Orton is realistic short-term answer for Broncos

Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels attempted to put the trade rumors surrounding Kyle Orton to rest on Monday. As emphatic as he was that Orton — or any other QB — wouldn’t be traded, McDaniels was strategically less conclusive that Orton would be the starter when the season starts.

After backing Orton as “the best player” at the position and the starter until somebody beats him out, McDaniels also pointed out there are no guarantees. He made it clear Orton knows the scenario.

This was a hot topic at NFL Network Monday, and how much competition Brady Quinn, Tim Tebow and Tom Brandstater can realistically provide is worth watching. Orton is entering his second season in McDaniels’ system, and presumably should be better.  While Quinn and Tebow are polarizing figures, is either in a position to start, and start soon? Quinn has yet to show (to be fair, in 12 career starts) he’s an NFL starter and has had only several months acclimating himself to the team and the playbook. Tebow, while he dominates the headlines,  is considered by most a project player who is several seasons away. The word on Brandstater is he has the physical tools that are ideal as a developmental player for McDaniels.

Again, none of the alternatives for Orton provide any indication they’re ready now. Maybe a spectacular offseason from Quinn changes the playing field. But a job that’s Orton’s to lose seems difficult to lose.

He appears the most realistic short-term answer, regardless of a long-term future in Denver that is murky, at best, beyond 2010. The name of the game right now is competition. McDaniels is creating that aura — and why not — in an effort to keep Orton sharp.

“He is trying to keep the pressure on Orton, to make him be the best player he can become,” NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi suggested Monday.  “Once Orton is comfortable, he is cocky and does not work hard.  McDaniels wants to keep making him work hard and build equity with his players.”

Then again, if there’s one thing we’ve learned during McDaniels’ brief tenure, it’s that he follows his convictions. We’ll see how this competition plays out.

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