His stock never higher, Orton was traded along with a package of draft picks to Denver for Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. In a curious twist of fate, it was an injury to Cutler that sparked Chicago’s interest in claiming its former starter off waivers.
Orton excelled his first two seasons in Denver in an offense run by Josh McDaniels, throwing for 7,455 yards and 41 touchdowns with 21 interceptions.
McDaniels was fired late last season, though, and while Orton remained the starter when John Fox took over, things got off to a bumpy start. Denver lost four of its first five games, and Fox turned to Tebow as the starter, effectively demoting Orton to the third string.
Orton’s career numbers bear a striking resemblance to those of Cassel, who was hurt near the end of the Chiefs‘ 17-10 loss to Denver two weeks ago. Orton’s completed about 58 percent of his passes while making 66 career starts, with 79 touchdowns and 55 interceptions.
Cassel has started 54 games, completing 59 percent of his throws with 76 TDs and 46 picks.
After facing the Steelers on Sunday night, they visit Chicago and the New York Jets, before returning home to face the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay. A division game against Oakland follows before wrapping up the season at Denver, a game that suddenly has a few more story lines.
“Good for him. Congratulations to him. That will be fun to play him the last game of the year,” Tebow said. “Obviously he knows (Denver’s offense) pretty well, so he could probably give away a few things, but I think we’ll be OK.”
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colo., contributed to this report.