Russell Wilson doesn’t have to be Tom Brady. Or Peyton Manning. But for Year 1 in Broncos Country to fly, he’s gotta get Denver back to playoffs.


Get a room, would ya, Russell Wilson haters? Preferably one with padded walls.

“The difference with Russell is, he is a lot more high-maintenance,” an anonymous NFL general manager told The Athletic in a piece published Monday.

“(Wilson has) got the entourage, he needs the office at the facility, the extra hotel rooms on the road, all that stuff.”

To hear some say it — some in Seattle, especially — you’d think the Broncos just handed the franchise keys over to the Duke of Rothesay rather than Russ from Richmond.

“It will be interesting how that dynamic works with a rookie head coach and rookie offensive coordinator,” the source continued, “how they jell.”

Translation: Diva. Baggage.

“I think something’s off with him. And I’m wondering if a change of venue will help. Maybe it will help,” Larry Holder of The Athletic told Las Vegas’ 1140 AM last week. “I’m not totally sold on Denver just because Russell Wilson is there …

“There is a reason you are moving on from Russell Wilson. You don’t move on from a guy if you’re not ready to do it.”

Translation: Diva. Baggage.

“There is so much fanfare around Wilson and the Broncos that we fail to mention Wilson wasn’t his normal self last season,” VSiN’s Michael Lombardi, a former NFL exec, opined recently.

“And unless he rekindles his play, Denver won’t be as good as we might think … for all the excitement in the Mile High City, he needs to play better. Can he? My guess is yes, but based on last year, I’m not 100% confident.”

Translation: Diva. Baggage.

The haters have been creeping out of the peanut galleries ever since that blockbuster trade last March that sent Big Russ a Mile High. The knives are out again as the preseason picks trickle in, because somebody in an AFC West that’s loaded like one of Illegal Pete’s breakfast burritos has to finish last.

Can’t be you, Russ.

Not this season.

Not with this schedule. Not if you want to prove the naysayers wrong.

The Russ Era reconvenes Tuesday, when the Broncos open up preseason camp at UCHealth Training Center. With the exception of injured pass-rusher Randy Gregory and new right tackle Billy Hunter, all the major chess pieces are lining up. The Walton-Penner group could finalize their purchase of the team as soon as Aug. 9, according to The Post’s Ryan O’Halloran.

With Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray reportedly signing a five-year extension with the Cardinals worth $230.5 million, or $46 million annually, the financial bar’s been set. And questions about a similar deal for the 33-year-old Wilson, whose four-year, $140-million contract is set to expire after the 2023 season, are only going to pick up steam now that (almost) everybody’s back in the fold.

What would constitute success for Wilson’s first season, dollars aside? Peyton Manning won 13 games a decade ago, only to drop an absolute crusher to the Ravens in the AFC’s divisional round. Tom Brady dragged the Bucs to a Super Bowl during Year 1 in Tampa. Matthew Stafford did the same with the Rams this last fall.

The West is a lot deeper than it was a decade ago, when the Chiefs hit rock bottom on multiple fronts. It might even be nastier than the NFC West of 2021, which saw three out of four squads snatch postseason berths and gave us a 49ers-Rams conference title game.

And have you seen the AFC lately? Quarterbacks everywhere. Even if you get out of a division that features Wilson, Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Justin Herbert (Chargers) and Derek Carr (Raiders), there’s another potential ambush, just waiting over the hill. The Bengals are riding high with Joe Burrow, Baltimore wants to get Lamar Jackson back to the postseason party and the Colts just added Matt Ryan to the mix.

We’ll start the over-under at 9.5 wins. A manageable schedule early has me leaning between 10 and 11, depending on health and karma.


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