Kiz: The NFL does not reward points for moral victories. but the Broncos never backed down and fought to the bitter end during a 27-24 loss to Kansas City. Quarterback Russell Wilson could not beat Patrick Mahomes. But did we see enough positives to believe that with a new head coach, all the problems endured by Wilson are “fixable.” Would you bet on him being the comeback player of the year in 2023?
Gabriel: Wilson, according to at least one betting service (BetOnline) is considered the early favorite to win that award, Kiz, currently checking in at 4-to-1 odds. Actually, there’s another Broncos player on the list, too, in running back Javonte Williams, out since Week 4 with a knee injury. As it pertains to Wilson, he heads into Week 18 with 13 touchdown passes in 14 starts. Wilson’s never thrown fewer than 20 in a year and only once has thrown fewer than 25. His adjusted net yards per attempt (6.6) is easily the lowest of his career, as is his passer rating (82.5).
Kiz: I don’t believe Wilson is washed up. At age 30, John Elway suffered through a 5-11 season during which his quarterback rating was a wretched 78.5. With time, he recovered to win two Super Bowl rings. I’m not predicting there are two championships in the future of Wilson and the Broncos. But I am saying that if Denver can hire Sean Payton, get key players healthy and enjoy a productive offseason by general manager George Paton, it’s possible for Wilson to be a top 10 quarterback in this league again.
Gabriel: Top 10, that’s a big call. I like the aggressiveness. Not sure I’d go that far, but I do agree with your sentiment that Wilson is not washed up. You see the flashes of confidence and play-making ability that helped make him a nine-time Pro Bowler. It is fair to point to the extent of the injuries the Broncos offense has faced. And even though Wilson will be playing for a new head coach — this is the first time he’s ever had a football coach fired — in 2023, he will have been in Denver and part of this organization for a year. The bet here is that helps.
Kiz: Although I doubt Wilson will ever fully admit it, I believe his crisis of confidence with coach Nathaniel Hackett began long before the first game of this season, and a veteran quarterback’s ego was shaken with each sack and every loss. That’s why the Broncos need to hire a QB whisperer to be their head coach. If Wilson can’t be fixed, it could mean seven more years of suffering for Broncos Country. But I think the confidence and mechanics of Wilson can be repaired. Comeback player of the year in 2023? Why not?
Gabriel: Feels like a cop out to scan the list, find a guy you can get better odds on — like, say, Rams receiver Cooper Kupp at 10-to-1 — and say that he’s got a better chance of returning to real, elite production and go that way. Comeback Russ? That would be quite a storyline in 2023. It’s going to take a lot of work, probably some changes that will not be easy for him to make, and then on top of that a real meshing and understanding between he and the Broncos’ new head coach that never seemed to happen the way he and Hackett were so sure it would. All of those and an improved offensive line and now you’re cooking with gas. He’ll play better, but I’m saying comeback POY is a long shot.