For all the criticism periodically and repeatedly heaped on Cowboys owner/G.M. Jerry Jones, he deserves praise on one fairly important front.
Jones had the foresight to acquire a veteran backup with experience competing for playoff berths.
In 2012, Jones and the Cowboys signed Kyle Orton to a three-year, $10.5 million contract, with $5 million up front. At a time when younger options were readily available for far less money at the bottom of the draft, Jones wanted someone with more experience ready to go in the event Tony Romo isn’t.
Contrast that decision with the backup plan forged by a more tenured and competent “football guy” in Green Bay. From Seneca Wallace to Scott Tolzien to (finally) Matt Flynn, the Packers would be long out of the playoff chase but for the backslides committed by the Bears and Lions.
It’s easy to forget Orton’s accomplishments, especially since he hasn’t accomplished much in recent years. In four seasons that featured 33 starts with the Bears, Orton compiled a record of 15-2 at home.
As a rookie in 2005, Orton led the Bears to 10 wins in 14 meaningful starts before yielding to Rex Grossman late in the year. (Grossman started the team’s divisional-round loss to Carolina.)
Orton started 15 more games in 2008, winning nine of them. In 2009, his first year with the Broncos, Orton became the toast of the league by leading Denver to a 6-0 start before cooling off, considerably.
From the moment the Broncos beat the Chargers to extend their season-opening winning streak to six, things fell apart for Orton. He finished the year 2-7 as a starter in 2009. In 2010, Orton went 3-10. In 2011, a 1-4 start yielded to Tebowmania.
But a 2-1 late-season effort with the Chiefs gave Orton some lift on the market, and Jones provided a landing spot.
The Cowboys haven’t had to use him yet. That likely will change on Sunday. Given that there aren’t enough good starting quarterbacks to go around for 32 teams, the fact that the Cowboys have a backup with some success as a starter gives them a lot more hope than if they had the Seneca Wallaces or Scott Tolziens of the world on the roster.