Not since Ted Lasso accepted the position of a Premiere League manager, made a bunch of cheesy one-liners, and said he didn’t care about wins or losses has an individual associated with American football been as scrutinized and criticized as Russell Wilson.
The Denver Broncos’ quarter-billion dollar quarterback can’t so much as wipe his nose in public without someone taking a shot at him. Once limited to his play on the field this season, which has been less than reassuring, the criticism of the 9-time Pro Bowler has expanded to...just about everything about him. Seriously, the guy is taking punches for wearing sunglasses...outside.
It’s not that he isn’t a little odd with his fashion sense, one-liners, and all-around persona, though, and for that Wilson has opened himself up as a pretty easy target. Therefore, the Ted Lasso comparison might just be an apt one.
And while this could just as easily been a Nathaniel Hackett-Ted Lasso comparison piece, with Lasso not understanding the basics of soccer, er, English football, it seemed a bit too on the nose given the already two tons of coaching criticism sitting on top of him. Luckily, given that Russ takes the same flack from the media about being an out-of-place personality, there’s plenty to work with.
In the show, Lasso is immediately met with criticism and hate, with the majority of fans of his AFC Richmond squad calling him a British insult that rhymes with “thinker”. Some of it was due to his inexperience, but that’s more of a Hackett criticism. It’s his apparent tone-deafness to the team’s struggles as it relates to the community where Russ comes in.
After a bad loss, Lasso responds by throwing a locker room birthday party for one of the players. After a bad loss, Wilson delivered a peppier-than-should-have-been “Broncos Country, Let’s Ride” as if he gets paid every time he says it.
After getting banged up with a shoulder injury, Wilson said he wasn’t worried about it because he heals quickly as if he has “Wolverine blood”, referencing the Marvel Comics superhero with regenerative healing powers.
Lasso’s motto when things go wrong? Be a goldfish, because it only has a 10-second memory and can start fresh.
The difference between the fictional coach and the very real Broncos QB, though, is that Lasso gradually started winning the team and community over with wins. Wilson has yet to do that, but perhaps that is only because Lasso has executed the philosophy that Wilson has yet to be able to: “Believe”.
A staple in the Apple TV show, the one-word phrase “Believe” is posted everywhere in the team’s locker room, and Wilson is clearly a proponent of looking at the glass half full side of things as well.
His pinned tweet on his Twitter account says as much.
Only way is to Keep Believing. pic.twitter.com/bdN5MBSdGo— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) October 19, 2022
And on paper, London ironically perhaps offers the best opportunity yet for belief to become reality.
The Broncos’ opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, is also on a 4-game losing streak in which they have lost each of the 4 by single digits. They are also breaking in a new philosophy under a new coach (although a far more experienced one than Hackett), and they have also been a victim of their own self-inflicted actions.
The Jags rank in the bottom 10 of the league with 10 giveaways, and given they are facing perhaps the best defense in the NFL, that doesn’t bode well for the offense’s chances. Here’s a quick look at what the Broncos are doing through 7 weeks:
Time for your weekly installment of The #Broncos Defense Is Really Freaking Good:— Zack Kelberman (@KelbermanNFL) October 28, 2022
• 1st in red zone percentage
• 1st in yards per play
• 2nd in yards per game
• 2nd in passing yards per game
• 3rd in points per game
• T-3rd in sacks
• 5th in third down percentage
Jags second-year QB Trevor Lawrence is having a much-improved sophomore season, but he will have a LOT to go up against with this Broncos defense. He has faced off against some good ones this season, but this will be his toughest challenge yet.
Defensively, the team is just past the middle, ranking 17th in total defense, but as far as getting to the QB, only 3 teams have fewer sacks on the year, so Wilson should feel more protected than usual. They are a bit better in the tackle-for-loss category with 30 on the season, but they are tied with the fewest of any team the Broncos have faced this season.
So let’s recap: The Jags have a young, average offense who has 10 turnovers on the season set to go up against a juggernaut defense, have an average defense who can’t get to the QB, and like the Broncos, are riding a 4-game losing streak.
This is a game where the Broncos have every reason to “believe”. If Wilson is healthy, there is no reason to believe he shouldn’t be able to have time to get the ball to his receivers. There is no reason to believe Melvin Gordon and Latavious Thomas (and Marlon Mack?) shouldn’t be able to move the ball on the ground a bit, as the Jags allow 110 rushing yards per game. The one thing to be aware of, though, is that the Jags do have 7 interceptions on the season, tied for 4th in the league, but overall, this is winnable.
This is as critical of a must-win situation before a bye (and trade deadline) for the Broncos as can be, so it’s critical they must believe. Because everyone outside the building no longer believes and needs a reason to. Sunday in London is that opportunity.
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