Sean Keeler: I’m starting to think Super Bowl Week has been reprogrammed to torture Broncos Country. The game itself lures the Front Range into thinking somebody’s finally figured out a way to break Patrick Mahomes’ magic Harry Potter wand, only to watch as No. 15 goes all Expelliarmus while eluding pressure and then finishes the two-minute drill with an almighty Avada Kedavra in the end zone. John Elway hands the Chiefs the Lombardi Trophy, and a lovely evening that began with nachos and chicken wings ends with two aspirin and a Pepto-Bismol chaser. But the days leading up to it are getting a little more bonkers, too. They let Broncos coach Sean Payton loose on Radio Row, which is good for clicks but bad for your sanity. Especially when he’s gotta answer questions about Russell Wilson. I mean, he told Adam Schein on Mad Dog Radio that he and Wilson “have a great relationship.” He told his pal Rich Eisen the same thing. I say Sunshine Sean and Big Russ have a great relationship the way Homer and Bart Simpson have a great relationship, and the dude was yanking every chain from here to Caesar’s Palace. What say you?
Ryan McFadden: Just from what we saw throughout the season, it never felt like they were on the same page. That was clear when Wilson stood in front of the media to say the team wanted to bench him for financial reasons and his representatives approached the NFLPA because of it. Payton saying on Radio Row that he and Wilson have a great relationship was to keep him from looking like a villain. Sure, benching Wilson is the nature of the business. And whether you agree with Payton’s decision or not, he’s the coach and has the right to make that call. But how do you say the relationship is great even after that? Benching a nine-time Pro Bowler after he showed improvement over the previous season and helped the Broncos get in the playoff discussion feels like something you can’t come back from.
Keeler: That Eisen interview, in particular, was something else. A brain-melter. Payton: “That (QB) discussion has to include Russ. … He wants to be back. And so, that means something. But we’ll see.” Would you buy a used car from this man? It means nothing. Nada. Zip. And the only part of that sound bite worth a patootie was, “We’ll see.” Like when he told Schein he couldn’t “tell you the jersey number of those rookie quarterbacks.” Oh, Sean. You cad. Dude blew his shot at Coach of the Year honors. But here’s an Oscar for your trouble.
McFadden: Wilson said he wants to return. George Paton said the door is open. But to be honest, I take those words lightly. Wilson had no plans to rework his contract when Paton approached him earlier in the season. So why would he do it now? Based on how the whole situation went down, I think Wilson would rather have the Broncos give him his money and move on with his career. And if we take the money part out of it, why would Payton want to do another year with Wilson when he didn’t think the signal caller gave them the “spark” they needed down the stretch? If Payton didn’t think Wilson was enough to help them against the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders during the final two weeks of the season, why would he want to run it back in 2024?
Keeler: Eisen: “What is your plan at quarterback for 2024?” Payton: “Great question.” Whenever Sean says “Great question,” grab those rosary beads. For one, it’s never a great question. It’s a great question because it’s a question Payton is absolutely, unequivocally prepared for, a hill he’s ready to die on. Or dance around. Payton implied the Broncos could do anything. Anything. Trade for Zach Wilson. Trade for Justin Fields. Rescue Chad Kelly from the CFL. Trade up. Trade down. Start Jarrett Stidham. Kiss and make up with Russ. Of those last two, I’d say trotting Stidham as your No. 1 guy is a solid plan — if that plan is securing a top-five draft pick for 2025. And Russ? C’mon, man. “I think it’s our job,” Payton mused, “to really look closely at and listen to the (NFL) train. But not get on that train.” Sorry, coach. When it comes to Wilson, that bad boy left the station a long time ago.
McFadden: At this point, It’s hard to determine what the Broncos will do at quarterback. I get a headache just thinking about it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they draft a guy this spring but roll with Stidham as the No. 1 until the rookie is ready to be handed the keys. That could be the Broncos’ best option since I can’t see them trading for another QB. Fields would be interesting, but the Broncos can’t afford to give up more picks. I wouldn’t mind Baker Mayfield after seeing what he did in Tampa Bay. But I think he played himself into getting a pretty nice contract this offseason and at the moment, I don’t see Denver being able to afford him.
Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.