When the Chicago Bears first announced that there would be an open competition for the starting quarterback job, it was met with some skepticism among Bears fans and football analysts alike.
After all, Grossman was the chosen one, a first round draft pick given every opportunity to prove his worth. The team stuck with him when he suffered three injuries in consecutive seasons, two of those injuries serious ones. They even replaced Orton with Grossman during Orton’s rookie season when the first year player had led the team to 10 wins, so you can understand why there were doubts that the competition this off-season would be legitimate.
Orton, meanwhile, was a fourth round pick brought in to add depth to the position. He was drafted by the Bears because he was a good value pick early on day two of the 2005 draft. However, Orton’s conservative style of play paired with a solid defense in 2005 allowed the rookie to pick up victories as his bandwagon picked up passengers. Even while Grossman was putting up monster numbers in September 2006, there were still steadfast Orton supporters who felt Orton was robbed and should have been the starting quarterback.
Entering his fourth training camp in the NFL, Orton finally has a legitimate shot to win the starting job. He will get training camp reps with the first offense for the first time in his career. Now that he is being given the opportunity, there’s at least one prominent NFL analyst who believes he has the inside track at winning the job.
ESPN’s John Clayton writes that he believes Orton’s ability to protect the football will ultimately lead the coaching staff to pick him as the leader of this team in 2008. With the defense fully healthy and a special teams that has led the league the past two years, Clayton believes the Bears need less of a playmaker — which Grossman has proven to be at times — and more of game manager who won’t turn the ball over.
If only the Bears could combine the two players, they’d have a pretty good starting quarterback. Each player offers something unique, be it Orton’s size and smarts or Grossman’s cannon for an arm and deep ball. I’m having a hard time believing that Orton legitimately will win the starting job, but in my humble opinion, I don’t believe the Bears can go wrong either way, at least, given what they have to work with.