With the Broncos ranked last in the league in rushing this week, coach Josh McDaniels may be lamenting the March 14 trade that sent running back Peyton Hillis to Cleveland for quarterback Brady Quinn.
But Quinn has helped the Broncos in one regard, even if he hasn't thrown a pass this season. McDaniels said Monday that competition with Quinn and first-round draft pick Tim Tebow has elevated starting quarterback Kyle Orton's game.
"We met in January as a staff and one of the things we identified was that we needed better competition behind the players that were playing — in any spot that we could,'' McDaniels said. ''That’s obviously a way to improve the depth of your football team, first of all. But, we thought that would improve the quality of play of the players that were starting, too. Not because they felt pressured, not because they felt panicked, but because if there’s somebody there that’s inching closer to taking your job away from you, then you perform better. You have a higher sense of urgency and you practice better, and that’s what it was.
''It wasn’t directed at Kyle, but we said we weren’t going to limit that process to linemen, or tight ends or outside linebackers — any position on the team that we could improve; we would try to do that, to improve the entire level of play of our team and that group as a position.''
Orton leads the league in passing with 1,149 yards and has a 96.3 rating after finishing at 86.8 last season. He's completed 67.4 percent with six touchdowns and three interceptions for the 2-2 Broncos.
''I think Kyle had a great attitude. I’m sure no player is excited when you draft somebody at his spot, when you bring a free agent in at his spot and Kyle’s attitude was that ‘I’m going to have the best year of my career and it has nothing to do with those two players,’'' McDaniels said. "I think he’s really followed through on that with his actions, which to me, is the only thing I care about — he’s played to the level that he’s capable of playing, regardless of who is behind him. I think the mentality that he had, I would share with the rest of our football team and say, ‘That’s exactly what we’re looking for.''
While the Browns traded for Seattle quarterback Seneca Wallace on March 10, five days before signing Jake Delhomme, there could have been similar thinking involved. As Delhomme tried to rebound from a disastrous 2009 season in Carolina, the presence of Wallace may have made Delhomme even more determined.
If there was any doubt about the Browns' revamping of the quarterback position, it was affirmed on Sunday when Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt yanked starter Derek Anderson, the ex-Brown. Anderson's 59.5 quarterback rating is last in the league among the 30 listed and he's thrown three touchdowns with five interceptions. Whisenhunt is considering starting Max Hall, an undrafted free agent from BYU, Sunday at home against New Orleans.