Orton not content being a backup — forever

Orton not content being a backup — forever

Published Jun. 8, 2012 5:17 p.m. ET

Tony Romo doesn't need to be looking over his shoulder, no matter what Kyle Orton says.

Orton, the Cowboys' new backup quarterback, caused a minor stir during OTA's by saying he's not content being second string.

"I feel like I've played good ball in this league," Orton told the Cowboys' official web site. "I feel I've got a lot of good ball left in me. I don't see this as committing myself to be the backup. I'm just committing myself to be a part of the team."

Orton's comments could easily be dismissed as a veteran quarterback puffing his chest out, saying he wants to be the starter just to show he's still got some fire in his belly.

Except that Orton could be a starter for a number of teams. Right now.

Orton has been a full-time starter for the Bears and Broncos. He was benched last season in Denver when the Broncos, with nothing to lose, went with the Tim Tebow experiment.

Getting benched in favor of Tebow shouldn't have been the end of Orton's career as a starter. In fact, he finished up the season with three starts for the Chiefs, who grabbed him before the Cowboys could claim him off waivers.

He's only 29 and is 35-34 as a starter. In both of his first two seasons in Denver he passed for at least 3,600 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Orton can still fling it, there's no doubt. If another team hadn't made him a cushy offer to be a backup, Orton certainly would have been signed by either the Dolphins, Jaguars or Titans to be a starter.

Yet Orton took the Cowboys' offer of $10.5 million over three years to be the backup to Romo. There's security in that offer.

The odds are, considering Romo's history, that Orton will get to take significant snaps at some point during those three years. And if he stays the length of the contract, he will be only 32 with plenty of prime years left. Not to mention his body will have avoided a pounding for three seasons.

Orton knows what the deal is. He's insurance for a Romo injury. He's a veteran quarterback who can guide the ship if Romo goes down for more than a series.

"Tony's the man, you know? There ain't no doubt about it," Orton said to dallascowboys.com. "He's played great football. He's a great quarterback. So I'm excited. It's really the first time I've been around another veteran in my career. I've done a lot of learning with young guys in the room. I can still learn a lot about football, and hopefully I can help him out in any way I can."

That hardly sounds like a guy who is going to push Romo for the starting job. That's not what he was brought in to do.

But the Cowboys didn't bring Orton in to merely carry a clipboard and model baseball caps, either. They've had backups who didn't want to get on the field. Remember Randall Cunningham in 2000? He played with a look of dread on his face when Troy Aikman went down.

A recent NFL.com story ranked Orton the No. 1 backup in the NFL. He's a starting-caliber quarterback willing to take on a backup role.

But that doesn't mean he has to play the role of someone resigned to being a backup the rest of his career.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire