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Broncos cut quarterback Kyle Orton
Orton decisively outplayed Tebow in training camp for a second straight season but he turned ordinary when the games started to count, turning the ball over nine times and losing a string of winnable games and the organization’s confidence.
Orton’s slide hit bottom Oct. 9 when he went 6 for 13 for 34 yards in the first half against the Chargers and threw his seventh interception, tied for most in the league at the time.
“I’m disappointed with everything,” Orton said at the time. “I wish I could have played better, I wish we had a better record, I wish a lot of things, but the reality is what it is.”
Orton pledged to be a good teammate and stay ready in case his number was called again, but Tebow has gone 4-1 with the Broncos tailoring their offense to his unique skill set and reintroducing the option to the NFL.
When the Broncos were walloped by the Lions in Tebow’s second start, Brady Quinn leapfrogged Orton as the primary backup and appeared close to getting his shot under center. But Fox stuck with Tebow, albeit with the caveat that it was a week-to-week proposition.
Since then, Tebow has won all three of his starts and engineered fourth-quarter comebacks against the Raiders and Jets to go with his miracle in Miami, when he led the Broncos back from a 15-point deficit in the closing minutes for a win in overtime.
On Monday, Elway said on his weekly radio show, however, that he wasn’t sold on Tebow as the long-term answer at quarterback, saying the second-year pro has to become a better passer and improve on third downs.
Tebow is completing just 44.8 percent of his passes and Denver was 1 for 11 on third downs last week before its game-winning, 95-yard touchdown drive that stunned the Jets 17-13.
Several teammates said Orton was anything but a cancer in the locker room in recent weeks, even though it had become obvious he was biding his time until his first foray into unfettered free agency as a healthy QB in his prime and with a .500 record as a starter.
Yet, his demotion did create some awkward moments. He kept his captainship after losing his starting job and would help lead the team during warm-ups before watching the less accurate but more mobile Tebow take the bulk of the snaps during the week.
Orton was still held in high esteem in the Broncos locker room, especially by veterans such as Champ Bailey and Andre’ Goodman, who said at the time of Orton’s benching that they felt he was being unfairly singled out as the reason for the team’s bad start.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed. Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
By Brahma Chellaney
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