BRONCOS

Russ-O-Meter: Wilson’s worst start ever demotes him to just one of 53

Dec 27, 2022, 3:39 PM | Updated: 3:54 pm

Denver lost by 37 points on Christmas while favored by three to a bad Los Angeles Rams team on the road and in doing so, embarrassed Broncos Country to the point of a mid-season coach firing, as the team has canned Nathaniel Hackett.

The Broncos lost their cool in the game as players fought with teammates and the opponents. Denver’s star quarterback Russell Wilson lost the plot, throwing interceptions on consecutive passes early in the ballgame. Amid a slew of sacks, Wilson added a third pick while the team got embarrassed.

In the weekly “Russ-O-Meter,” we’ll grade and cover what’s gone on in the wide world of Wilson this week. The meter represents how psyched Broncos Country is with Russell.

Meter: 2 (↓3)

Stat line: 15-for-27 passing, 214 passing yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 2 carries, 51 rushing yards, 0 TD, 6 sacks for 40 yards, 3.5 QBR, 54.2 Passer Rating

Yes, you read that QBR right. It’s the lowest QBR of Wilson’s career by far and the worst by a Broncos quarterback since the game they were forced not to have one and Kendall Hinton/Phil Lindsay played. Counting paid signal callers, it’s the lowest QBR by a Denver gunslinger since Peyton Manning’s final regular season start against the Kansas City Chiefs when he registered an all-time NFL-low of 0.7.

So why doesn’t Wilson return to an even lower rating on the Russ-O-Meter, where he’s been twice before this season—after each of the Carolina and Baltimore games? Well, I think it’s fair to give Wilson a sliver of grace when the team quit to the extent that the coach was fired in a historically quick fashion. Wilson also deserves some room for foul play, given it was his first game back since suffering from a concussion against the Chiefs. Wilson was sat by the Broncos against Arizona after the head knock even though Wilson wanted to and expected to play and was even healthy enough to hit the casino over that weekend.  And in the last game he played, against KC, he showed a flash of what has made him a Pro Bowler so many times.

But enough beating around the bush, Wilson was horrible. To the point where not only were the fights of his teammates embarrassing but so too were Broncos receivers body language, again.

Aside from the three picks and the missing wide-open targets, the ever-memeable Wilson was caught talking to a football mid-game.

The next coach of the Denver Broncos will have to establish a good relationship with his quarterback but unlike Hackett, Wilson is no longer the boss—Russ is just one of the 53 men on the roster. This was made clear in a slip-up during the referendum press conference on Tuesday.

“I think it’s really important that whoever we hire has a relationship with our quarterback. Russ, whoever our—the backups…” Paton said.

“We saw flashes of Russ this year. Russ even said he didn’t play up to his standards. But you can go through the season and you do see flashes,” Paton continued on about his quarterback, who has thrown for 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. “He’ll be first to tell you he didn’t play up to his standards, didn’t play up to our standards. He needs to be better. I don’t think we made a coaching move based on Russ. That’s not why we’re getting a new coach to turn around Russ. It’s about the entire football team. It’s not whether Russ is fixable or not. We do believe he is. We do.”

It’s hard to know if the Broncos genuinely believe Wilson will one day again be an elite quarterback or are forced to due to the contract extension, draft picks given up and the fallacy of sunk cost.

But going back to the QBR stat, which painted Wilson in the same light as Manning’s historically bad 9 touchdown to 17 interception season that led Denver to a Super Bowl win. Is there something in Wilson that’s salvageable to the point of building a good team around him, and finding gimmicks that make Russ cook even a little bit? Is it even possible to build a competitive team without all the draft capital the Broncos gave up for Wilson and without much cap space because you are paying Wilson?

Even if those answers are somehow yes, Wilson’s contract and the ecosystem around him make it tough to believe that Russ could swallow being just one of the 53, especially when he’s never seemingly gotten along well with his teammates; but maybe this is a case like Mr. 3000, where Wilson gets so old and bad it makes him step back and turn into something he’s never been—just one of the guys.

Denver has two more meaningless games left, one in Kansas City on New Year’s Day on Sunday and then at home against the playoff-bound Chargers.

***

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