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Horse Tracks: Can we just let Russell Wilson be Russell Wilson?

Yeah, he can be over-the-top. But he’s also just trying to get better at football.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

I am so tired of listening to “football analysts” rail on Russell Wilson for whatever latest social or mainstream media gaffe they feel he has committed or of reading fans’ comments dogging the guy for everything he says/does.

No doubt Wilson is often so cringe-worthy in his comments and posts (high knees anyone?), it’s hard to believe his name is ever mentioned in the same sentence as “elite quarterback” (or used to be...before Nathaniel Hackett’s offense ruined him).

And I am the first to say there is much of that I really, really wish I could unsee but know I never can (the “Mr. Unlimited” video comes to mind).

But Wilson has never been cool. He has always been dorky (miracle water, really?)

He’s far too loquacious during press conferences, he brings up way too many stories of the past in his long-winded answers, laughs at his own unfunny anecdotes and genuinely seems unaware of his social awkwardness.

So what?

We don’t need Wilson to be cool. We need him to be good at football. And allowing him to be authentic might help.

As SBNation’s James Dator wrote last year, the worst part about Wilson’s “branding” of late has been its inauthenticity; marketing so contrived and obviously from a corporate firm that doesn’t get the pro sports vibe, it’s embarrassing.

Ironically, Wilson’s “RestorationSZN” tweet that got so much flack from Mark Schlereth, RGIII and others finally seemed to me like something real. In fact, my first reaction to it was to be impressed at how much more fit Wilson looks this season (for the record, I’ve tried all those exercises, and they are...Not. Easy).

If anything, that video shows us that the Sean Peyton effect is real (even if he did “violate” Payton’s wish for “working in silence.”)

Wilson is still his quirky, overly-positive, Bible verse-sharing, motivational-quote loving self. But he’s also toned down the cheesy and ramped up the reality - that he’s a hard worker who wants to be better.

Ryan Leaf on Good Morning Football actually offered his own authentic context for this very thing and explained some of the struggles Wilson dealt with last year that added to his poor performance.

Leaf spoke to the important influence of Trevor Moawad in Wilson’s life. Moawad was a sports psychologist who worked with a lot of professional athletes and teams (brought in by many coaches including Alabama’s Nick Saban) and was a big proponent of using “neutral thinking” - a technique of not allowing any negativity in your life. When he died in the fall of 2021 at 48, Wilson and a lot of others lost a coach and mentor.

Leaf had also found a lot of benefit from Moawad’s way of thinking when the former QB got out of prison seven years ago, and he underscored the impact it had to have on Wilson to not have that influence in his life as he left Seattle, joined a new team, etc., etc.

The former No. 2 draft pick in 1998, who knows a thing or two about poor performances and the pressure of being an NFL quarterback, said he spoke to Wilson about some of the issues like overcompensating with positive if not corny catch phrases (“Let’s Ride, Broncos Country”) and distancing himself from teammates. But Leaf said Wilson “has found a solution and rectified” those issues.

And Leaf believes the influence of Payton will be nothing but good for Wilson and getting back on track psychologically as much as physically.

“He is a guy that will motivate and will change the culture of a locker room; he’s done it before and that’s why I expect a rebound,” Leaf said on GMFB. “Sean Payton may be one of the best schemers offensively in terms of doing multiple things and giving you multiple looks. I think they bounce back and get over the top.

“Russell is Russell. He can play football and Sean Payton is not going to put him in a lot of positions to make mistakes,” Leaf added. “Just like he did with Drew Brees. So yeah, I expect them to bounce back.”

Maybe if fans and media let Wilson be the dorky guy he is without so much judgment, and maybe when Payton & Co. undoubtedly let Wilson be the kind of quarterback he’s meant to be, we’ll see the restoration we all need.

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