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Published on 07/20/2010 at Tue Jul 20 17:35.
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“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it.”

Cutler and Plummer, side by side in 2006, have had far different results. (US Presswire)

In 2006 the Broncos benched Plummer before it was necessary, starting Cutler before he was ready. (Photo US Presswire)

The situation the Broncos had in 2006 (with Jake Plummer the starter and Jay Cutler the promising rookie) is very different than the Broncos current situation (with Kyle Orton the starter, and Quinn and Tebow chomping at the bits to play). Nevertheless, there are some similarities between Plummer vs Cutler and Orton vs Tebow, and if history were to repeat itself, the Broncos would be wise to resist the temptation to start Tebow mid-season.

In 2006, Jake Plummer was coming off a solid, yet unflashy 2005 season in which the Broncos made it to the AFC Championship game. Meanwhile, the Broncos had just drafted Jay Cutler with the 11th overall pick. Granted, Cutler hadn’t received the hype Tebow has, but he was a high draft pick and the pressure was on Shanahan to start him, much like McDaniels is now being pressured to at least play Tebow in certain situations – if not start him. Resembling Plummer is Kyle Orton, who is coming off a career year, but doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table besides winning (at home anyway).

If Orton starts the season poorly, like Plummer did in 2006 (he threw as many, and in some cases more interceptions than touchdowns in 7 of his 11 starts), Josh McDaniels will feel the heat to start Tebow (or perhaps Quinn, but that’s another topic for another time), much like Shannan did when the Broncos were 7-4 with Plummer struggling. To this day I believe former Bronco head coach Mike Shanahan made a mistake when he decided to name Cutler the starter and benched Plummer for a week 13 game against the Seahawks. Current head coach McDaniels can avoid making the same mistake by supporting Orton when he struggles.

Jay Cutler first career start

Cutler reacts to an interception and touchdown return by the Seahawks. (Photo DenverBroncos.com)

The rookie, Cutler, finished the year as the Broncos starter, and took the Broncos to a 9-7 record, going 2-3 himself. In his first game against the Seahawks, Cutler showed some heroics, but ultimately his three turnovers cost the Broncos the game. Had Plummer started, the game would have no doubt gone differently, while Plummer was very capable of throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice in the same game – as Cutler did against the Seahawks, it’s unlikely he would have. Cutler wasn’t familiar with the offense, and didn’t get things going smoothy until a few weeks later against the Cardinals. If the

Broncos had beaten the 49ers or Seahawks, (in english: if the Broncos had let Plummer finish the year as the starter), they would have at least finished 10-6 and earned a Wild Card spot. Sure the defense was not stellar, but Cutler did have weapons, and still didn’t get the Broncos to the playoffs.

This season, the Broncos will probably find themselves in the same predicament, I can very easily see Denver starting 7-4 with Orton having his ups and downs. I couldn’t believe it when Shanahan changed QB’s when Denver was 7-4, and I can’t fathom McDaniels chaining QB’s if the Broncos will to start 7-4. Unless the Broncos start 6-5 or worse, Tebow being named the starter is very unlikely, and even then I think Quinn would be the named starter if Orton was benched.

Orton, Tebow

The Broncos can prevent repeating past mistakes by not starting Tebow before he is ready. (AP Photo)

Starting Tebow before he is ready could cause the Broncos to again miss the playoffs, while Orton has proved he is capable of leading the Broncos to a winning record – when the defense does its part. Some could argue the same could be said of Tebow or of Cutler’s rookie campaign, “If they had a better defense… .” There’s no evidence supporting that however, as the Broncos’ defense allowed just 23 points against the Seahawks, and Tebow hasn’t even taken a snap under center. Orton on the other hand has won every game (save one) as a Bronco when his defense has allowed 26 points or less.

Kyle Orton now has a solid grip on the system, and will be getting the most reps with the starters, to pull him mid-season would disrupt fluency. The Broncos can avoid missing the playoffs for a 5th straight season by sticking with Orton, and not giving into the pressure of starting the popular option at quarterback, like they did in 2006. To me, McDaniels seems like the kind of coach who knows these things, he’ll stick behind Orton just like he did last season when fans (and Woody Paige) were complaining. Just imagine what would have happened last season if McDaniels had started Chris Simms after a promising pre-season. Last year was an excellent example that you can’t judge a quarterback – or really anything - by pre-season performance. With all that said, I don’t expect to see Tebow starting in 2010, neither do I see him getting much (if any) playing time for the Broncos as a rookie.

  • http://manchester-architects.com T-Money

    His needs a contract first.

    And on top of that… Even if something were to happen midseason, I don't see Tebow leapfrogging Quinn. And having said that I wouldn't count out Quinn in the starter race. It's Orton's to lose but if Quinn know the playbook well enough………..you never know.

  • Johnjoda

    I believe Quinn needs a fair competition this season.

    If it gets to the point where the season is lost, I think it would be some good experience to put Tebow in.

    The Cutler change from Cutler left a bad taste in my mouth. We were still in the hunt when he took over. I think the worst part of it was to the older veterans. It felt like we surrendered in the middle of the fight.

