Broncos brass still believes in Russell Wilson, calls QB 'fixable'

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ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – Denver Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner and general manager George Paton said Tuesday that they believe in the future of quarterback Russell Wilson and that his subpar play for much of the season was not the factor. factor in the decision to dismiss. Nathaniel Hackett on Monday.

The two men, who are entering the franchise’s fourth head coach search since January 2017 and third since January 2019, also said they believe Wilson can return to the level of play he saw early in his career.

“The decision to have Russell here is a long-term one,” Penner said inside the team’s briefing room in the Broncos’ Denver suburb. “This season has not lived up to his standards or expectations. We’ve seen some glimpses of that over the last few weeks. He knows he can play better; we know he can play better; and we know he’ll do the right job in the offseason to be ready for the next one. year.”

The Broncos traded five draft picks, including a 2023 first-round pick that is now projected to be in the top three picks of next April’s draft, as well as three players to the Seattle Seahawks last March in exchange for Wilson. The Broncos then signed Wilson, in early September, to a five-year, $245 million contract extension.

But except for a few flashes in parts of games, Wilson seemed out of sync all season, missing open receivers and unable to find much consistency. He’s on track for a career-low touchdown pass — he has 12 of his 13 starts — and has been sacked a league-leading 49 times in those 13 games (3.8 sacks per game), though he’s missed two games this season. lesion.

If the 34-year-old Wilson is sacked three more times in the last two games of the season, he will mark his career in that category. The Broncos are also the lowest scoring team in the league at 15.5 points per game and have had 11 games this season where they have scored 17 points or less, with nine of those 11 being losses.

But Penner and Paton stressed that a coaching change was made not to fix Wilson, but to make Wilson play better as part of a critical “organization-wide” review.

“Russ even said he didn’t play up to his standard. … He would be the first to say he didn’t play up to his standard, he didn’t play up to our standard, he needs to be better”, said Paton. “I don’t think we made a coaching change based on Russ. That’s not what this was about, that’s not why we’re hiring a new coach to change Russ. It’s about the whole organization. … It’s not whether Russ can be fixed or not. We believe it is; we believe it.

Penner also said Hackett wasn’t just fired for Wilson’s play or the 37-point loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

“You have to look at the entire body of the work. For a number of reasons, it just wasn’t the right fit,” Penner said.

Penner said the team is already evaluating the candidates it hopes to interview for the role, adding that “we’ve got to get this right.” When asked if any of the current assistants would be considered for the job, Paton offered only defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero as a candidate he would like to interview.

The Walton-Penner group, led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, was approved by the NFL in August as the Broncos’ new ownership. Paton had already led the search and interviews of 10 candidates before Hackett was hired last January and the switch to Wilson was made in March, but the group was in place when the team hired Wilson for the extension.

Paton, who was hired in January 2021 as the team’s general manager, on Tuesday addressed his decision to hire Hackett earlier this year, saying he “believed in the decision at the time.”

“It didn’t work here [for Hackett], and that’s on me. I take full responsibility for where we are as a football team,” Paton said. “I brought in the head coach; I brought most of the players; these are my decisions and there is no one to blame but me. And I just want to be clear, it’s not just about the training, it’s not just about Nathaniel. That’s about the whole football operation.”