IRVING, Texas – Assuming he values his bank account, Kyle Orton is probably going to be present when the Dallas Cowboys open mandatory minicamp next week.
As if the starting quarterback's back injury wasn't issue enough, only the Cowboys can command enough attention that the backup signal-caller's presence at voluntary workouts is a major story line. For that matter, no other NFL franchise would have created the same shockwaves by signing a recently-released first-round pick, Brandon Weeden, to a team-friendly contract.
It's a pretty easy bet, though, that Tony Romo is going to be the least-discussed quarterback in the Cowboys locker room on Tuesday of next week. Instead, the conversation will center on the pecking order between the absent Orton and the newcomer Weeden.
Unfortunately for the newcomer the NFL, much like life, is not fair. Despite the fact that Kyle Orton missed the majority of this offseason, he has proven himself to be a better-equipped quarterback to back up Romo 10 times over.
Orton's start last year in the season finale against Philadelphia was 70th of his career, giving him more than three times as many as Weeden's 20 starts. In facts, Orton's 75 appearances over an eight-year career is a solid step up from Weeden's two-year stint in Cleveland.
I don't need to remind anyone, but Orton fell short in relief of Romo in Week 17 last season. He tossed the interception that sealed the Cowboys' third-straight 8-8 season. That said, in his first start since Jan. 1, 2012, Orton completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns.
Those numbers are clear. That's a better completion percentage than all but three of Weeden's career starts – all three of them coming in 2012. It's also a better yardage total than all but two of Weeden's career starts.
You wouldn't confuse Orton with one of this sport's great quarterbacks, but he has proven his ability to do this at several stops. Isn't that what the NFL is about – putting faith in proven playmakers?
It isn't fair, but Kyle Orton has a history of performances that give me confidence he can help the Cowboys if they need him. To this point, Weeden has not shown that ability.
If Orton shows up drastically out of shape and uninterested, that's another story. That's bound to show itself over the course of minicamp, and certainly training camp, and at that point you have to question the veteran's dedication to playing.
If he shows up ready to play, though? I don't think there's much debate about this pecking order. I don't think I'd feel good about the Cowboys' chances if Orton has to start 10 or more games, but I've seen him acquit [embedded_ad]
himself well with the playoffs on the line. If Kyle Orton has to step in for a week or two, I trust that he can hold the rope, so to speak.
Brandon Weeden hasn't proven himself worthy of that kind of trust – not to this point in his NFL career, at least. Who's to say where he goes from here? He very well could earn that trust. But entering the 2014 season, I think he and Orton are on an equal playing field, and I think Orton has a boatload more experience than his not-so-young colleague.
It isn't necessarily fair that Weeden's work ethic could land him with a third-string job behind a guy who sat out all spring. But the NFL isn't about fair, it's about wins.
Right now, Kyle Orton gives the Cowboys a better chance to win games. So at this point in time, Kyle Orton is my unquestioned backup going into training camp.