It’s no secret that QB Russell Wilson’s inaugural season with the Denver Broncos didn’t exactly go as planned.
Nay, it was a complete and utter disaster.
Wilson made more headlines for his cringe “Let’s Ride” commentary and awkward responses to media along with his many bathrooms, eye-rolling Subway commercials, and the fact he had his own office and personal staff in the building.
Yet, former coach Nathaniel Hackett did him absolutely no favors on the field, as he coached about as well as Homer Simpson drawing up a final play in pee wee league football.
Therefore, it was no surprise when reports surfaced that Payton, who turned Drew Brees from a good starting QB for the San Diego Chargers to a Hall-of-Fame QB under his watch in New Orleans, was Wilson’s preferred choice to lead his team in the 2023 season and beyond.
And first and foremost, it should be noted that the best case scenario would be for a plan to be executed where Wilson reclaims his upper-tier QB status under Payton, and the Broncos are once again playoff contenders.
But what if it doesn’t play out that way?
Wilson was a different player without Hackett in his way the last two games, there’s no debating that, but he was basically a less effective and much higher paid Teddy Bridgewater for much of the season before that.
Yes, injuries piled up faster than a Cracker Barrel plate in the deep south, but even early on before the injury domino effect accelerated, he just never looked comfortable.
There is no doubt Payton will do all he can to make Wilson back into the player he once was (or something close to it) all offseason, but he is going to do it on his terms, and he is almost certainly going to have an insurance policy in place.
He already made one move, dismissing Wilson’s “personal” staff from the building, which is a move that probably never should have been allowed in the first place. While players and staff jumped through hoops trying to debunk the “locker room” divide narrative, it’s easy to believe that some players didn’t exactly love that Wilson and his entourage got special treatment.
And don’t expect Payton to pull a Hackett and go into the season with just Brett Rypien backing up Wilson. Rypien is and never will be a threat to unseat any starting QB in the NFL, but Payton is used to winning, and if Wilson isn’t getting it done, don’t be surprised if he changes things up with a QB not named Rypien.
There have been scenarios speculated about the Broncos trading for Taysom Hill, who was a dangerous swiss army knife type of QB for Sean Payton. Former Broncos starter Teddy Bridgewater, whose career has been primarily average, had his best stretch of his career in five games under Payton in New Orleans. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he gets brought back in to push Wilson.
Wilson will be given every opportunity to prove he’s worthy of the huge contract George Paton awarded him last offseason, but it’s important to remember that this is a new era, and the team is moving from the NFL coaching equivalent of Michael Scott from The Office to someone actually qualified to do the job.
And the new guy won’t settle for or accept failure if he has any say in the matter.
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