Following a 2-5 start that has featured horridly poor offensive performances, missed wide receivers, and meme-worthy comments and commercials, Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson has been raked across the coals more than any other individual NFL player this season.
From jilted Seattle Seahawks fans to Broncos fans to media and even his own fellow NFL players, Wilson has received more hate from critics than Toby Flenderson received from Michael Scott on a daily basis in Scranton, PA.
Now, a former Denver Bronco-turned-media personality has taken things to another level, eviscerating the Broncos QB on a national daytime sports talk show.
Shannon Sharpe, who built a Hall-of-Fame career playing tight end in Denver catching passes from John Elway, has spent his most recent post-playing days tossing back and forth hot takes with known pot-stirrer Skip Bayless on the FS1 program Undisputed. Most of their takes seem to be intentionally outrageous to drive clicks, views, and attention, but Sharpe has always had a special affinity for his Denver Broncos, so when he talks about his former team, his tone changes.
This week he addressed the most recent Russell Wilson pile-on party, in which the QB, in an attempt to sell his determination and health to all onlookers, said he did high knee exercises up and down the aisle during the fight to London while his teammates slept.
Much like his “Let’s ride” comment after a bad loss or his “wolverine blood” comment, his words did not exactly land in the way he likely thought they would. The image of Wilson doing high knees down a plane aisle has turned into a running (no pun intended) joke, a testament to the growing lack of respect for the player once regarded as one of the best QBs in the NFL.
Sharpe, though, wasn’t laughing when discussing the incident. When asked about it on Undisputed and how he would react if he was on the plane, he said bluntly, “I’d tell Russell to sit his ass down, I’m trying to get some sleep.”
Unc Shannon sharpe spittin facts about Russell Wilson after he said he was working out on the plane otw to London pic.twitter.com/IuISOGbacm— Shannonnn sharpes burner (@shannonsharpeee) October 27, 2022
His co-host Bayless snickered at the response, but Sharpe was in no smiling mood. He continued his response by tearing apart Wilson and how he might be perceived in the locker room.
“Russell’s about ‘show’ now,” he said. “Why do you feel the need to tell the media that? Because you want them to think you’re something you’re not. The problem Russ has is that he never tried to ingratiate himself with his teammates. He came in and said, ‘I’m Russell Wilson, and you’re not. I should be afforded things that you don’t deserve.’”
He went on to say he blamed the Broncos more for supposedly giving him these things, but that in order for him to get back to being the player he needs to be, he needs to have those things taken away, most notably the office he has had since his arrival (no other player has a personal office).
Sharpe mentioned the importance of behaving on the same level as your teammates, fitting in, eating lunch with them, etc. and when he played with John Elway, he didn’t use luxuries like that, and he couldn’t imagine Peyton Manning did, either. Having them, he said, could lead to a rise in resentment as it has perception of someone who feels better than others.
“I don’t believe the guys (in Denver) ever believed Russ was one of them, and it’s showing,” he said. “I’m telling you, there’s growing resentment in that building about that guy, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Now, while Sharpe, as a former player, is frustrated what is happening with his former team under the Wilson-Hackett offense, it’s important to note that Wilson has had the office since the beginning of camp, and there was not a word about poor chemistry or any kind of team disconnect.
Wilson has also had multiple teammates speak in his defense this season when the criticism was piling on hard.
In reality, there are criticisms of Wilson that are valid. His lack of execution in the offense and his insistence on being a pocket dwelling west coast-style QB is fair game. Dropping a “Broncos Country, Let’s Ride” after a bad loss is appropriate to be called out for tone deafness, as are some of his other on-record quotes.
Yet, as said above, the office thing has been known since day 1. Taking shots at his family or criticizing him for wearing sunglasses is ridiculous. And the high knees story, while cheesy and maybe something he could have kept to himself, is a bit of a reach, as he wasn’t bothering anyone by it and just wanted to use it as an example of how ready to play he is.
Maybe Sharpe has a point with all of this, but maybe he is crossing the line a bit, too. The truth is this: none of this, not the quotes, the office, the fashion...none of it, would matter if there weren’t 5 losses next to the Broncos name this season. Winning is all, and when it isn’t coming, the sharks are going to smell blood in the water and strike.
Head coach Nathaniel Hackett may be in a hole so deep, he can no longer dig himself out, but Wilson has room for redemption. If he comes out firing Sunday in London and puts up a respectable offensive performance, the criticisms will start dying down. If he steps on the field and does more of the same, though, they will only grow.
Winning cures all, and the opportunity will be there for the taking this Sunday. If Wilson wants to shut people like Sharpe up, he is going to have to capitalize. He can either embrace the walking meme characterization given to him, or he can play like the player who has been to 9 Pro Bowls and 2 Super Bowls. The Broncos paid for the latter player. It’s about time he shows up.