We Want Marangi is not here to debate the decision to bench E.J. Manuel, but simply to say this:
Manuel’s overthrown final pass finalized a come-from-ahead loss that pivoted on his first interception. Watt’s touchdown (which you can watch again and again below, if you like) displayed the hyper-awareness and stunning athletic ability that make him the NFL’s most destructive defensive player, but could not have happened without the dumbest throw by a Bills quarterback since Jeff Tuel’s horrific goal-line decision against Kansas City last year.
Marrone’s insistence he only shared his decision on Manuel with his boss after making it does not suggest the strongest of working relationships, either. Power struggles usually take place when one or both parties have at least minimal credibility, which this moves strips from both men.
To be fair, Orton did start 15 games for Smith in Chicago as a rookie, but was so unimpressive that Lovie benched him once the Bears reached the playoffs thanks almost entirely to the league’s stingiest scoring defense and five returns of turnovers or kicks for touchdowns.
Orton mostly sat behind Rex Grossman and Brian Griese for the next couple years, not throwing a single pass in 2006, when Chicago reached the Super Bowl.
In 2008, Orton had his best season to date, starting 15 games as Chicago went 9-7, but lost the finale to a Houston team with nothing to play for and missed the postseason. The Orton-led Bears ranked 26th in total yards and 27th in yards per pass attempt.
By that point, the Bears were so eager to get rid of Orton that they sent him with two first-round picks and a third-rounder to get Jay Cutler. It looked like a great deal for Denver when the Broncos started out 6-0. Orton went on to join Daunte Culpepper as the only starting quarterbacks since 1990 whose teams managed to miss the playoffs after opening with six straight wins.
A year later, Orton — saddled with an historically awful defense and non-existent running game — was benched in favor of Tim Tebow with three games remaining in a 4-12 season.
An injured Orton was replaced by Tebow again early in 2012 and subsequently traded to Kansas City, where he started the last three games of the season, winning two. His performance did not help Crennell, who took over as interim coach when the Chiefs fired Haley the week before Orton’s debut.
Orton’s only significant action in two years in Dallas came in last season’s finale. With the Cowboys needing a win against Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football to reach the playoffs and Tony Romo sidelined with a back injury, Orton put up one of the best statistical games of his career, going 30-of-46 for 358 yards and two scores.
Then, with nearly two minutes left and his team down by two points, he did this.
So, in nine NFL seasons, Orton has been found wanting by four other franchises, proven himself as the only professional quarterback who could not keep Tim Tebow on the bench and misfired, badly, on the biggest throw of his career. Then he quit, or at least pretended to in order to get out of his contract in Dallas, failing to show up for offseason workouts or much of anything else related to the Cowboys until they released him. He signed with Buffalo a month later, missing any chance to get practice time with the first-team offense during training camp.
Yet, according to Marrone, he gives the Bills their “best chance to win,” a notion shared by a fair portion of the populace, judging from social media and talk radio. That improvement seems to stem from a belief that Orton is significantly more accurate and/or less mistake-prone than Manuel, neither of which is borne out by the historical record, either. In 75 career appearances, Orton has completed 58.5 percent of his passes to his teammates, with 2.6 percent going to the other guys. Manuel’s numbers in the same categories: 58.6 and 2.7.
In his defense, Orton does seem like a fun guy. He was an inaugural member of the Deadspin Hall of Fame, thanks to a propensity for partying around people willing to take and publish photographs of the proceedings and their aftermath.
He is also, according to the WWM Research Department, the only quarterback in National Football League history of whom a picture exists involving him pretending to perform oral sex in a limousine. (Editor’s note: We will let you use your favorite search engine to find that one, as well as a seemingly infinite array of Orton enjoying his time off on your own, if you wish.)
We will not hold Orton’s past off-field conduct against him. After all, Jim Kelly liked to cut loose once in a while, too, though he was fortunate enough to do so before such modern marvels as Deadspin, TMZ and Twitter came along.
So Orton does immediately give the Bills an improved social media presence, even if the most popular Twitter presence bearing his name, which we will also allow you to locate yourself, is a parody account playing off the hard-drinking frat-boy image of his early years with the Bears.
The idea that Orton gives Buffalo a “better chance to win,” though, can not be based on anything other than forced optimism, a strategic Hail Mary by a coach frantically trying to avoid the shortest non-interim Buffalo coaching tenure since Mike Mularkey’s.
On behalf of everyone else dreading the thought of spending the next three months watching a less-mobile version of Fitzpatrick flummox his new team to another 5-11 finish, followed by another front-office demolition, I hope that I am wrong about Orton. But I can’t come up with a single reason to think that I am.