Kiz: If “Russ and Sean, a Bromance” was a TV show, network execs would’ve canned it after two weeks of the fall season. So let me start by saying I was wrong about how a veteran NFL coach with a Super Bowl ring could coax 10 victories out of Wilson and earn the Broncos a playoff berth. What startled me almost as much as Denver blowing an 18-point lead to Washington was how critical Payton was of Wilson after the loss. Is their football bromance on the rocks?
Gabriel: Yeah, the postgame news conference was surprising in part because of how the game started. Hard to imagine that would have been the tone after Wilson started 5-of-6 for 146 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the early going. But here we are. Payton’s comments are particularly noteworthy after he specifically went after Denver’s operation in and out of the huddle in July when he called Nathaniel Hackett’s 2022 “maybe the worst coaching job in the history of the NFL.” Well, it’s not solved yet. And Payton reiterated Monday the need for everybody — not just Wilson — to be more efficient between plays.
Kiz: Here’s what I don’t get about the 0-2 start. How can Wilson look like an elite NFL quarterback in the opening half of games, then emerge from the locker room after intermission and appear as if he’s forgotten how to play football? My best guess: The offensive line can’t protect him, and the cumulative damage from the pass rush takes even more toll on Wilson’s psyche than his body. There’s a growing crisis of confidence at Broncos headquarters, with a QB who can’t fully trust his teammates and a coach who doesn’t appear all that keen on Wilson.
Gabriel: Payton made reference to the pass-rush Sunday. Wilson was sacked five times in the second half against Washington. It wasn’t all on the offensive line, but when teams start to generate pressure, Wilson speeds up and moves off of reads or tries to get out of the pocket more quickly, which only further disjointed things against Washington. All of this is against the backdrop that, through two games, Wilson’s passer rating is 108.5. If that held up over the season, it’d be the third-best mark of his career. It looks good on paper. But nine sacks overall, two turnovers against the Commanders and the late-game issues are problematic. I’m guessing you’ve got another stat, too, eh, Kiz?
Kiz: Since Wilson became the starting quarterback in Denver, here are the teams with the worst records in the NFL: Chicago 3-16; Houston 3-15-1; Arizona 4-15; Denver 5-14. While the Broncos can’t be considered the favorite to be the worst team in the league this season, they’re positioning themselves as a contender for the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, which figures to be rich with quarterback talent beyond USC’s Caleb Williams. Would Denver be wise to consider a QB in the first round, even if they retain Wilson for next year?
Gabriel: Sure, if the Broncos end up in position to draft a quarterback they really believe in next spring, they should do it. The old adage is the best time to find a quarterback is when you don’t need one. Well, the Broncos need one eventually. Wilson says he wants to play into his 40s, but you can bet on Denver caring more about 2024 than 2028 and beyond. Here’s the thing: The Broncos could also use a tackle in the first round in 2024. Or an edge. Or an interior defensive lineman. Or another corner. And they’ve already traded away their second-round pick (to hire Sean Payton) and one of their two third-round picks (that they got in the Payton trade). So if you’re talking about taking on $85 million in dead salary cap space to jettison Wilson, trading whatever you can to add a couple of picks at the deadline and initiating a full roster blow-up, I’ll wait a few more weeks before signing off.
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