The perfect crime: How Uncle Rico tip-toed through the NFL for 10 years

Adam Patrick

In 2004, Kyle Orton had a year most quarterbacks dream about when he threw for 3,090 yards, 31 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. Unfortunately his performance during this particular season came while he was still in college at the University of Purdue and not in the NFL.

Luckily, it was enough to convince the Chicago Bears to take a chance on Orton in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. But since they already had a starting quarterback in Rex Grossman, the Bears had no plans of letting Orton see the field during his rookie season.

However, thanks to Grossman suffering a severe ankle injury during the 2005 preseason, Chicago was left with no other choice than to start the year with their rookie quarterback under center.

Orton's NFL career got off to a faster start than the Bears probably wanted. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Orton’s NFL career got off to a faster start than the Bears probably wanted. (Photo Source: Twitter)

As one should expect, Orton was basically thrown into the fire with a box of matches. During his 15 starts for the Bears in 2005, he threw for under 150 yards 12 times, at least one interception eight times, and only nine touchdowns.

Luckily for Chicago, they had arguably the NFL’s best defense that year and were able to still finish with an 11-5 record.

Following his rookie season, Orton clearly needed to polish his game if he was going make an actual career out being a professional football player. The Bears knew this, which is why the quarterback only started a total of three games during his next two years in Chicago.

But then came 2008 when Bears head coach Lovie Smith had seen enough improvement in Orton’s abilities to name him the team’s Week 1 starter over Grossman. He turned in a decent season, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while leading Chicago to nine wins.

Eventually Orton was able to emerge as the starter in Chicago. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Eventually Orton was able to emerge as the starter in Chicago. (Photo Source: Twitter)

His performance, however, was not good enough for the Bears to be satisfied about the future of their quarterback situation. So Chicago made a big move during the offseason and sent Orton packing to the Denver Broncos in exchange for quarterback Jay Cutler.

During his first year with the Broncos, Orton had possibly the best season of his career. With Denver in 2009, the quarterback set single-season career highs for passing yards (3,802) and touchdowns (21).

Unfortunately, Orton’s efforts were not rewarded as the Broncos’ 8-8 record was not enough to earn the team an opportunity in the playoffs.

The quarterback went on to enter the 2010 and 2011 seasons as Denver’s starter, but a rough start during the beginning of 2011 led to Orton getting benched in favor of some guy named Tim Tebow. The Broncos eventually released Orton before the season even concluded and he ended up getting picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs.

In Denver, Orton definitely experienced some of the best moments of his career, as well as some of the worst. (Photo Source: Twitter)
In Denver, Orton definitely experienced some of the best moments of his career, as well as some of the worst. (Photo Source: Twitter)

In three starts with the Chiefs, the quarterback was actually able to lead the team to two victories. Orton was even got a little revenge against his old team as he helped Kansas City defeat Denver 7-3 in the final game of the season.

Following his forgettable 2011, Orton was a free-agent during the offseason for the first time in his career. The quarterback did not garner much interest from teams around the NFL as a starter, so an opportunity to be the backup with the Dallas Cowboys is what he settled on.

After two years as the Cowboys’ backup quarterback, whispers began to get a bit louder regarding Orton possibly retiring. After a brief holdout, he eventually reported to Dallas’ training camp in 2014 only to get released by the team before the start of the regular season.

His time without a team did not last very long as Orton and the Buffalo Bills were able to agree on two-year contract less than two months after he parted ways with the Cowboys.

Orton was not able to lead the Bills to the playoffs, but he still provided their fans with a season to remember. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Orton was not able to lead the Bills to the playoffs, but he still provided their fans with a season to remember. (Photo Source: Twitter)

In Buffalo, the quarterback put together one more season of unwhelming magic. Named the starter after the Bills’ first four games, Orton helped Buffalo win seven of their final 12 games and finish with a winning record for the first time in 10 years.

However, the Bills still ended up missing the playoffs and then their new quarterback delivered them another kick to the groin when he officially announced his retirement from the NFL following the team’s final game of the season.

Orton’s time in the league was never anything to brag about. He has a few games that he can look back upon fondly, but for for the most part, the quarterback found a way to last 10 years in the NFL without really doing that much.

Which is actually pretty impressive.