The highlight reels are loaded with big time plays in big time moments. The names are household, and if they were successful elsewhere, that success can be had in any NFL city. It doesn’t always work, and the 2022 season is proving a letdown in Denver, Indianapolis, and to a lesser extent in Tampa Bay.
Russell Wilson – Denver Broncos
Quarterback Russell Wilson is finding that the second act for the Denver Broncos is proving to be a disaster. With new head coach Nathaniel Hackett, they were seen as the two to lead the Broncos back to not just respectability, but the playoffs and the Super Bowl. With a 2-3 record, 1-2 in the AFC, and 0-1 in the AFC West, disaster is a mild understatement. How bad was it in Denver? Sports anchors Troy Renck and Nick Rothschild of ABC Denver-7 were remarkably candid. Nick Rothschild apologized to all the viewers, while Troy Renck was as blunt as you can be saying, “Listen, it burns the retinas, it was that awful.”
"First off, I feel the need to just apologize to the viewers…"@troyrenck and @nick_rothschild had a lot to say about the Broncos' not-so-pretty OT loss to the Colts tonight. You can watch the "highlights" here: https://t.co/I9fZIwGUjs pic.twitter.com/525lXoIOEX
— Denver7 News (@DenverChannel) October 7, 2022
Fans are well aware that Wilson put pen to paper and signed a $245 million extension before he even played a down with the Broncos. Against the Indianapolis Colts to kick off Week Five, he was alarmingly bad. He threw two interceptions in the end zone and on the game’s final play with a chance to win it, Wilson would miss wide receiver K.J. Hamler in the end zone throwing it incomplete. Hamler was visibly furious after the play, slamming his helmet in frustration. For the season, out of 32 teams in the league, the Denver Broncos are ranked 32, dead last in red zone scoring percentage.
Matt Ryan – Indianapolis Colts
Like Russell Wilson, quarterback Matt Ryan has yet to show the upside that helped get the Atlanta Falcons to a Super Bowl. The disaster on Thursday Night Football had the Colts quarterback enter the game with eight turnovers and 15 sacks through four games. More than any of his previous 14 seasons. Unlike Wilson, who had issues with Seattle, that wasn’t the case in Atlanta. Ryan was, as professional athletes his age know after the fact, getting long in the tooth. At age 37 this past May, the Falcons knew it would be some time before they would be a postseason contender. Even though his former team is picking up the dead cap space ($40.5 million), moving “Matty Ice” presents many opportunities for a team looking to get better. Granted, the eye says you’re better with Ryan than Marcus Mariota, but if the direction Atlanta wants to go is future oriented, they were smart enough to cut the cord now, versus being dragged down by Father Time.
Matt Ryan appears to have forgotten how to play football.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 7, 2022
Tom Brady – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This question in Tampa is one that has been kicked around in local sports media, and on national platforms like ESPN, NFL Network, and pre-game shows on Sunday. Talk shows and hosts who normally genuflect when Brady is being talked about has seen a reversal in where exactly is the GOAT in his mind, and in his heart. It’s fair to ask, but for Buccaneers fans, it also deserves an answer. First, his accomplishments are above reproach. He’s delivered at a level most NFL quarterbacks can only wish for, knowing he plays at a different level.
After a 20-year run in New England where he won six Super Bowls, he made a decision to move south to the West Coast of Florida. He helped the Buccaneers to another Super Bowl championship, and a seventh ring. On February 1, 2022, Brady announced his retirement from the game he dominated. On March 3, a little over a month from his retirement, he made a decision to return to Tampa, begging the question: why?
His game has changed, and not necessarily for the better. He’s increasingly immobile, which says he is worried about the pass rush. The appearance also indicates that off-field distractions are limiting his commitment to the Buccaneers. Brady has always played with a giant-sized chip on his shoulder. It’s served him well as his motivation to outwork everyone else, to prove them wrong. He’s done that magnificently, but at a personal cost we may never know.