Breaking
May 26, 2024

Broncos Make Shocking Decision to Bench Struggling Russell Wilson for Backup QB

AiBot
Written by AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Dec 30, 2023

The Denver Broncos made a stunning move this week when they announced that veteran quarterback Russell Wilson would be benched in favor of backup Jarrett Stidham. The decision comes after over a year of frustration and disappointing play from Wilson since the Broncos acquired him in a blockbuster trade last offseason.

Lead Up to the Benching

The Broncos sent shockwaves through the NFL in March 2022 when they traded multiple first round draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks for 9-time Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson. Denver saw Wilson as the missing piece to get them over the hump and back to Super Bowl contention after years of quarterback struggles [1].

However, the 2022 season did not go according to plan for Wilson and the Broncos. Hampered by injuries and struggling to mesh with first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s offense, Wilson put up the worst stats of his 11-year career. Denver’s offense sputtered all season, averaging just 16.9 points per game – fifth worst in the NFL. Their 3-11 record led to Hackett’s firing after just 15 games [2].

The Broncos hoped new head coach Sean Payton would get more out of Wilson in 2023. But after a promising start, the offense again stalled. Going into Week 16, Denver ranked near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories [3]. Payton finally decided to make a change after watching the uninspiring offense barely squeak by the struggling Arizona Cardinals.

Stat Broncos Rank
Points Per Game 30th
Total Yards 28th
Third Down % 28th

Table showing the Broncos’ struggles on offense in 2022 (via 4)

The Benching

On December 28th, Payton shocked the NFL by announcing that fourth-year backup QB Jarrett Stidham would start over Wilson in Week 17 [5]. Wilson, who inked a 5-year, $245 million extension with Denver last summer, has struggled enormously this year. But benching a 9-time Pro Bowler in favor of an untested former New England Patriots backup raised eyebrows. Many wondered if this was the end of Wilson’s tenure in Denver just one year after they traded a haul of premium draft picks for him.

Payton and the Broncos insisted the change was strictly about performance and not a reaction to Wilson’s contract. But Wilson confirmed to reporters this week that the Broncos had approached him about amending his contract to reduce injury guarantees during the bye week [6]. When he refused, the team told him poor play could lead to a benching. Players like center Lloyd Cushenberry and pass rusher Randy Gregory have been vocal leaders in support of Wilson after the awkward situation [7].

But Denver has clearly lost patience with their struggling prized acquisition. And Wilson was apparently blindsided by the benching, finding out the same day as his wife Ciara’s birthday [8]. After initially being “stunned”, Wilson insists he respects Coach Payton’s decision [9]. But it’s clear this embarrassing situation has caused tension in the Broncos locker room.

Fallout and Wilson’s Future

This shocking move leaves the futures of Russell Wilson, Sean Payton, and the Broncos up in the air. Payton already stated they plan for Stidham to start the final two games this year [10]. If he thrives, it’s possible Denver looks to trade the struggling Wilson in the offseason [11]. Wilson’s no trade clause expires after this season, making a deal possible if both sides decide to split.

Several QB-needy teams like the Falcons, Saints, and Patriots have been floated as potential Wilson suitors in 2023 [12]. Wilson may prefer to stay out West or target playoff contenders like the Raiders or Steelers if Denver does make him available via trade or release [13]. But after this lost year, Wilson also needs to rehab his value around the league.

For Coach Payton, this benching represents his attempt to shake things up for the stagnant Broncos. Stidham will get an extended two-game tryout to make his case to be part of Denver’s future. But this awkward QB controversy also raises questions about Payton’s leadership in his first year. Several Broncos players have already subtly criticized his handling of the situation on social media [14]. If Stidham also struggles, it could force Denver right back into more quarterback purgatory in 2023.

After trading a wealth of premium draft capital for Wilson, this lost year puts Denver in a terrible bind. Their roster has plenty of talent at other positions, especially defense. But it’s nearly impossible to compete without at least average quarterback play in today’s NFL. For the Broncos to get out of this messy situation, they’ll need vastly improved performance from whoever is playing quarterback in 2023 – whether that’s Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham, or someone else entirely.

This shocking QB change has rocked the league and put all eyes on Denver as the season wraps up. How the next few weeks play out will have huge implications on the Broncos’ future. Will Stidham spark the struggling offense and force them to part with Wilson? Or will Wilson get one more shot to lead the talented roster under a new coaching staff? This surprising story promises to remain one of the hottest topics around the NFL heading into a pivotal 2023 offseason.

[1]
[2]
[3]
[4]
[5]
[6]
[7]
[8]
[9]
[10]
[11]
[12]
[13]
[14]

AiBot

AiBot

Author

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Related Post