As BetOnline patrons saw, one of the biggest deals of the off-season – and indeed one of the biggest in recent years – involved the Denver Broncos acquiring Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks. It was the culmination of what seemed like a never-ending search for a successor to Payton Manning as the “franchise quarterback.” It was a nice way for the new ownership group, led by members of the Walton family (of Walmart fame), to move into the NFL fraternity.
In the deal, Wilson went to the Broncos with a fourth-round selection in this year’s draft, in exchange for three players (Drew Lock, Noah Fant, and Shelby Harris), along with a fifth-rounder, two first-rounders, and two second-rounders.
So if you are curious as to what the effect on the Broncos is, you can start with the fact that they will be coming up short in terms of draft picks for the next couple of years.
In Seattle, Wilson was said to have clashed with head coach Pete Carroll in the sense that Carroll was a guy who really wanted to establish the run, and Wilson wanted to throw the ball more. So with the Broncos giving him a deal worth $245 million over five years, with $165 million of it guaranteed, you would think that Denver would get a little pass-happy. But the truth is, they have passed the ball only 57.9% of the time, which is roughly comparable to what the Seahawks did with Wilson at the controls last season.
Through the first four games, Denver was priced at +525 to win the AFC West at BetOnline and +3300 to win the Super Bowl.
There is a new head coach in town. Nathaniel Hackett was the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers for three seasons, where he worked with Aaron Rodgers. He and Wilson got off to a rocky start in the season opener when Wilson returned to Seattle to about a 50-50 split between cheers and boos. At the end of the game, they stumbled when it came to clock management, and it forced the Broncos to try a 61-yard field goal (which failed) in the waning moments of a painful loss.
It is true that it may take a while for Wilson to jell with his teammates. And they are not converting in critical moments. In their first ten red zone trips, they could score only three touchdowns. And fans had a right to expect a higher percentage with a proven entity at quarterback. Through almost the first quarter of the season, Wilson had the lowest passer rating he’s had since he was a rookie.
Critics are pointing to the possibility that Hackett and Wilson are not on the same page simply because Hackett has installed the same system he used with Rodgers at Green Bay, which does not fit well. There are certain issues, one of them being that the plays that are called make it more difficult for Wilson to see downfield and that he should be getting out of the pocket a lot more than he is.
Sean Payton, former head coach of the New Orleans Saints, has suggested that Wilson’s talents are not being used to their fullest, for example, in red zone situations. He told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, “I’d want to look at another film of his red-zone touchdown passes inside the 20. And so what I’m asking for from assistants, I’m asking for some of his greatest hits and to make sure we have those song lyrics available. And if not, let’s put them in.”
There are times when a new coach who has been a coordinator comes into a situation with the reputation – self-styled or otherwise – as a “guru,” and everyone must conform to his system. But it has been suggested countless times that the better coaches will take what their quarterback does well and tailor it to the offensive approach to his talents.
Hackett should probably do that, or his tenure in Denver might be shorter than he’d ever expected.
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