Backup Orlovsky feels heat from Lions fans

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Detroit — The longstanding joke in this town is the most popular player in the city is the backup quarterback. Dan Orlovsky is the exception. 

For Lions fans, Orlovsky is a reminder of the organization’s past failures. His scramble out the back of the end zone is the lasting image from the team’s winless season in 2008. But it hasn’t defined him. He’s carved out a lengthy 11-year career in the NFL, something not many players will ever be able to say. 

And it’s not just the reminders of the past that generate fan frustration with Orlovsky. He’s become the roster roadblock to the new most popular player in town, the backup to the backup quarterback, the third-stringer. 

Before, it was Kellen Moore, whose popularity was buoyed by Boise State fans who kept tabs following his prodigious college career. And now that he’s moved on to Dallas, it’s former University of Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock who has absorbed that affection. 

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In the Lions’ 30-14 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday night, Orlovsky was booed as he exited the field, following an uninspiring performance leading the second-team offense, lowlighted by his second pick-six of the exhibition slate. When Rudock was announced as the replacement, the sparse home crowd still around for the fourth quarter let out a roar. 

Rudock delivered immediately, connecting with tight end Charles Orson on a 22-yard strike, but three plays later, the rookie made a critical error, launching a long pass directly into the arms of a Bengals defender. 

Orlovsky didn’t stick around after the game to answer questions, but coach Jim Caldwell said it’s on the players to keep the crowd from booing. 

“When you don’t play well, obviously there’s going to be criticism,” Caldwell said. “It’s our job to play well, not our job to worry about anything other than that.”

Despite Orlovsky’s miscues this preseason, there’s been no indication his job as Matthew Stafford’s primary backup is in jeopardy.  Rudock’s interception certainly didn’t help his case for climbing the depth chart, but the sixth-round pick has otherwise completed 16 of his 22 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in the two games.

Twitter: @justin_rogers