Journal-Advocate (Sterling)


Broncos feel need to hold pity party for their quarter-billion dollar quarterbac­k. How sad is that?

- By Mark Kiszla

On the day after his 34th birthday, the Broncos held a pity party for quarterbac­k Russell Wilson.

How sad it that?

Wilson is our starting QB, no matter how bad Mr. Unlimited stinks, confirmed Nathaniel Hackett, who serves as RW3’S caddie more than his coach.

Any suggestion Wilson has lost the Denver locker room? “People are just making up rumors about him, whether that be: ‘He’s not a good teammate’ or “He’s lost the locker room, apparently’ or whatever the heck it is,” Broncos guard Dalton Risner said Wednesday. “And a lot of that is so outlandish to me.”

In a 32-team league, the 82.3 quarterbac­k rating of Wilson ranks 29th, right behind Washington’s Taylor Heinicke and Dallas backup Cooper Rush, two players whose average salaries are $1.27 million, a mere pittance for a quarterbac­k in the NFL.

But what does one give a 34-year-old guy who signed a $245 million contract before throwing a single touchdown pass in Denver for his birthday? A sympathy card.

Wilson is a quarterbac­k under siege. And some of the criticism goes beyond unfair to positively ridiculous. I don’t care what percentage of his teammates attended a surprise party thrown in his honor by Ciara, his wife.

But I didn’t think it was unreasonab­le to ask a quarterbac­k who has moved to Denver and seen his his play fall off a cliff:

At age 34, is Wilson washed up?

“I don’t even need to respond to that. At the end of the day, I know who I am as a player,” Wilson said. “I feel better than ever.”

But now in his 11th pro season, RW3 has never played worse on the football field. Pick a metric, any metric. His completion percentage (58.9), net yards per passing attempt (5.78) and his winning percentage in games started (30) are all the worst of his career.

Daring to question the abilities of a player who has won a Super Bowl ring and been named to the Pro Bowl nine times was irreverent. Rather than responding with fire, Wilson turned the other cheek. His response was classy. But it was devoid of passion, and hinted at self-pity.

“I’m feeling better mentally and physically every day,” Wilson said. “I’ve obviously had some tough stuff this year, with the shoulder and the lat and everything else. You battle through it, you play through it and play ball.”

I don’t doubt teammates support Wilson. But has their confidence in him as a quarterbac­k who will lead the team back to Super Bowl relevancy wavered? Because football players are human, and not immune to doubt, I would suggest the Broncos have to wonder if Wilson is all that and a bag of chips.

Is it too early for general manager George Paton to suggest Wilson restructur­e that ridiculous contract extension?

“Every day and every year you play this game you get wiser and smarter. You understand there’s ebbs and flows. Any great athlete, they go through a lot of great moments, but also have some tough ones,” Wilson said.

“This is a moment of adversity. It challenges you. And I don’t run from it.”

Here’s where I would like to take you, Wilson and Broncos defensive lineman Mike Purcell back to the 23-10 loss in Carolina.

In the fourth quarter, after getting flagged for unnecessar­y roughness on a field goal by the Panthers, Purcell jogged to the Denver sideline and blasted Wilson with an earful. His message was unmistakab­le: LFG!

And what did Wilson do? He turned the other cheek and backed meekly away from his 328-pound teammate.

Maybe that was the classy thing to do. But is that really how you want the face of your franchise to respond?

Back in the heyday of the Patriots’ dynasty, I bet Tom Brady wouldn’t have stood there and taken it from receiver Wes Welker on the New England sideline. And did Peyton Manning ever take any guff from big Jeff Saturday when they both played for the Indianapol­is Colts?

“I have great relationsh­ips in that locker room,” Wilson said. “Whoever is trying to tear it down, you can’t.”

Manning was one of the guys in the Denver locker room, but he also instilled a fear in teammates who never wanted to let him down, because he was PFM. Wilson shows up to work before dawn and sets a good example, but simply does not have the same gravitas.

“My confidence never wavers,” Wilson is fond of saying, refusing to show any sign of fallibilit­y, even when he stumbles with the weight of Broncos Country on his shoulders.

My confidence in Wilson as a leader has wavered. At age 34, has the fire begun to go out?

 ?? ANDY CROSS — THE DENVER POST ?? Denver Broncos quarterbac­k Russell Wilson (3) stands in the tunnel before taking the field against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 27, 2022.
ANDY CROSS — THE DENVER POST Denver Broncos quarterbac­k Russell Wilson (3) stands in the tunnel before taking the field against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 27, 2022.

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