After seeing defensive tackle Mike Purcell engage in a sideline yelling altercation with Russell Wilson in Sunday's loss to the Carolina Panthers, there's a real concern that the Denver Broncos' locker room is splintering. And with the Broncos' offense being literally the worst in the NFL, so swiftly on the heels of GM George Paton making Wilson a quarter-billion-dollar quarterback, it's fair to wonder if the veteran signal-caller has lost the locker room, as it were.
Head coach Nathaniel Hackett was asked to address the rumors that Wilson has indeed lost the locker room on Wednesday.
“I heard that a little bit," Hackett acknowledged of the rumor. "To me, it’s all gossip. We have a fantastic locker room. When you look at a guy like Russ, he’s unbelievable. He works—I’ve never seen somebody work that hard and never seen somebody try to embrace a team like he has while he’s here."
What exactly does Coach Hackett mean about Wilson's efforts to "embrace" the Broncos?
"Just from everything that he does, from walkthroughs to helping and how he is in the community," Hackett said. "Russ is awesome, and we just need to do better as a team. It’s that simple. All that stuff, it is what it is. I love Russ.”
Hackett loves everyone, but at a certain point, he'd be wise to start sharing some of the onus for Denver's struggles with his highly-paid quarterback, instead of blaming the "the team" for not, ostensibly, being "better." After all, it's not the offensive line's fault when Wilson holds onto the ball for way too long, or opts to run into pressure, or misses a blitzer pre-snap.
While it's true that Denver's receiving corps is doing a horrible job at creating separation with their routes, Wilson is not surveying the field with the cool, calm, and collected poise he built an arguable Hall-of-Fame career on in Seattle. The bitter, frustrating truth is that it's obvious Wilson isn't seeing the field as he should, as there have been countless times this season where he has straight-up missed wide-open receivers, opting instead to either scramble into pressure or throw incomplete.
The Broncos' Week 5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts is a case-in-point example, where Wilson missed a wide-open KJ Hamler in the end zone that would have won the game, instead opting to stare down Courtland Sutton on the opposite side of the field and throw incomplete. Receipts below:
Wilson himself had to address the elephant in the room as Wednesday is his day of the week to face the media. He dismissed the notion that he's lost the locker room out of hand.
“No. First of all, everybody wants to win," Wilson said. "We all want to win. Nobody wants to win more than me and this team, and that’s what we want to be able to do. I think also—I have great relationships in that locker room. Whoever is trying to tear it down, you can’t. I think the best thing about it is that it’s been an amazing journey coming here, moving here and being here."
Wilson went on to emphasize that he is unfazed by this latest rumor and that "the noise" is part of the game.
"This is a great, great team," Wilson said. "We have a lot of great players and I’m honored to be here. I’m honored to play with this team and these guys. There is always noise, especially when things aren’t going the way you want it to all the time. The thing is that you don’t bat an eye. My biggest goal every day is to continue to try to lead at the highest level, to be consistent every day with my approach and to never change. Not let the highs of life change you and not let the lows [change you]—just be consistent with your approach and knowing that I love these guys every day and who they are, what they are about, how they impact this community and what they’ve done. It’s a blessing to be on this team. I’m honored to be part of this.”
It would be one thing if Wilson were playing even on an average level, and the wins just weren't coming. It's another thing entirely to be the biggest culprit — on the field, anyway — behind the Broncos' abject failure to meet expectations in 2022.
There is no doubt that Wilson's teammates are frustrated. And only a fool would believe that guys in that locker room aren't harboring some animosity toward Wilson for his complicity in the Broncos becoming a laughing stock.
As the losses continue to pile up, the veracity of Hackett and Wilson's assurances that the locker room unity is still intact will come out in the wash. It's doubtful that Purcell's Week 12 outburst in Wilson's direction will be the last to be seen this season.
I hope I'm wrong.
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