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Kyle Orton: A Remembrance

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Thanks almost entirely to the ineptitude of this year’s quarterbacks, as well as the best decision-making exhibited all year by the incumbent starter, we have an entire offseason to discuss who should occupy the position for Buffalo in 2015 and beyond.

On this last day of 2014, however, We Want Marangi would like to take a few moments to honor Kyle Orton, who retired Monday morning, less than 24 hours after leading the Bills to perhaps the most significant exhibition-game victory in franchise history.
He may have spent just a solitary autumn here, but his list of accomplishments from what will be foggily remembered as The Orton Season is, well, a list:
— We could argue until next September about whether the Bills would have won more or fewer games, given the rest of the roster, with E.J. Manuel or any other remotely ambulatory humanoid taking the snaps, but this much beyond debate: Of the 14 quarterbacks to start a regular-season game since Jim Kelly retired, Orton was clearly one of them.
— The mustache. Just look at it.
Easily the most impressive upper-lip growth on a Bills quarterback since David Humm.
Sadly, it lasted just two starts. Long enough, though, to join the younger Orton’s neck beard in the annals of NFL facial hair.
Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Civil War-re-enactor beard was pretty great, but Orton’s versatility makes him the franchise’s all-time facial-hair standard bearer at the position.
— According to ESPN’s QBR system — which takes into account not only traditional counting stats, but the situations, such as down, distance and score, involved in compiling them —Orton was the 25th-best quarterback in the league in 2014, better than such luminaries as Oakland’s Derek Carr (even if the rookie substantially outplayed the veteran in their head-to-head meeting), Austin Davis of St. Louis, Tampa Bay’s Josh McCown, Geno Smith of the Jets and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles.
A cynic might note that the teams led by the five qualifying quarterbacks rated lower than Orton will all earned Top-10 draft picks next spring, including four of the first six spots. But we’re not dwelling on the negative here.
— Under the more inclusive rankings issued by Football Outsiders, which cover anyone who threw at least 100 passes in 2014, Orton drops to No. 26. Still, how many of you can say you are the 26th-best in the world at what you do? Not Mike Glennon or Charlie Whitehurst, that’s for sure.
— The guy could really pile up the stats when faced with a defense protecting a multi-score lead or a completely disinterested collection of New York Jets defenders.
— While Orton has been getting ripped pretty regularly around these parts since before throwing his first pass for Buffalo, his retirement was exquisite.

Orton’s chosen method of leaving the sport was the football equivalent of the Irish Goodbye, in which one leaves a party or other social gathering without any of the customary niceties. I adopted the move from Tim, a longtime We Want Marangi consultant, a few years back, but have never seen it executed so early on a weekday morning, or so aptly.

The only thing goofier than expecting more from a guy who had to be coaxed out of retirement days before the regular season and who started 12 games would have been that guy tearfully announcing his decision in front of a bunch of reporters.

Orton spared us all of that insincerity. His finishing move also cemented his legacy. He may not have ever won a playoff game, made it to a Pro Bowl or established himself as The Man for any of the five NFL franchises that employed him, but it says here that by slipping away so deftly, Kyle Orton confirmed his status as The Greatest Internet Quarterback Ever.

Early on during his stint with the Chicago Bears, Orton displayed an innate knack for getting himself photographed in highly unflattering situations. The publication of such photos not only launched the famous-person-doing-something-that-some-might-consider-embarrassing genre of internet journalism, a trend that has spread to all fields of public life and come to dominate modern media.

While Orton took his online fame (which included an array of similar pictures from his college days at Purdue, a highly unauthorized Twitter feed and a series of reasonably funny videos posted by a Denver-area comedian) as well as could be expected, the stream of Kyle-on-the-town photos slowed over the years, then stopped altogether. But his re-emergence with Bills triggered the Uncle Rico meme, which was beautiful in its own way.

Football prowess aside, Orton was easy like, mainly because he did not look or act like the stereotypical NFL quarterback.

It would have been even easier if he had played like one more often, and when it mattered.

So farewell, Mr. Orton. Wherever you are.

  • Polish Prince

    A cheap shot from a non-athlete loser….no surprise