ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Tim Tebow is obviously still the people’s choice. His jerseys are ubiquitous at Broncos practices; his merchandise still consumes an entire section of the Broncos’ online store, and no matter how great his struggles appear to be in team periods this camp, he still generates the same fervor as the Beatles’ arrival at JFK Airport.
“I think that’s great,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “Tim’s a great young man. We’ve got a lot of great young men on our team. You know, I don’t really evaluate that as much as I do the performance on the field and that’s pretty much what I stick to.”
Which is why it will now shock virtually everyone who’s watched Broncos practice this month if a healthy Kyle Orton is not the Broncos’ quarterback for the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against Oakland.
Like it or not, Orton continues to outplay the second-year quarterback during practices. When the Broncos finished their practice Monday with a two-minute drill period, Orton led the first-team offense to a field-goal attempt. Brady Quinn and Tebow followed by throwing interceptions to the second- and third-team defenses, respectively.
By any measure, Orton has looked smoother, more polished and more in command than Quinn, Tebow or undrafted rookie Adam Weber during the practices. Yet when Orton slid on a third-and-9 in the red zone during last Saturday’s scrimmage, the fans booed. The closest thing to a “boo” Tebow received was when he was sacked by defensive end Elvis Dumervil, eliciting a cheer of “Dooooom” from fans who hadn’t seen him at Invesco Field in 19 months.
Orton, with the first-team offense against the second-team defense, led it to a pair of field goals Saturday, and could have had a touchdown if Eric Decker had come down in-bounds with a well-thrown fade. Tebow, with the second-team offense against the No. 1 defense, was sacked three times and only completed one pass.
The discrepancy continued Monday, even though Orton was facing the No. 1 defense and Tebow the No. 3.
“(It’s a) good thing other people don’t make the decisions. That’s all I really have to say about it,” Orton said.
It’s not that Orton doesn’t notice the fans’ reactions to his play — positive and negative over his two-plus years since arriving in the Jay Cutler trade. It’s that what comes from the crowd takes a low priority compared with other concerns.
“My last goal playing quarterback is winning over the fans. My first goal is to win over my teammates, my coaches and I think I’m well on the way towards doing that,” he said.
The first step is putting a hammerlock on the starting job. He’ll have that if he can play well in the preseason games — or at least better than his fellow quarterbacks.