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Make the Case: Will Russell Wilson pass John Elway as the Broncos’ all-time leading touchdown passer?

Zac Stevens Avatar
July 14, 2022

Will Russell Wilson pass John Elway for the most touchdown passes in Denver Broncos history by the time his career is over?

That is the question.

This is the debate.

The Situation

Russell Wilson is the lucky No. 3 in Denver. Literally.

Not only does Wilson wear No. 3, but he will be the third Hall-of-Fame quarterback to wear a Broncos jersey.

Unsurprisingly, the other two, John Elway and Peyton Manning, lead the storied franchise in nearly every passing category, including completions, yards, touchdowns and wins.

Thanks in large part to Elway’s 16-year career in the Mile High City, compared to only four years for Manning, No. 7 has the most passing touchdowns in team history.

In four years, Manning racked up an incredible 140 passing touchdowns.

In 16 years, Elway over doubled No. 18, tossing 300.

Will Wilson be able to top Elway’s 300 touchdowns during his time in Orange & Blue?

That will boil down to many factors, including how long he plays and how well he plays.

The Cases

This will happen — Zac

If Russell Wilson averages 30 touchdowns over 10 years, he’ll tie John Elway’s record.

How doable is that for Russ?

Well, in his 10-year career up to this point, Wilson has averaged 31 passing touchdowns per year over a prorated 17-game season.

In the past five seasons, he’s averaged 36 touchdowns per year over a prorated 17-game schedule.

Here’s the kicker — Those numbers Russ has put up have been with a team with a run-first philosophy that has held Wilson back. That won’t be the case in Denver. Nathaniel Hackett and the organization will let Russ do what he does best, which is tossing the rock.

Especially early on, expect Wilson to put up significantly better numbers than his time in Seattle. In this conversation, that means he won’t have to play a full decade in order to pass Elway’s record.

If Wilson averages 34 touchdowns for nine seasons, he’ll end his career in Denver with 306. That’s only two touchdowns per game. Easy.

Longevity is the only thing that could hold him back.

But there’s an argument to be made that no one in the NFL takes care of their body the way Wilson does, even though he doesn’t have an established body-care brand like TB12.

That dedication to his body will allow him to play long enough to pass No. 7 and retire as the Broncos’ all-time leading touchdown passer.

This will not happen — RK

I think this question mostly comes down to how long you imagine Russell Wilson playing. I think we should start by noting that only 20 quarterbacks have played into their 40s in NFL history. So, for starters, I dont imagine Wilson playing 10 years in Orange & Blue like Zac does. If I were to guess right now, I would say Wilson plays seven years, which would take him through his age-39 season.

But even if I were being what I believe is generous and saying he plays eight seasons, that would still require Wilson to average between 37 and 38 passing touchdowns per year during that time. To this point in his career, Wilson has only had that many in a season once.

I’m all for factoring in his numbers going up while playing in Nathaniel Hackett’s system that will be pass-heavy, but at the same time you have to consider factoring in a statistical dropoff in his last season or two.

I’m as high on Russ as anyone, but in the end, I simply don’t think he will play enough seasons as a Bronco to pass Ol’ No. 7.

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