Yes, Russell Wilson is struggling. Spotting that is the easy part. The hard part is understanding what’s wrong, and figuring out whether it can be fixed.
It’s become obvious over the past couple of years that Wilson lacks the mobility that he once deployed on a regular basis. Either he no longer has it, or he has become reluctant to use it.
We’ve seen flashes of it, primarily during the game-winning drive against the 49ers to cap Week Three. But he doesn’t use it nearly enough. He doesn’t pull the ball down and run like he once did, and he doesn’t use his skills behind the line of scrimmage to extend plays and buy time.
He also doesn’t seem to be going through his progressions, at least not in key moments. Instead, he’s locking onto one receiver and throwing the ball that player’s — covered or not.
Last night, it happened late in the fourth quarter, when the third-and-four play with 2:19 to go was intended (as coach Nathaniel Hackett explained it after the game) for receiver Jerry Jeudy. Wilson instead threw to the end zone, allowing Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore to make an easy interception.
And then, in overtime, it happened again. Wilson didn’t try to buy time with his legs. He never considered running. He never saw a wide-open receiver K.J. Hamler. He threw again at Gilmore. And that was that.
It’s more than just a couple of lapses. Wilson is becoming before our eyes a fallen franchise quarterback. That rarely happens in football. Once a quarterback becomes great, he stays great until he retires. Wilson’s greatness has diminished to the point that some will now wonder if he ever really had much of it.
But he did. The challenge for the Broncos, who are stuck with Wilson through at least 2025 due to his massive new contract, is to find a way to bring it back. It starts with coaching. Designing and selecting plays to get the most out of Wilson. Coaching him aggressively to do what he used to do in Seattle.
That’s the first order of business. As Sean Payton suggested earlier this week, the Broncos need to look at what Wilson did well in Seattle, and they need to do it in Denver.
Wilson also needs to consider modifying his approach to the media. His well-manicured remarks have always seemed more than a little contrived. Most kept their mouths shut about it, when he was thriving on the field. Now that he’s struggling, it will be open season for folks to say out loud the things many had long believed.
And if he doubles down on his “let’s ride” antics, Wilson runs the risk of becoming a caricature of himself. Last night, his glass-half-full aspirations rang more hollow than ever. It isn’t an aberration. It’s becoming a trend.
The trend can change. But that requires Wilson to change. And that requires the coaching to change. Not a coaching change. A change in coaching. If, however, the coaching doesn’t change, the only thing to do is change coaches.