Kyle Orton, Colorado's NFL quarterback before Tim Tebow, is departing the Denver Broncos.
The Denver Post reported Wednesday that Orton jumped overboard after floundering in his third season for the team. The oft-questioned quarterback started Denver's first four games of the 2011 season, only for Tebow to replace him as the Broncos buckled after a disappointing 1-4 start under his leadership.
"We feel good about our quarterback group, and this gives Kyle an opportunity to help another team and showcase his talents," said Broncos Coach John Fox in a statement. "This was the right decision for our football team."
Orton joined Denver in 2009 after playing four seasons with the Chicago Bears. He received a chilly reception in the Rockies, with Denver fans frequently lobbing abuse at the quarterback's inconsistency. Replacing then-quarterback Jay Cutler, angry Denver fans heckled Orton during his first preseason practice. He's had a tortured tenure ever since, and things came to a head when the Broncos traded him for Tebow halfway through this year's game against the San Diego Chargers.
"Orton doesn't have the right mentality for our team, and the fans really don't like him, which makes his current position better," said Jacquie Beckvermit, a Berthoud, Colo., native. "Since Tebow has started playing, the fans have lost interest in Orton and are just excited about the wins. He is a good quarterback but he just doesn't belong in Denver."
Tebow has overshadowed Orton since taking the team's reigns in October. His mixture of public Christianity and a winning record, Beckvermit said, has made Tebow a more valuable option than his predecessor. Since Tebow's upgrade to starting quarterback status, the Broncos have boosted their overall record to 5-5, with Tebow taking credit for four of those victories to Orton's one.
"Since Tebow has started playing, you can tell a huge difference in the team on and off the field," Beckvermit said. "He has the ability to change the team's mood and get them back in the mindset to win. This is something Orton lacks. It's a miracle we're even talking about the Broncos succeeding so they just need to keep the Tebow magic going."
Orton is officially an NFL free agent as of press time. The Denver Post reported that his preferred destination is Chicago, given starting quarterback Jay Cutler, the man he replaced in Colorado, has a fractured right thumb. Should a team take on Orton's talents, the quarterback could play a maximum of six more regular season games.
"I feel like I still have a lot of good football left in me, whether it's here or someplace else," the Post quoted Orton as saying before he departed Denver. "I know I can play and I'll just work for another opportunity."
The Broncos have moved up rookie quarterback Adam Weber to Orton's third string position behind Tebow and second quarterback Brady Quinn. Former Broncos safety John Lynch said that in such a pecking order, Orton's free agency decision is in his best interest.
"That's one of those situations where I think it just gets to a point where it benefits everybody to move on," Lynch told the Post. "I know Kyle will feel it benefits him. I think it just emphasizes even more strongly that this is Tim's year the rest of the way to see what he can do."