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News » A short view on long term


A short view on long term


A short view on long term
Ron Jaworski kept his assistant busy Thursday breaking down every pass Kyle Orton has had batted down this season.


The final tally will make Jaworski more informed when the ESPN analyst calls the Bears-Packers "Monday Night Football" game at Soldier Field.

But Jaworski, whose eyes are to quarterback play what an X-ray machine is to bones, didn't need statistics to conclude whether he thinks the Bears should commit long-term to Orton.

"No," Jaworski told the Tribune Thursday in a phone interview. "[But] they might."

The Bears might feel better about doing so if Orton finishes the season closer to the way he started it. But what if he doesn't?

That makes Orton the Bears player who has the most to gain, and to lose.

Asked if he could use the final two games to solidify his standing the way he did the final three games of 2007, the presumed quarterback of the future wouldn't bite.

"I think 10-6 is a good record whether we make the playoffs or not," Orton said. "It'd be a great way to end the season. What happens out of that is left up in the air, I guess."

Nobody mentioned anything about 10-6.

The question was about No. 18 -- and still is to people such as Jaworski who are not sold entirely on Orton. Critics continue to wonder about the Bears starter, who needs a strong showing Monday night against the Packers and Dec. 28 at Houston to remove some of the doubt that has crept in the last month.

"Personally I just feel it's another chance to come out and play two more solid games, hopefully play well," Orton said. "Whatever it means in the future we'll see in the off-season."

It's still easy to see from here the Bears approaching Orton about a contract extension before he enters the final year of his deal in 2009. Jerry Angelo has said time is his ally regarding a new contract, but the quarterback's arrow still points up. He is worth developing.

"I have to improve in all parts of my game," Orton said. "I have a full year of playing this year. I just think it'll help being here the next couple of years, keep on getting the reps and keep on being the guy."

The Bears shouldn't let disappointing years of some players they re-upped last off-season scare them away. But they shouldn't write Orton a blank check either. There is middle ground.

A deal somewhere between the three-year, $27 million extension to which the Cleveland Browns signed Derek Anderson last year and the six-year, $65 million contract Aaron Rodgers got from the Packers last month makes sense.

Too pricey? Consider if the Bears change quarterbacks yet again, that's the average salary neighborhood in which the shopping for a starter will start.

Look at the realistic alternatives. Nobody in the pool of free agents likely to be overpaid suggests an automatic upgrade over Orton. Nobody the Bears will be in a position to draft can help as quickly as they would need.

So draft a quarterback in the middle rounds. Sign a capable veteran backup. Keep Caleb Hanie.

Orton is a reasonably priced, relatively safe investment and the Bears already know about any hidden cracks. They know more about him than the Browns did about Anderson, who was a bust.

If they don't, they always can ask Jaworski.

An NFL quarterback for 16 years, Jaworski complimented Orton's pocket presence and accuracy more obvious early in the season. But having broken down every Orton throw on videotape, Jaworski detected late-season bad habits. He noticed Orton staring at primary receivers and having too many balls batted at the line of scrimmage, a problem he blamed on "eye discipline."

"Defensive linemen can read eyes as well," Jaworski said.

Fresh in Jaworski's mind was the New Orleans game in which Orton missed on several deep passes that exposed his biggest weakness in terms of throwing.

"I saw some post patterns to [Devin] Hester that you just have to hit," Jaworski said.

True. But Orton will improve quicker if the Bears supplement Hester with a big-play complement so the margin of error isn't razor-thin. NFL.com reported Thursday the Colts are likely to cut Marvin Harrison next year for salary-cap reasons. Imagine what he could do for Hester and any other young receivers they acquire.

This group of receivers badly needs a mentor. The latest example came Thursday when Rashied Davis cut off questions about Green Bay's physical cornerback play by snapping, "Next question."

The next question should ask whether Davis deserves to return to help Orton improve in 2009, though Jaworski thinks too much can be made of a quarterback's reliance on his "supporting cast."

"Quarterbacks can elevate the game of others with great anticipation, with accurate throws, by trusting receivers," Jaworski said. "And at times I see all those things in Kyle. But I don't see them consistently enough to want to hang my hat on him in the future."

How long Orton's future lasts in Chicago still could hinge on what happens over the next nine days.

- - -

Help wanted at quarterback?

When deciding whether to commit to Kyle Orton over the long term, the Bears also have to consider what viable alternatives exist if they don't. Here's a thumbnail sketch of the quarterbacks who might fall into that category in the 2009 off-season as well as backup options.

\ Free-agent-to-be starters

Matt Cassel, Patriots: Could command biggest contract in open market, but is he legit or a modern-day version of Scott Mitchell?

Kerry Collins, Titans: Tennessee wants to keep him, but renaissance season will create enough interest to build a market.

Jeff Garcia, Bucs: He will be 39 in February, so buyer beware.

Kurt Warner, Cardinals: Arizona will do all it can to keep potential three-time MVP from joining fourth team.

\ Free-agent backups

J.T. O'Sullivan, 49ers: Upheaval in San Francisco will leave O'Sullivan, whom the Bears liked, hoping to hold a clipboard for someone else.

J.P. Losman, Bills: Bears turned down trade offer for Losman before '07 deadline and they could do much worse if they're looking for capable backup to Orton.

Chris Simms, Titans: He will be looking for starter's money and an opportunity, which the Bears shouldn't be in a position to offer.

Kyle Boller, Ravens: Picked three spots ahead of Rex Grossman in 2003 draft, he is Baltimore's equivalent -- without the Super Bowl trip.

\ Via trade?

Donovan McNabb, Eagles: Engineering a trade for McNabb, even past his prime, would represent one of the boldest moves in team history.

\ Via discard pile?

Alex Smith, 49ers: Former No. 1 overall pick of draft likely will seek fresh start elsewhere. Health history could keep discounted price low.

-- David Haugh

dhaugh@tribune.com

Is Orton the answer at QB? Is Kyle Orton a franchise quarterback? Cast your vote at chicagotribune.com/bearspoll



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 19, 2008

J.R. Reed Name: J.R. Reed
#30
Position: S
Age: 26
Experience: 5 years
College: South Florida
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