A refund is out of the question. An annulment isn’t on the table. The Walton-Penner group is stuck both with the $4.65 billion asset they purchased earlier this year, and the $245 million contract extension they gave to Russell Wilson when, frankly, they didn’t have to.
So what will they do now?
The new Broncos owners, a collection of Wal-Mart high-level executives and/or heirs, are strategic. They’re tactical. And they hired none of the people responsible for the football operation they oversee.
The three principal owners could be seen briefly on camera last night: former Wal-Mart chairman Rob Walton, his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, current Wal-Mart chairman Greg Penner. They started clapping once they realized their images were being broadcast by Amazon. The expressions on their faces suggested something far different than applause for the performance of their brand-new toy.
The Broncos stink. The coach is making bad decisions. More importantly, Nathaniel Hackett has failed to coax adequate performance from the most important player on the roster, the man for whom the future was mortgaged before they bought the team and the man to whom they gave way too much money based not on what he’d be doing this year and beyond but what he has done in the past, for a different franchise.
With the next game coming 10 days from now on Monday Night Football, the Walton-Penner group should convene an emergency meeting this morning to make the same kind of plans they’d be making if Wal-Mart were facing a hostile takeover or some other major threat to the short- and long-term operations of the business.
All options should be on the table. No job should be safe. Buyouts will be, given the immense wealth of the owners, an afterthought.
The new owners lack the personal expertise to make good decisions about what to do with the football operation. They need to consult with people they respect and trust. Peyton Manning (pictured). John Elway. Sean Payton. Tony Dungy. Seasoned and experienced football minds who can help diagnose the problems and commence the process of fixing it.
The goal should be to devise a path to success, and to come up with a schedule for implementing it. If they’ve already lost faith in Hackett, should he be relieved of his duties after the season, at the bye week (three games away), or right now? Is George Paton the right G.M.? He traded for Wilson, and he recommended paying him. Through five games, the first decision seems bad and the second decision seems worse.
Meanwhile, the paying customers are a factor. The home crowd booed the team. Nearly 5,000 didn’t bother to show up. If this continues, that number will go up. And, inevitably, the rancor currently directed primarily at Wilson and Hackett will shift to ownership.
I’m not advocating drastic action. I’m advocating a clear and careful and urgent effort to come up with a strategy that includes all possibilities.
Given that they’re stuck with Wilson through 2025, due to the cash and cap realities of his new contract, the plan needs to include coming up with a way to get the most out of the quarterback. Even though Hackett and/or Paton and/or others can be quickly and easily replaced, Wilson’s contract ties player and team together for the foreseeable future. Thus, Job Number One for ownership must be to come up with a way to make horse salad out of what has been, through five games, horse shit.