surreal 6-0 start made many forget Cutler.
But when the Broncos plummeted back to reality and finished 8-8, we wondered if Orton was anything more than mediocre. Sure he enjoyed a career year, but was he the on-field leader Denver needed?
Denver was dreadful in 2010, Orton and the Broncos went 3-10 together and he was benched in favor of rookie Tim Tebow when Josh McDaniels was canned.
John Fox came in and pronounced Orton the starter because he “gave the Broncos the best chance to win.” While his rhetoric seemed flawed, it was understood the coach couldn’t start replacing veterans with youngsters at the risk of creating turmoil in the locker room.
So Orton started 2011, and the Broncos were a sad 1-4 with him under center, sitting in the basement of the AFC West and looking like they were six feet under.
Fans’ incessant chanting of “We want Tebow!” finally won Fox over in Week Five against San Diego and it was never clearer than then that the Mile High City wouldn’t put up with mediocre.
After Orton was benched, he sat and sulked on the sideline, not talking to coaches or offering advice to Tebow.
He eventually demanded a trade and when none suited Denver, they cut ties with him.
Orton wanted nothing more than to go back to the Bears; the team that drafted him and who needed a quarterback after—ironically—Cutler went down due to injury. Chicago was in line to make the playoffs then, and Ort hoped to help them.
But the sully and sullen Orton was picked up by Kansas City, a team destined to finish dead last in the division.
The fans turned their backs on Orton, the players wanted Tebow to start—as indicated by Champ Bailey before he re-signed in Denver—and Fox benched him in favor of the young gun.
And while Kansas City may not have been Orton’s first choice, he now has a chance to exact revenge on the Broncos by beating them this week.
As the AFC West race has tightened up, it all comes down to this final game.
“The Showdown at New Mile High,” it could be branded, or the “Bronco Bowl.” Or simply, “Orton vs. Tebow.”
Win and the Broncos are in the postseason and find themselves as division champions.
Orton can kill those dreams by defeating Denver in the Mile High City this Sunday—it would be poetic justice for the journeyman quarterback thrown out of town on his tuccus.
Sure, the Chiefs will finish last in the West win or lose, but what makes this division one of the fiercest rivalry-wise is the teams’ true dislike of one another.
Kansas City would enjoy nothing more than to kick Denver out of the playoffs, Orton most chiefly.
So it all comes down to this final game; Orton can defeat Denver, beat Tebow and serendipitously exact revenge on the team and town that kicked him to the curb.
Or, Tim Tebow can continue to cultivate his blossoming legend by leading the Broncos from last to first and into postseason play.
Meaning this Sunday’s game is must-see TV.
The game kicks off at 2:05 p.m. MT and will be televised by CBS.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your Denver Broncos Examiner, Rich is your CSU Rams Examiner and Kurtzman also writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Mile High Hoops.
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