Starting QB debates had become somewhat of a Bears off-season ritual. When Kyle Orton was named the starter for the '08 season the announcement didn't elicit much excitement and most supporters comforted themselves with some "lesser of two evils" logic. The popular argument was that Orton was just as unreliable as Grossman; both had taken the Bears to the playoffs while putting up less than impressive stats. Orton's '05 numbers were unsightly and few cared to probe deeper than that. For two traight off-seasons when Orton competed with Griese and Grossman for the job rarely was it noted that Orton was a rookie in '05. In a rush to pessimism that fact was regularly overlooked.
Orton never got the benefit of the doubt in Chicago. At the end of last season as he hobbled around on one ankle the popular logic was that since he had returned to the field he therefore was fully healthy and once again Bears fans were content to neglect context when making up their minds about Orton. In seven games before the ankle injury Orton threw for 10 TDs and 4 Ints. In eight games after the injury those numbers went to 8 and 8 respectively.
Now Bears fans are psyched for Cutler, as they should be; he's one of the best young QBs in the league. It's just that Orton - only one year older - may be too. Orton has the edge in wins, Cutler the edge in stats, and it seems that in this case stats have won out. The Sun-Times' Mike Mulligan's reasoning is typical of the Cutler enthusiasm emanating from Chicago:
"Much has been made of Cutler's 17-20 record as a starter, but that also reflects some of the Broncos' terrible defensive performances. He's 13-1 in games in which the Broncos held their opponents to 21 points or fewer."Using this same dubious metric Orton's record as a starter goes from 21-12 to 17-5.
Now Cutler will be playing where it's a bit colder for a bit longer and while Orton throws to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, Cutler will be throwing to two converted Cornerbacks, each of which stands at 5'9". Orton will be playing for a noted QB specialist in Josh McDaniels while Cutler will be playing for Ron Turner, noted leader of the offense where "recievers go to die."
Certainly Cutler has more cachet, but this is largely insignificant. After all, nothing gets an NFL GM hard like a strong armed QB - how many spots, or rounds, did Kyle Boller's famous from-the-knees-through-the-uprights throw bump the 45% career college passer? And if we can offer some conjecture: how likely is it that Angelo made the trade largely because it is safer to make a splash and bring in a famous quarterback than to stay the course with a guy who the city had collectively decided was no better than Rex Grossman.
Ultimately this isn't about comparing the two QBs, but noting that it wont be surprising if Orton plays well for the Broncos. Those extra picks won't hurt either.