  • http://nation.theorangepage.com/blog Ian Henson

    As some have predicted here, I believe that Tebow will take a snap at least during the Jacksonville Jaguars game. I'd start him… Any advantage you can get and to get a stadium roaring for an opposing team, I wouldn't give up that chance.

    That being said, I believe Kyle Orton will have an incredible year. He may get injured though and that's when the Broncos will be faced with a real quarterback controversy. Inevitably going with Brady Quinn, because of his experience, amongst many calls from fans for Tim Tebow.

  • DenversFinest

    Honestly I'd rather Tebow start now. We all know where Ortons ceiling is. Does anybody really think Tebow could be any worse than Orton? Maybe his first year, but by starting Tebow now we eliminate next years growing pains. I say the future is now. Lets get it on!!!

  • Dpineda998

    If Jake is reading this it's ok to say ” I told you so”, Don't blame him one bit for being upset and leaving pissed off. Shanny screwed him over. Cutler was overated. He is good, at best. Too early for Tebow. Besides, talent is one thing, learning and effectively running the offense is another. He hasn't established himself as a leader on the field or in the locker room. Maybe next year.

  • http://broncoszone.blogspot.com/ Jon

    Of course he needs to sign first, thats a given. And I agree, I think McDaniels would put in Quinn before Tebow. Training Camp will be very interesting!

  • Jags~Beach

    Making a small sample comparison is sad really.

    Tebow will be given an opportunity that Cutler never had, that is to come in as a substitutionary player and execute the plays he has grasped from the playbook.

    This method of getting his feet wet will allow him to prepare himself for diving in come week 7.

    My theory is Orton could be traded by then, given McDaniels itchy trigger finger and the fact that after the season is over all the investment in Orton will be for naught if he lands on another team.

    2 teams in the top ten of 2009's passin defenses makes this a prime season for a Rookie QB to start, this may as well be a red carpet put out for tebow to succeed.

    We will know by week 7 If tebow is ready to start or not I imagine given all the playing time he will be getting up to that point in time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WLV7IWZHWHGJOCYZ6WYDM3VKXI Omar

    BTW what Shanahan did was stupid, he put the brakes on this teams playoff aspirations by replacing a proven QB like he did.

  • http://broncoszone.blogspot.com/ Jon

    I don't agree – but we'll see come September! Interesting theory though.

  • Dan

    Breaking in new receivers and o-linemen will make early season wins tough, but our good defense should keep games close enough where, if healthy, Orton will play nearly every QB down. Not being able to blow-out weaker teams by the 3rd quarter will hurt Brady's and Tim's chances to get more playing time…However, with risk all over the o-line and no clear go to receivers yet, Orton will likely take more bigger hits increasing the chances of Brady and Tim getting to play more…Finally, if we are 3 – 3 or worse by game 6, Orton will likely start sharing time at QB with Brady and/or Tim. For Tim's sake, except for occasional red zone trick plays, I hope he sits on the bench and learns.

    I know it is probably asking too much, but I am hoping Clady is good to go or at least (85%), Beadles can lock down left guard, Walton can lock down center, Harris can avoid reinjury at right tackle, Moreno (in better shape this year) can materially increase his yards per run, and Gaffney/Thomas/Royal can excel as starting receivers…Then, Orton will have a much better chance at starting the whole season. Barring injury, why the “F” would we ever trade Orton? He is a good, smart, team-oriented QB that after this year will have had 2 full years running McD's offense. Even more as a back-up, he will be gold for us for the next 5 – 10 years.

  • dogheadbrew

    McD has show, if nothing else, he is going to run this team his way, despite public opinion and talking head punditry. He has said Tebow is a QB, and he will start the QB who gives him the best chance to win.

    Not only does Tebow need to watch and learn, he wants to. Yes he wants to play and lead, every player wants to, but he seems to understand his role so far.

    Sure some young QBs have had success (Big Ben, Ryan, Flacco), but I think the model we should follow was forged starting five years and one pick before Tebow (read Aaron Rodgers). Honestly, if you could have any QB in the league, Rodgers would have to be in the conversation.

    Orton will be our starter this year, and don't sleep on Quinn, he will have a fair shot. I predict the biggest actual QB controversy will be when Quinn gets the start in the proverbial Redskins game this year, and wins it. That will give Orton enough time to heal fully, and be ready for a wild card game.

    The worst part of this is that Orton, a consummate professional and team player, will be used as a salvageable stop-gap then discarded. He won't want to be a back-up, but in two or three years, he won't have the work ethic to beat the talent of Quinn and/or Tebow. And he won't be old enough to want to retire and become a QBs coach for us. Our team will be solid again, and Orton will have been an integral part of that, I hope he can be remembered for such.

  • Darwin

    Who really knows what is going to happen with the QB situation? Orton was figured out last year and his weak arm/no legs led to the offense being pummeled. Maybe he improves his deep ball like Brady did over the first few years as a starter. However, he is not going to become a better scrambler. I like Quinn as the starter with Orton backing him up and Tebow learning the trade this year. Quinn is a much better athelete than Orton and he is built to take a bit more punishment. His arm compares with Orton's arm but he needs to be a little more accurate with his throws.

