Sean Payton discusses benching Russell Wilson, future in Denver

Dec 27, 2023, 2:42 PM | Updated: 2:51 pm

The Denver Broncos were the talk of the NFL world on Wednesday morning, as the news came out Sean Payton had benched QB Russell Wilson.

Once thought to be Denver’s answer at quarterback for the first time since Peyton Manning retired, Wilson might have played his last snap in orange and blue.

For now, Jarrett Stidham will be the QB on Sunday against the Chargers, with Wilson dressing as his backup. Payton explained that decision at his press conference on Wednesday.

“Look, I can tell you we’re desperately trying to win. Sure, in our game today there are economics and all those other things, but the number one push behind this, and it’s a decision I’m making, is to get a spark offensively,” Payton said.

If the Broncos eventually cut Wilson, they’ll owe him a ton of money. He already has $39 million guaranteed for 2024, but gets an additional $37 million if he can’t pass a physical in March. Part of the benching could be Payton wanting to keep Wilson healthy, so Denver isn’t on the hook for all that dough if Wilson got hurt in one of the final two games.

Payton talked about the QB’s future and not he could still see the field.

“He may need to play this weekend, next weekend. But in regards to the future, we haven’t had a sit down, I’m sure we will. Greg (Penner) and George (Paton) and I we speak frequently. This is about now and trying to get our eighth win. We’ll go from there,” Payton said.

Payton will get a look at Stidham, a backup quarterback he and the front office gave a two-year, $10 million contract to this past offseason. Whether or not Stidham could be a realistic candidate for the Broncos next season remains to be seen, but Payton’s ready to see what he can do.

“Obviously it’s difficult. And all of us feel like, man, we didn’t do well enough. One of the things we saw when we signed Stidham in the offseason was not only film from preseason games but regular season games. He’s a guy that I’m anxious to see play. If I didn’t feel like he gave us the chance to win we wouldn’t be making that move,” Payton said.

All of this has to be uncomfortable, but with Denver on the outside of the playoffs looking in, Payton felt it was time. Their 7-8 record has them 12th in the AFC, and they’d need a ton of help to make the dance.

We knew this was Payton’s show, but by benching Wilson on Wednesday, he made that as clear as ever. Now what’s next at quarterback in 2024 and beyond remains anyone’s guess.


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