Focus On: Kyle Orton

Focus On: Kyle Orton

Credit: Getty Images

Quarterback Kyle Orton #18 of the Dallas Cowboys passes during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Fawcett Stadium on August 4, 2013 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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by JOSEPH URSERY

WFAA Sports

Posted on December 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM

I'd like to think it's just a very vocal minority, but I'm scared it's, in truth, the majority:

Cowboys fans who are happy that Tony Romo (to all appearances) won't be playing in Sunday's season finale.

That's bad. It's very bad. It's very, very bad.

All things considered, Kyle Orton is pretty ok as a backup quarterback. It's to his advantage, though, that he's thrown 15 passes over the last two seasons. That's partially because he averages an interception every 22.73 pass attempts over his career.

The flipside to that is he's thrown a touchdown for every 16 attempts. If the numbers are to be believed, he should throw a touchdown on the first pass from scrimmage, then throw an interception around the end of the first, on his eighth attempt.

Of course, numbers don't work that way. Football also doesn't work that way. It follows that numbers in football don't work that way; but they do work.

The key to Romo's success in the NFL has been being accurate while still being good for long gains that drive his yard-per-attempt up. The first component of that equation, accuracy, is not a forte of Orton. Orton's career mark is 58.4. Compare that to Romo's 64.4.  Keep in mind that in 9 of Dallas's games this season have been decided by less than one touchdown; a few passes that Romo would have completed that Orton misses could be the difference.

Besides, the only chance the Cowboys have in this game is outscoring the Eagles. I know this is one of those 'duh' statements that sportstalk radio has built an empire out of, but, there's no doubt Foles, McCoy, and Jackson are going to run circles around, through, and past whichever defenders the Cowboys found from a temp agency this week. The hope is that their offense makes more mistakes than ours, and we have the ball at the end of the game.

The best touchdown to interception ratio of Orton's career was back in 2010, when he threw 20 touchdowns and nine picks in 13 games. Romo was working with a 31:10 ratio this year. The year following that, Orton lost his job to Tim Tebow, who has since been cut by a team that went with a rookie second round draft pick over him.

What is good, and what is likely Dallas's best hope (other than DeMarco Murray getting 30 carries for 350 yards and a Nick Foles violent stomach flu) is Orton's deep game. For his career, Orton has averaged 11.3 yards per completion, just better than Romo's 11.2. In Adjusted Yards Per Attempt, the difference is more stark (6.2 for Orton to 7.7 for Romo) which highlights Romo's much better accuracy overall. That said, the deep ball is realtive strength of Orton's, which has become a weakness for Romo. Maybe there's hope for a few bombs to Bryant or Williams to keep the field even.

The truth to football lies in its unpredictability. The Eagle's defense is close to as bad as Dallas's; as the ‘Boys have made a series of career backups look like all-pros over the last month, it's possible Orton does the same and brings a playoff game to Dallas. I would happily cede that data point to Romo deniers; what I'm more afraid of is a stark example of why Romo's fourth quarter errors don't stick in my mind as much as others: because, many times, the games are only close late because Romo's been excellent- and called on to do too much- for the previous three and a half quarters.

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