The Denver Broncos right now are a mess. No need to sugarcoat it, this team is not a good football team. Defensively, they are solid but offensively is where the troubles lie. Denver’s issues consist of penalties, inconsistent play, lack of production and an offensive identity. Multiple people deserve blame for the offense being disappointing throughout the first six weeks of the season. But the person who is facing the most criticism for the offense’s lackluster start is Russell Wilson. Wilson has not looked good to start this season after being traded from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos. His numbers to start the year are not great.
- QBR: 35.8 (25th in the league)
- 30th in completion percentage: 58.6
- TD:INT Ratio: 2.5 (30th)
- 21st in EPA/per play (0.004)
- 31st in Success Rate
So what is going on with Russell Wilson as a quarterback and a person?
Russell Wilson: The Quarterback
At his apex, Russell Wilson is a top 10, some may argue a top five quarterback in the NFL. Currently, Russell Wilson is not playing like a top 10 quarterback. If you go back to the late part of the 2020 season and last season, Russell Wilson has been a bit inconsistent. Some may argue that he is “washed” meaning that he is not as good as he once was. Last season, he got off to a decent start before he broke his thumb against the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night. He returned earlier than expected but he was terrible in the first three games back.
- Numbers pre-injury in 2021:
- 10 TD’s
- 1 INT
- 72% completion percentage
- Passer Rating: 125.3
- First 3 games after thumb injury:
- 2 TD’s
- 2 INT’s
- 55% completion percentage
- Passer Rating: 73.2
When he came back from his thumb injury, for the first three games he didn’t look like the same quarterback to start the year. Some may argue that Russ came back too soon from the thumb injury, and this is a valid point. However, Wilson was displaying tendencies that would frustrate Seahawks fans a whole lot. Oftentimes, he would try to do what made him great which was showcasing his scramble ability and attempt to extend plays with his legs.
However, he is getting older so his athleticism has started to diminish quite a bit which makes his scrambling less effective. He would often take sacks, not hit on the deep ball throws that is usually his strength, and avoid the middle of the field. Fast forward to Denver and he is still dealing with the same issues that plagued him in late career in Seattle. In the Monday night loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Russ was sacked four times and one of the sacks Wilson took shouldn’t have been a sack as displayed in this play below.
— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) October 18, 2022
Russell Wilson chooses to not throw the wide-open short pass on 3rd-and-2 and instead takes a sack.
"Now this is on Russell Wilson… can't get more open than that."- Troy Aikman pic.twitter.com/c1EsgqIL37
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 18, 2022
As you can see, Russell Wilson has his rookie tight end Greg Dulcich wide open in front of him, but Russ does not see him. Wilson has his eyes locked onto someone else, and Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Khalil Mack pushes Broncos left tackle Calvin Anderson right into Wilson for the sack. It is no mystery that Russell Wilson has slowly started to ignore the middle of the field in favor of deep shots on the outside as explained by this heat map during his last four years in Seattle.
russell wilson's target heatmap through the years is climate change.
the coastlines are being eroded pic.twitter.com/JnTOGcoplF
— Seth Galina (@pff_seth) February 14, 2022
Some may argue that the lack of seeing over the middle of the field is due to Russ’s height at 5’11. This is true but if you see someone open in the middle of the field while a defense is playing zone against you, you should find the open receiver that’s open in the flat. In their Thursday night loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Russell Wilson drove the Broncos down the field in overtime and on fourth down. Broncos wide receiver KJ Hamler was wide open on a slant route, but for some reason Wilson didn’t see him.
KJ Hamler showing Russell Wilson he was wide open during film tomorrow pic.twitter.com/ksjRU11DPT
— #RingerNFL (@ringernfl) October 7, 2022
Wilson instead threw to Courtland Sutton, but Sutton was covered and the pass was incomplete which ended the game with a frustrated Hamler.
After Russell Wilson missed the wide open KJ Hamler, let’s check on KJ: pic.twitter.com/wNbIHaMOx2
— The Charity Stripe (@_CharityStripe_) October 7, 2022
KJ Hamler was WIDE OPEN on that 4th and Goal… Russel Wilson never even looked his way. Fitting way to end #TNF pic.twitter.com/wz2qQVHlVt
— Youssef (@YousseffAllii) October 7, 2022
Russell Wilson has never been a pure pocket passer, but with his athleticism diminishing he might have to transition into becoming one. His deep ball has lost a little bit of touch and he looks like a completely different player in Denver. Can Russell Wilson turn his season around?
