Orton Named Bears' Starter


Jun 6, 2005
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Chicago, IL
Oh glorious day!

From the Sun-Times:

Orton gets call, will start opener

August 29, 2005

BY BRAD BIGGS Staff Reporter

Usually the Bears' quarterback changes aren't so easy to forecast.

The Kyle Orton era was born Sunday morning at Halas Hall when coach Lovie Smith met the rookie in the weight room and summoned him to his office. In the meeting, Smith did what many thought has been his only choice since Chad Hutchinson bombed a week ago at Indianapolis: He named Orton the starter for the Sept. 11 season opener at Washington.

Orton's start will mark the 27th change in the last 92 regular-season games for the quarterback-challenged franchise. There is a sense of optimism this time, driven by the fact that Orton does not bring with him the "retread'' tag like so many who preceded him through the quarterback turnstile.

The Bears have been around so long, precise records for rookie quarterbacks are not readily available. This much is known, though: No rookie has started the season opener since 1965, and the earliest a rookie has started since then is Cade McNown, whose forgettable career got going in Week 6 of 1999. Jim McMahon made his first start in Week 3 in 1982, but that was Nov. 21 after a two-month strike.

Orton has a swagger not common in rookies and does not seem in awe of his position as the leader of an offense that must complement a playoff-ready defense.

"I wasn't surprised,'' he said of the switch. "I kind of thought it was going to happen. I still realize that I'm young and I've got a lot of improvement I can make. Now I've got to quicken the process a little bit.''

Orton's teammates figured the move was coming, too. They gravitated toward him Friday during the Bears' 16-12 victory over the Buffalo Bills while Hutchinson -- who will be released soon -- was left to stew alone on the sideline. The list of rookie quarterbacks who have played well in the NFL is short, but that history lesson was a tough sell as players left the practice field Sunday.

"Roethlis-something,'' wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad joked about Ben Roethlisberger, who guided the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 15-1 record as a rookie last season. "I have confidence in Kyle. He came in and sparked the offense when he played and created a lot of momentum. I'm ready for him.''

The Bears are hoping they can re-create the Steelers' winning formula with an elite defense and a power running game.

"There is a pretty good blueprint they had,'' Orton said. "[Roethlisberger] didn't have to do a whole lot from what I saw, and I'm not going to try to go out there and be an MVP. I'm going to try to make plays when they're there and hang on to the football.''

Roethlisberger wound up going to the Pro Bowl, but his numbers weren't spectacular: 2,621 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His efficiency was, though, as he completed 66.4 percent of his throws and had a 98.1 passer rating.

"We have a pretty good running game,'' Muhammad said. "I don't think [Orton] is going to have to win every game. Hopefully we put him in situations that are favorable. Rookies tend to struggle because sometimes they're not afraid to throw certain balls that they shouldn't throw. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not.''

The Bears still want to refine Orton's throwing motion; he had a different arm slot on almost every throw at Purdue. But working in the spread offense helped him develop good vision, and it showed on a touchdown drive against the Bills when he looked outside and came back inside, throwing strikes to Justin Gage and Bobby Wade in tight spots for first downs.

Defenses attack the spread by blitzing, and Orton is adept at getting the ball out of his hand quickly. Like the spread, the West Coast offense deploys almost everyone, allowing for few maximum-protection situations.

"It's hard,'' quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. "There are things that we can teach him and show him, but he's going to have to go out and actually experience those on the field.''

Orton figures to see the kitchen sink and then some against the Redskins, whose defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, is regarded for his creative pressure schemes. Orton will play only briefly in the exhibition finale Thursday against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field (7 p.m., Ch. 5, 780-AM). Jeff Blake is now the backup and will see extended time, with Kurt Kittner now No. 3.

Blake has yet to practice in the system as all of the reps had gone to Hutchinson and Orton. He's preparing himself now and called it a blessing to go from unemployed to No. 2 in two weeks.

"I have to be ready any time,'' he said. "It has nothing to do with a rookie. He can get hurt. Anything can happen.''

Even a newcomer realizes the starter never remains the starter for long with the Bears. Because it is the preseason, center Olin Kreutz was able to laugh about a situation that isn't one bit funny. Orton will be the 14th quarterback Kreutz has snapped to since 1998.

"I don't even know what [consistency] is about,'' said Kreutz, cracking himself up. "Of course it's important. That's your No. 1 position. We've chosen our guys and tried to stick with them, but there have been freak injuries and things like that. Hopefully, Kyle is our guy.''

Hutchinson left the practice field without commenting. He broke into a jog as he neared the weight room.

"I'm not talking right now,'' he said as reporters approached. "Thanks, though.''

Smith likes Orton because of the way he has handled his brushes with adversity, such as the bad interception he threw against Miami in the Hall of Fame Game. Hutchinson just seemed to dig his hole even deeper.

"[That made the decision] a lot easier,'' Smith said. "We think he'll be OK, and we're going to grow with him.''

Orton doesn't know much about team history, but he does know that in the NFL, "Not For Long'' applies to the Bears' quarterback situation as much as anything.

"I know the city and all the fans want a talented quarterback who's going to play well and win a lot of games,'' he said. "Hopefully I'm that guy. I think I will be.''


Jun 6, 2005
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I am happy for you skeeter. For ONCE, the Cubs have done the right thing at the QB position...looking toward the future instaed of plugging today's holes in hope of ripping off a 4 - 5 win season with Hutchinson.

Congrats...you seem to have yourself a player!


Dec 3, 2004
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Omaha, NE
Orton's start will mark the 27th change in the last 92 regular-season games for the quarterback-challenged franchise

Hopefully he will do well so we don't see the 28th in a few weeks :)

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