Thank You Kyle Orton, Unlikely Hero For The Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills, despite their first winning record since 2004, they failed to make the playoffs since 1999 with the infamous Music City Miracle. The infutility is well documented, but the strong, proud people of Buffalo have stayed behind this team. Amidst the possibility of them moving to Toronto, the loyal Bills fans wanted to keep them there, but many others were indifferent. Fortunately, Mr. Pegula's purchase assured them that they're not going anywhere. This has energized the team and the city for the 2014 season. With an amazing defense, two great running backs and a promising wide receiver rookie in Sammy Watkins, some experts gave them a real chance to dethrone New England for the AFC East title. People anticipated EJ Manuel making great strides to provide at least stable quarterback play. Even if the Patriots held the top spot, a Wild C
ard berth did not seem unrealistic at all. While the Bills did start the season off well, the offense was sputtering badly. EJ Manuel was actually losing games for the Bills, most notably the Houston Texans game in Week 4 which came down to the wire. Kyle Orton was brought in merely as a tutor for Manuel and in case of emergency if EJ got hurt. No, he didn't get hurt, but it was clear that at least for this season, with a shot to finally enf the playoff drought, the Bills needed to put themselves in the best possible position to win the close games.
Kyle Orton had played for the Cowboys last season, filling in for Tony Romo in the deciding game versus the Eagles to capture the AFC East title and while Dallas lost, Orton did as decent a job as he could. Clearly though, no one saw him as a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Then again, I thought the same thing about Trent Dilfer, though having that Ravens' defense that year was a very rare thing to fall back on. Point is, having Kyle Orton on your team isn't a bad thing at all, just as long as you don't have to depend on him to win fottball games. After a few games into this season though, it was clear that he was the best option the Bills had this year to win football games. He was basically put on the spot after coach Doug Marrone benched Manuel, but I think whether Bills fans wanted to admit it or not, a different direction was needed. The Buffalo offense raved about Orton's command of the huddle right off the bat. After all, he has been in the league for 10 seasons and has started before in Denver. What Kyle gave them this season was stability and veteran leadership. He will not be mistaken for Aaron Rodgers, but he knows what it takes to win and will do everything in his power to achieve that end result. Defensively, the Bills were monsters, and this was without their rookie standout linebacker Kiko Alonso. However, that front seven is still so formidable that they were able to more than merely hold their own. They lead the league in sacks with 54. Needless to say, they will almost always keep their team in the game. The pressure was all on the offense to produce points and keep their defense off the field as much as possible. Unfortunately, both CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson got hurt as the season was truly starting to develop and it was difficult to recover from that. Buffalo has some good young receivers, but this team was destined to take them as far as their two main running backs could. Still, Kyle Orton kept a positive attitude and again gave it his all. He didn't make nearly as many terrible decisions as EJ Manuel would.
Of course, with all the inconsistencies of the offense, our only chance of gaining a wild card berth with two weeks left in the season was to win out and have some help. Though Buffalo lost to Denver, putting the clamps on one Peyton Manning and ending his consecutive touchdown pass streak was an encouraging sign for them facing who Stephen A. Smith calls that "Baaaaad Man" the following week. Holding the Packers to 13 points and scoring enough to win brought forth plenty of optimism. Of course, the hearbreaking loss to the lowly Raiders was somewhat expected, given the Bills bad luck, even in the days they were steamrolling their way through the AFC, only to lose four straight Super Bowls. Don't even get me started on that. People might say the week 17 win was tainted because the Patriots had nothing to play for, but a Bill Bellichick coached team always comes out ready to play and for Buffalo to get that 9th win still means something.
At the end of the season, Kyle Orton surprised many with announcing his retirement. He knew his role here as a starter wasn't permanent, but he is tough to not have around without knowing there is definitely a viable option to replace him. There is a good chance EJ will be back as the starter next year. Who knows, maybe this year of watching and learning is exactly what he needed to help develop into the quarterback Buffalo needs to win those close games, the kind of games that make you a playoff team and an eventual champion. I do believe Buffalo will be looking elsewhere for an upgrade, whether through the draft or maybe even taking a chance on supremely talented underachiever, such as Robert Griffin III or Jay Cutler. Either way, it appears this team is a quartback away, as well as keeping their skill position players healthy. Sammy Watkins was slowed a little bit by injury, but still put up good numbers this season.
I want to thank Kyle Orton for giving some hope to Buffalo. Many people write this team off, both fans and players. This year was definitely a step in the right direction. Had EJ Manuel continued to be the signal caller this year, who knows what would happen. If he couldn't help them to nine win, maybe this defense would have been overshadowed yet again by the offensive infutility. However, the offense being just good enough has brought some needed recognition to the defense. While he may not be in a Bills uniform once the franchise finally gets over the hump, he has easily been their best quarterback since Doug Flutie. Orton may not get his own cereal like Flutie did, but he is appreciated by everyone who has unwavered loyalty to the Buffalo Bills. Good luck outside of football, sir!!