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Kyle Orton's obviously out as Denver QB -- so why won't the Broncos admit it?

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Even though the NFL season is in limbo right now, there's already a quarterback controversy in Denver, with most fans ready to say goodbye to Kyle Orton and hand the starting job to Tim Tebow on a full-time basis. Do John Elway, John Fox and the rest of the Broncos braintrust secretly agree but prefer to keep their lips zipped for now?

That's one way to read "Who are they kidding? It's time the Broncos ended the silly quarterback debate in Denver," by Mile High Sports' James Merilatt. He points out, initially without using names, that Tim Tebow was in town earlier this week, serving as the keynote speaker for a luncheon staged on behalf of the John Lynch Foundation -- and while there, he asked top draft pick Von Miller to work out with him before hitting the road. "He was the one challenging Von Miller, the highest draft choice in Denver history, to not let a moment pass by without pushing himself to be the very best," Merilatt notes.

And Orton? In Merilatt's words, "The other quarterback wasn't in the building."

Nor has he been in the public eye. While Tebow has helped organize conditioning sessions with teammates, Orton has been "conspicuously absent," Merilatt believes. "He's a no-show, not being heard from since he piled his offensive linemen into a private plane and jetted the gang off to Las Vegas at the end of last season, apparently celebrating the fact that he had a stat-heavy season during his 3-10 stint as the Broncos starting quarterback. He's not appearing at events around town. He's not organizing team activities during the lockout. He's not busting his tail to improve his game. And he's not getting teammates flocking to be by his side."

In contrast, Tebow has exhibited "the type of leadership that is required to be successful playing the most demanding position in all of sports," Merilatt maintains. "He's the one putting in the work necessary to achieve greatness. He's the one who teammates are rallying behind."

So why aren't Broncos execs putting their trust in Tebow? It could all be a "smokescreen" to raise Orton's trade value, Merilatt notes --- or it might suggest sincere doubt that Tebow can become a first-rate NFL quarterback. But even if the latter is true, he thinks the Broncos will alienate fans if they start another season with Orton at the helm and Tebow on the bench. Which is why he argues that Tebow should be named the starter ASAP.

Good points all -- but I still don't see any reason to rush the process. At this point, we still don't know if the 2011-12 campaign will start on time, or at all. Meanwhile, Orton's trade value continues to rise, and it's likely to peak after the league's labor issues are resolved, not before. That's why the Broncos should learn a lesson from the way the Nuggets handled the Carmelo Anthony trade. Yes, it was incredibly irritating for fans to watch the drama escalate for month after month. But by waiting out the Knicks, the Nugs got a better deal than if they'd panicked, obtaining a slew of talented players who could help the squad for years to come.

So relax, Denver. It really doesn't matter who the Broncos' starting quarterback as long as owners and players remain at odds -- and probably for some time after they kiss and make up.

More from our Sports archive: "Tim Tebow draft pick good for Broncos and America, says Focus on the Family."

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