DeMeco Ryans must force Broncos QB Russell Wilson to please coach


Before the Broncos can dream about winning the Super Bowl, a new coach must tackle the dirty work of flushing the losing habits embedded in the franchise’s DNA.

I once believed fixing quarterback Russell Wilson was the No. 1 task for the next coach. But upon further review, I’m not afraid to admit I had it wrong. A team that has missed the NFL playoffs seven straight years requires more than improved play from Wilson. The Broncos need an extreme makeover of the team’s culture.

There are no shortcuts, and no magic potion will turn back the clock for Wilson. That $245 million contract extension be damned, Wilson must either get with the program or get out of town.

While Wilson has to embrace change, from the way he approaches the game to the way he interacts with teammates, please don’t get it twisted. Wilson is far from the root of all problems on a last-place team that finished with a 5-12 record.

Although he has skills, outside linebacker Randy Gregory is more poseur than All-Pro. Guard Dalton Risner always wins the news conference, but doesn’t win enough in the trenches, where it matters most. Courtland Sutton is a good dude miscast as a true No. 1 wide receiver. And for a salary-cap hit in excess of $4 million, shouldn’t Brandon McManus be expected to nail more clutch field goals?

As the stock of San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has risen through this coaching search, while Sean Payton has whined like a spoiled brat jilted at the middle-school dance, maybe Broncos CEO Greg Penner and the new ownership group have begun to figure out how to establish a winning culture.

The cult of personality, allowing Wilson whatever perk he desires, won’t allow Denver to win the fight against Patrick Mahomes and end a nasty losing streak to the Kansas City Chiefs.

General manager George Paton miscalculated in a major way that this Denver roster was only a quarterback away from a deep playoff run. Well, maybe if that quarterback was Joe Burrow.

Unlike many of Wilson’s harshest critics, while I acknowledge he’s past his prime, I still believe RW3 is capable of playing at the same level as Dak Prescott or Kirk Cousins, who both led their teams to a playoff berth.

Here’s hoping, however, Wilson was sufficiently humbled by the worst season of his professional career to trust and accept a game plan that complements a top-flight Denver defense. His relationship with Nathaniel Hackett felt wrong from the jump, and that’s on Hackett. Going forward, I trust Wilson will fully accept he works to help the coach succeed, rather than expecting the coach to work at pleasing him.

For reasons as different as their personalities and their approaches to managing a locker room, Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Hackett all quickly proved to be the wrong man to be in charge on the Denver sideline. But blaming their failures entirely on the lack of head-coaching experience feels more than a little bit like a cop-out, ignoring the lack of legitimate Pro Bowl talent on Denver’s roster.


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