When the Chiefs claimed Kyle Orton off waivers from Denver last week, it seemed to signal that Kansas City believed it still could win the AFC West title this year.
But Orton did not suit up in Week 12 against the Steelers, after a delayed arrival in Kansas City because of "family obligations." Now, it appears Orton won't be in the lineup this Sunday either, when the Chiefs head to Chicago.
"Tyler (Palko) is our starter," Kansas City coach Todd Haley said during a conference call with the Chicago media Wednesday.
If that's true, and not just some half-hearted ruse perpetrated by Haley to throw the Bears' preparations off, then what was the point of all this?
Orton didn't arrive in Kansas City until last Friday, so turning to Palko again in Week 12 is understandable. It's not as if Orton has been sitting on his couch, Carson Palmer-style, waiting for a team to call, though. He had been practicing and working out with the Broncos, even if it was as a second- or third-teamer.
And just last week, right after landing Orton, Haley implied that it wouldn't take Orton long to get used to the Chiefs' system.
“We’re ahead of the game trying to get him at least up to speed offensively with terminology, all those things,” Haley said. “I wouldn’t think that he’d be terribly in a bad position to have a chance to be out there, but it would be in a depth situation, any scenario that I see.”
What's causing the delay all of a sudden? The Chiefs' season is on life support as it is -- they're three games back of Oakland in the AFC West with just five weeks remaining in the regular season, plus all of Kansas City's remaining games are against teams with above .500 records.
Palko has been a train wreck in his two starts, throwing six interceptions and no touchdowns. In fact, the Chiefs haven't scored a TD as a team in those two games, a 34-3 loss to New England and 13-9 setback against the Steelers. Barring an epic turnaround against the Bears, it's hard to imagine Palko giving Kansas City a better chance to win than even a slightly rusty Orton.
Oh yeah, and Orton's a free agent after this season, so there's no guarantee that he'll be back -- if Kansas City even wants him back -- in 2012. Matt Cassel, the Chiefs' starter prior to suffering a season-ending hand injury, still has three years left on a six-year, $63-million deal.
This has to be driving Bears fans crazy. Chicago also tried to claim Orton (though a reported Dallas claim would have landed the Cowboys Orton, if Kansas City had passed), but instead are stuck starting Caleb Hanie. It's hard to imagine the Bears would have eased Orton into their lineup. This is a playoff race, after all.
Have the Chiefs given up on this season? Are they trying to replace Cassel with Orton for 2012? How many more interceptions will Palko throw this week? There are a lot of questions, and not a lot of answers right now, in Kansas City.