When we said we were going to look at every player on the Detroit Lions roster and review their season, we weren’t joking. Dan Orlovsky, the starting quarterback from the doomed 2008 season, and backup from 2014-2016, is a free agent in 2017. Mercifully, he didn’t take a single meaningful snap during the 2016 NFL season. It’s not a knock on Orlovsky, either, I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you that he’s glad he never had to play. A good backup’s job isn’t to dream of the field when he can try to upstage his starting QB: It’s to support his starting QB in every way possible.
Expectations before 2016
We had none. The idea that Dan Orlovksy would return for 2016 was generally loathed by Lions fans, as his presence still dredges up bad memories of the 2008 winless season. Orlovsky, for his part, has never shied away from pointing out the part that season played in his own career, and has been nothing but gracious to Detroit and its fan base during his tenure in Detroit. When Jake Rudock was drafted in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL draft, it was pretty much assumed that Orlovsky was fighting Rudock for the only backup spot on this roster coming into the season.
Actual role in 2016
2016 stats: Zero snaps, millions of relieved fans
After winning the backup QB job in the preseason by staving off Jake Rudock, Olrovsky returned to his normal job of working with Matthew Stafford between plays and drives. Since he was never asked to fill in for Stafford on the field, we can only judge Orlovsky by what he did on the sidelines, and it’s difficult to paint a clear picture. The team would ultimately sign Rudock to the regular roster from the practice squad, but it wasn’t to replace Orlovsky; it was instead to keep a division rival from poaching him.
Outlook for 2017
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
With Orlovsky’s contract up, the Lions face a decision on if they’d like to bring him back. I’m sure many fans will point to Rudock and say "let the young guy have a shot!", but in this particular instance, I don’t think we’ll even get the chance to have that discussion. Orlovsky was well respected in his college days at UConn under head coach Randy Edsall, and reuniting with his former coach in Detroit spurred discussions of a possible move to a coaching role. With Edsall being rehired at UConn, these talks will likely heat up or, if that’s in their interests, get laid to rest with an early hiring. Assuming for the moment that Orlovksy doesn’t move on to coaching, it’s unlikely he would return to Detroit anyway. Despite having the trust of Matthew Stafford and head coach Jim Caldwell, there simply isn’t a need for a veteran backup like Orlovsky anymore. Jake Rudock can slide into that role now, having worked within the system for a year, and barring success with him, the Lions will undoubtedly look at bringing in another quarterback to compete, or a veteran if they don’t think Rudock can swing the job. Orlovsky’s history with Detroit is a rocky one, but if this was his last season, he can ride off into the sunset knowing he earned more respect in his limited role than he was ever given for his past.