At this point, maybe but it’s looking bleak. Can the Denver Broncos offense as a whole turn around and look competent? Who knows. Denver’s offense has talent on this team but they have massively underperformed. It is up to Russell Wilson to step up and play better because Denver invested a ton of resources to get Russell Wilson. Nathanial Hackett also needs to do a better job with the offense, because he is considered an “offensive genius” but he has yet to show it.
Russell Wilson: The Person
With Russell Wilson off to a disappointing start, he is prone to criticism. Some of the criticism is fair, some of the criticism comes off as just bitter behavior. Watching and observing Russell Wilson for the past couple weeks, he looks like he is in a different place mentally. Despite him saying his trademark “Broncos Country, let’s ride” after every press conference he looks lost and frustrated.
After throwing 2 interceptions and no touchdowns in a 12-9 loss to the Colts on #TNF, Broncos QB Russell Wilson ended his postgame presser with:
"#BroncosCountry, let's ride."pic.twitter.com/hFLU4D0ygh
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 7, 2022
With Denver losing, I believe most people don’t want to hear Russ say something like that when the team is underachieving.
“Let’s ride?” Read the room dude https://t.co/87c2F5HMBd
— Antwan V. Staley (@antwanstaley) October 7, 2022
You ain’t wrong. Painful to watch and Russ’ post game presser was beyond cringe. Not the time to drop another “let’s ride.”
— Josh Sanders (he/him) (@JoshSandersTV) October 7, 2022
Hall of Fame Tight End and Broncos legend Shannon Sharpe is especially tired of the catchphrase.
Unc Shannon sharpe killed Russell Wilson 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/KOkyYwQzOt
— Shannonnn sharpes burner (@shannonsharpeee) October 7, 2022
Last September, Russell Wilson lost someone that was close to him. Trevor Moawad, who was Russ’s mental conditioning coach, died in September after losing his battle to cancer. Wilson was close with Moawad and he spoke glowingly about what he meant to him.
Even though it hurts… I’m gunna stay Neutral…
Till we meet again my friend…
Heaven just got better.
I love you Trev.
“The Best is Ahead” -TM pic.twitter.com/PRPYXjya81
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) September 17, 2021
We just heard Russell Wilson like we never have talking about the death of his mental coach Trevor Moawad and what he meant to Wilson’s life. Wilson talked for more than five minutes. Here’s a snippet. pic.twitter.com/xcO8VEodfk
— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) September 16, 2021
The beginning of Russell Wilson’s emotional 8 minutes discussing what his mental conditioning coach Trevor Moawad meant to him. Moawad passed away last night after fighting cancer.
“I thank you. I wish I could talk to you. I’ll see you again.” pic.twitter.com/PfIzldiwti
— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) September 16, 2021
An interesting stat I discovered is since losing his best friend, Wilson has lost 11 of his 18 starts which is very telling. After another loss, this time to the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night, Russell Wilson looked defeated and mentally checked out in this postgame press conference.
Video: Russell Wilson has given up "Let's ride." pic.twitter.com/TFReoOCGm2
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 18, 2022
The season is not over, but Russ looks like he has given up or it appears that way. The internet has been cruel to Russell Wilson during the past few weeks and it continued on Monday night.
“Broncos Country, let’s ride”
The ride: pic.twitter.com/orSYN2JBmZ
— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) October 18, 2022
Russ in the second half and OT:
— StatMuse (@statmuse) October 18, 2022
Some may believe Russell Wilson doesn’t deserve any sympathy, but I believe that is false. Football players are human, and they go through the same things that we do everyday. He deserves criticism for his play, but criticizing someone’s character is a line that no one should cross. Russ took a gamble on himself by leaving Seattle and going to Denver and currently he is going through adversity right now. This is where his best friend who he lost last September comes in.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I can’t imagine how much Russell Wilson misses Trevor Moawad.
Was Russ’ best friend and mental coach who helped him get through adversity.
Makes me sad for him.
— Joe Fann (@Joe_Fann) October 18, 2022
I believe if Trevor Moawad was still around, he would be able to guide Russell Wilson through this tough patch in his career. He has never faced this amount of criticism before and he has to figure out a way to overcome it. It seems as if it is overwhelming him and he doesn’t know what to do.
Russell Wilson has to figure out a way to dig deep down within and find a way to overcome this. He has to rediscover his focus and understand that this season is not lost. Russell Wilson has to be better as both a quarterback and a person. I believe he will because deep down he knows that he can overcome this. The question is does he believe it? We shall see.