I was lucky to be on a trip home in the summer of 2012, almost exactly a decade ago. I was hanging out with my dad, watching the Denver Broncos second preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. It was Sometime in the late third or early fourth quarter (as I recall), the Seahawks put in a rookie QB who might have been their third stringer… Maybe their second. To be fair, he was playing against second- and third-stringers himself when he lit up the field, but there was no doubt he was electric. I very clearly remember my dad, on that first drive, half-laughing, half-muttering…
Who the hell is THAT?!?!?
Well, THAT WHO ended up being one Russell Carrington Wilson, and he was certainly a game-changer. The reads he was making, the passes he was completing, the errors he was so very deftly avoiding. The rookie was as highly adept at the game mentally as physically, and he simply got whatever positive there was to be taken from every play, without fail. He wasn’t making mistakes, but he was exploiting the hell out of every mistake he caught his opponent making. I wish those observations had been mine, but they were much more a synopsis of the rant my dad went on about the rookie who had just schooled everyone in mop-up duty.
That game also ended up being the last one in which Wilson wasn’t Seattle’s super starter. By the third pre-season game, the Seahawks saw the writing on the wall, and simply handed over the keys. Russ ended up tying Peyton Manning’s then-record for touchdowns by a rookie QB in a season. By the following season’s end, Wilson tied himself to Manning further, and ensured the Broncos faithful would never forget him again, as Russ and the Seahawks simply dominated Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle wisely locked him up for the next decade, where he appeared in nine Pro Bowls.
Those early pinpricks and bloodlettings of Wilson’s existence to the Broncos have now karmically swung full circle, and Seattle’s loss has become Denver’s long-term gain. That lethal combination of game-manipulation and laser-cannon-arm are back in Denver, but this time in the home locker room, hopefully for good, and to finish an illustrious career. Denver has Russ locked up for the next seven seasons, and at a price that may seem incredible at first glance. That price is actually a lot more palatable than you might believe for a number of reasons, as so deftly illustrated by DNVR’s Henry Chisholm yesterday. Having a star of Wilson’s caliber in a quarterback dazzled-but-discriminating city like Denver speaks loud volumes in several directions. How would that be?
Making a long-term commitment to the rare superstar like Wilson in Denver shows the undercurrent of the long-term commitment to winning the Walton-Penner ownership group brings to Denver. That not only translates to stability, but to the bottom line. Wilson jerseys will sell more readily to a fan who knows he can rely on being able to wear it for a long time. Free agents will take a conversation with the Broncos more seriously. Players already on the team will have very little doubt about the pecking order in the locker room, and the way of the world on the field. Whether the combination of new coaches, new ownership, new quarterback, etc. comes out of the gates hot or cold, there is decidedly a commitment to how things will be moving forward.
While so many positions matter on the field, and undoubtedly the quarterback spot is the key, it seemingly matters in Denver even more than most places, with a culture and fanbase that has seen their ultimate successes come behind names like Elway and Manning. In Broncos Country, the bottom line is this: success is only spelled with a Q and a B.
Maybe they’re silent. I don’t know. Maybe my metaphor is mad. Maybe not a metaphor at all.
So, while Russ will endure the slings and arrows of “Let’s Ride” for a while longer, his metaphor is terribly apt. The Broncos are going to need to get themselves in order and in line to be the speed demon powerhouse they have the possibility to be, and reach their ultimate goal(s). With this week’s news, these particular Broncos will not only be riding, but doing so for a meaningful and hope-inducing amount of time.
With Wilson’s new deal, these Broncos are hitched.