By this time tomorrow, it's likely Kyle Orton will no longer be the property of the Denver Broncos.
How did we get here? How did a quarterback, who, by all accounts, has been better than average, and by many other accounts, has been better than the guy he replaced, Jay Cutler, get put on the trading block?
The story is fairly straightforward. John McDaniels liked, but wasn't completely satisfied with Orton. So he traded for Brady Quinn. Then McDaniels fell in love with Tim Tebow's potential. So he drafted the kid.
In many ways this has been the story (unfair or not) of Kyle Orton's career--good, but leaving people wanting just a bit more.
As the debate rages even now about whether Orton is a better option than Tebow, I find myself realizing it doesn't really matter.
That's right. Who is better means nothing. Assuming Tebow wasn't the second coming of Ryan Leaf, it never did.
Orton was probably destined for this outcome all along.
I'm not going to waste your time with statistical arguments. I'm not going to argue about upside. Again, they do not matter.
Instead, picture yourself in John Elway or Joe Ellis' shoes (the horror!). As I do this, I can come to no other conclusion than to deal Orton.
It's worth repeating what Mark Kizsla wrote earlier:
But one of the great myths of sports is all football decisions are based on merit.
When deciding who starts at quarterback for the Broncos in a year when the NFL tested the loyalty of fans, you had better believe salary cap economics, the marketing of team merchandise and community sentiment will also play a role.
Tim Tebow is not just religious, he's a religion. The hundreds of thousands of Tebowmaniacs who are now Broncos fans attest to this. He's a one-man force the likes of which we've never seen before. He's so big, even the greatest Bronco of all time, John Elway, can't stand in his way.
Tebow moves merchandise. He's every mother's dream. He embodies the ideals of what the Broncos say they want to be in Denver. He also may be one hell of an NFL player. What's important, however, is that If we've learned anything in the last two years, we've learned that Joe Ellis and Pat Bowlen care a lot more than any of us thought about their standing as role models in the community. They care even more about what the fans want.
One can argue that they shouldn't care, but it doesn't change the fact that they do care. They care dearly.
Which is why they will start Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow is what the fans want. Why? Some believe he's better than Orton on the field. Some believe he's better than Orton off it.
In the end, the reasons matter little. John Elway has to do it this way. He's got to find out whether Tebow can play or not. The longer he delays this, the worse things get for him.
If Tebow succeeds, Elway and John Fox had the foresight to play him over Orton. If he fails miserably, he can at least show the legion of Tebow loyalists that he gave the greatest player in college history a shot. These loyalists may be disappointed, but they will understand. "Okay, John," they'll say. "You are the Hall of Famer. You tried your best. Let's move on to Andrew Luck."
What Elway can't do, however, is let Kyle Orton play quarterback and watch the Broncos stay mediocre or slightly above average with Orton. The tasty wave of goodwill that Tebow fans are bringing to the beach will turn into an impatient tsunami. Impatient tsunamis are not pretty. They can ruin one's legacy as a General Manager before it even gets started.
Is John Elway a creature of politics? Of course he is. All of us are.
If you were in his shoes, you would do the same thing.
TJ Johnson can be reached through telegraph, ESP, Spanish interpretor, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you want to see him mock "the man." He assumes you are following It’s All Over Fat Man on Facebook and Twitter, but if you are not, that’s nihilistic, man.