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Mike Olson Avatar
December 30, 2022

Grabbing my dictionary… Mulligan… Mulligan…

  1. a stew made from odds and ends of food.
  2. (in informal golf) an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard.
  3. This nice lady…

Yow. But I digest. Digress. Sorry, digress. Was thinking about stew for a second there. Ahem.

Today, we are here to discuss the member of the Denver sports landscape who could decidedly use a big dose of the second definition of the above. Possibly more than any other Denver sports star. Possibly more than all of the other Denver sports stars rolled up together. He does not need any part of definition three, as his wife might kill him, and his current stew requirements at this time are, uh… unclear.

ANYWAY, if anyone needs a second crack at redemption in the Mile High City these days, it’s one Russell Carrington Wilson, he who rides… rode… rided into town in a cloud of dust and with what sure sounded a hearty hi-ho. Over a dozen contests later, Russ decidedly finds himself the Broncos’ Lone Ranger.

After a 3-10 start to the Broncos season, something needed to change, and Denver offered up rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett as the sacrificial lamb in the tenor shift that needed to come over Dove Valley. Hackett’s firing preceded two other coaches’ departures, in a sign to everyone as to what was good enough and what was not from the very top. Happily, all the right parties spoke up and took accountability in the early directional flub, and said all the right things about righting the ship, Wilson very much included.

But if words would have gotten the job done, Broncos Country would have been riding high since season’s beginning. Instead, interim coach Jerry Rosburg, GM George Paton, and ownership lead Greg Penner have hit the best choice of reset button they have, the one that gives everyone an escape. Penner & Co are hoping like crazy they don’t have to hit the other big red button, the one that would give them the biggest dead salary cap hit in the history of the game, and egg on their faces for extending a player they’d never seen work inside their “system”, and extending him for a half-decade and quarter-billion dollars. What the Hackett firing essentially does is give a nine-time Pro-Bowler with what has always been a ruthlessly efficient output a chance to write it all off. A full-fledged football Mulligan.

A rather golden ticket for Mr. Wilson, should he choose to accept it, as it gives him a one-time-only chance to make all of whatever the hell has been happening these last few months all make sense. To show the orange-and-blue faithful that this was all simply a misunderstanding.

If Russ is wise, he’ll take these next two games as safely and proficiently as he is able, and then take this offseason as sheer referendum. Go down in his bunker to heal, focus, and improve. Accept his strengths and weaknesses, maybe even find a happy medium between this hoped-for offense he’s promoting and the one that won him a Super Bowl and those nine Pro Bowl selections. To ensure that however this story ends, it’s not his name as the primary author of its failure.

No one is suggesting that Wilson is alone in this. His rotating cast of receivers, his single-ply offensive line, and a pendulum of coaches’ approaches didn’t give him very firm sand to stand upon. But his handling of the matter, both physically and vocally, has been… utterly lacking. Russ says that the goal is still a ring. If he can actually make that goal look even remotely a reality, then this past year will be soon be a rearview mirror footnote. With enough time, it will probably even be all labelled Hackett’s failure.

That’s the happy path, for Russ and for Broncos fans everywhere. One quite probably still available to him if he plays this mulligan very, very wisely.

If he finds himself on the unhappy path? That one ends with the Broncos in a very tough spot, and with Russ’ sterling (and possible Hall of Fame) path suddenly very much in doubt. That path ends up with everybody in the stew and very much cooked.

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