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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Awakening from Kyle's Greatness.

Leave it to our hero to stir me out of my post-Cubs depression. Its been difficult the last few weeks. I've had to slowly let myself shake loose the disappointment of baseball season and immerse myself wholeheartedly in football and a Bears team that's been anything but reassuring this season. The point I must touch on is one thats slowly been pointed out in the media the last week: Kyle Orton is good. Damn good, even. This is being thrown out in whispers and hushes, because the last time we saw a quarterback play this good (143-230, 62.2% compl., 1,669 yds, 10 tds, 4 ints, 91.4 rating) over the first two months of the season it was this guy:

and it was the two months of his career that tantalized us and made it so hard for many of us, me foremost of all, to give up on him. At this point Kyle's numbers look extremely similar to Rex's before the Arizona game in 2006:

93-152, 61.1% comp., 1243 yards, 10 tds, 3 ints, 100.8 rating.

These numbers earned Rex the Offensive Player of the Month Award for September 2006 and an article in Sports Illustrated on his rise as Bears quarterback. His decline thereafter is well documented, and we will not touch on it here.

Given the epic decline of Rex, its no surprise that the press and many Bears fans are slow to buy Kyle's success. But there are many reasons to believe that Kyle is not Rex, and here are just a few.

1.) There are two schools of thought in the NFL on how to develop a successful quarterback. Many argue that the quarterback should be thrown into the fires as a rookie and learn on the run, like a Ben Roethlisberger. Others feel he should sit the bench a few years before starting with a complete grasp of the offense, like a Phillip Rivers. Kyle is fortunate enough to have done both, and is in his fourth season, the year when most quarterbacks first put up a break out season (Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Roethlisberger, Tony Romo). Rex sat for all but three games as a rookie, and was injured in his second and third years and unable to gain the grasp of the offense and experience that Kyle earned on the practice field.

2.) Kyle's turnovers have decreased with his playing time, not increased, as Rex's did.

3.)The late game prowess Kyle has shown this year (91.3 rating, 0 turnovers in the 4th quarter), far eclipses the late game shenanigans of Rex in 2006 (43.5 rating, 2 tds, 5 ints in the 4th quarter). Kyle's performances late in these games is crucial to the Bears 4-3 record this year, though his performance in all three losses (especially the Atlanta game) should have been rewarded with a 7-0 record.

4.) Kyle has never had the unequivocal support that Rex once had, and has had to earn his playing time. Rex was frequently criticized for not being able to handle the pressure of competition, Kyle has clearly thrived upon it. Simply put, you appreciate more what you earn through your own efforts, rather than those opportunities which are handed to you.

5.) Kyle has this website.

Many of you are probably asking yourself...wait, Code Red, didn't you yourself advocate starting Rex as late as this summer? To which I must answer: yes. I did. But for reasons other than you may think. Its true I've been seduced by Rex's talent since he was a freshman at Florida. But I too followed Kyle's career at Purdue. My late uncle was once head of maintenance of the sports facilities at Purdue and the free tickets and perks that that job provided us has formed a tight bond with Purdue sports. If you'd asked me as late as 2004 who the two quarterbacks I most enjoyed watching in college sports were I'd have said Rex and Kyle. I've never doubted Kyle's ability. I did believe, however, that Lovie Smith and Ron Turner did. The reason I had hoped Rex would win was my fear that the competition between the two was Rex's to lose, and Kyle was Lovie's second choice. If Kyle won, that meant the playbook would be scaled back and we'd be back to watching John Shoopesque offense. My fears were nearly realized in the Carolina game, when Lovie seemed to take the game out of Kyle's hands and the defense blew a 17-3 lead.

Kyle must have shown Lovie something, however, in those first two games, because Kyle has been in complete control of the offense since week three, and has guided it in a cool, calm, and efficient manner. It's with great pride that we of Start Kyle Orton have seen our mission validated, with results greater than even we dared dream when this quest began last October.

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