  • scottman

    I agree, but i think there was so much pressure on shanahan to win he just took a huge chance, and unfortunately he lost. I miss him as a coach, and just hope mcdaniels learns alot and becomes a better coach.

  • dogheadbrew

    Was Orton “figured out” or did play calling become one dimensional, the running backs get worn out/banged up and the defense fall off precipitously? Remember it was the defense that allowed a codine laced draft bust to lead a game winning drive at the end of a game (I would maintain the moment we lost a playoff bid).

  • Cutelis2

    You do know that Orton beat Quinn three years in a row during the Notre Dame and Purdue games. Give Orton a chance!

  • http://broncoszone.blogspot.com/ Jon

    Good points, dogheadbrew.

  • AtomicLeo

    A bit of revisionist history….Two things sealed Plummer's fate before the Broncos drafted Cutler. The previous season Plummer came in the off-season and busted his a$$ to learn the playbook and had a excellent year until the AFC Championship game. The following Plummer refused to participate in the off-season workouts. (Documented by the guy who wrote a book about trying out for kicker positoin at training camp that year) Not a good thing if you are the QB. And then there was the AFC championship game. The Steelers put on a clinic on how to beat a Plummer lead offense. The entire gameplan with Plummer as QB was naked bootlegs and rollouts. Once Plummer was forced to throw from the pocket he couldn't hit anyone. The Steelers showed blitz all day long and kept Plummer in the pocket. Game over. The following season nearly every team did the same thing. Keep him the pocket and the offense sputtered to a halt. Plummer should have been pulled weeks before he was finally yanked. He looked awful all season.

    And don't give me the “The play calling was 1-D ” to excuse Plummer or Orton's short comings. Coaches call plays that they think will gain the yardage they need and have a high % chance of success. McD has seen Orton for over a year and he didn't like what he saw, otherwise Quinn would not be here and he would not have drafted Tebow.

    The question is: When Orton goes down in week 4-8 (He gets injured every year) who steps in? With a lockout looming, thow Tebow in there. It may be the only chance he has to play until 2012.

  • MilehiMac

    I think we would be fools to start Tebow at all this year. Maybe in special situations, but not at center. If Orton gets hurt, Quinn should start. If the City of Denver wants to see their “Chosen One” be successful they need to be patient.

    Ken
    http://www.milehimac.com

  • rachel

    Actually, Orton only played against Quinn two years. It was the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Quinn's first two seasons at ND.

  • rachel

    @Cutelis2 Actually, Orton only played against Quinn two years. It was the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Quinn's first two seasons at ND.

  • DLMyers

    No way is there QB controversy, Brady Quinn is #1 1/2. Tebow needs a couple of years to learn from KO on how to read defenses.

  • DLMyers

    Spot on points Dan. I too believe Kyle Orton is the type QB that would like to coach. I see him as a backup/coach for the young Quinn and Tebow.

  • http://nation.theorangepage.com/blog Ian Henson

    Any time you start Brady Quinn over the #25 pick in the first round from that years draft there may be a controversy.

    See Brady Quinn in Cleveland or Matt Leinart in Arizona or Vince Young in Tennessee.

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  • ThaOrangecrush

    ithink drafting tebow was a dumb idea, but hey thatss wat happend, bt idnt think tebow should start not a single game until Quinn has had his chance, why trade a good fullback for him an then not evn play him, tebow is all hype, i didnt like him at Florida, an i dnt like him now, someone tell me why outta all…wat like 200 an somethin rookies he's tha most talked about? iwant to knw wat D.Thomas is gonna do, since our dumb coach got rid of our best player, an the leagues best receiver, and got rid of about 3 or 4 or more draft pics ta get suck up ass tebow, who is he gonna throw the ball to? abunch of “ok” receivers, an none playmakers, iLove this team, but the coach has ta go, b4 Champ does…why would we not jus give him an extension? he's earned it..it shouldnt be that hard of a desicion or debate, my favorite team in all sports, and i'd hate ta see Bailey, my favorite player, and role model go out with tha rest of the shanahan era. we better make the playoffs in a season or two or can McDan…

  • ThaOrangecrush

    ithink drafting tebow was a dumb idea, but hey thatss wat happend, bt idnt think tebow should start not a single game until Quinn has had his chance, why trade a good fullback for him an then not evn play him, tebow is all hype, i didnt like him at Florida, an i dnt like him now, someone tell me why outta all…wat like 200 an somethin rookies he's tha most talked about? iwant to knw wat D.Thomas is gonna do, since our dumb coach got rid of our best player, an the leagues best receiver, and got rid of about 3 or 4 or more draft pics ta get suck up ass tebow, who is he gonna throw the ball to? abunch of “ok” receivers, an none playmakers, iLove this team, but the coach has ta go, b4 Champ does…why would we not jus give him an extension? he's earned it..it shouldnt be that hard of a desicion or debate, my favorite team in all sports, and i'd hate ta see Bailey, my favorite player, and role model go out with tha rest of the shanahan era. we better make the playoffs in a season or two or can McDan…