Russell Wilson Takes to Social Media to React to Broncos’ Benching

Russell Wilson

Getty Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson looks on from the sideline.

The Denver Broncos were in the playoff hunt heading into their Week 16 matchup against the New England Patriots. Heading into the matchup everything seemed fine between quarterback Russell Wilson and head coach Sean Payton, but after the loss things took a dramatic turn.

On Wednesday, December 27, Payton elected to bench Wilson for backup Jarrett Stidham.

When speaking to the local media, Payton explained why he made the move at quarterback.

“We’re desperately trying to win and sure in our game today, there are economics and all those other things, but the number one push behind this and it’s a decision I’m making is to get a spark offensively.”

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Payton met with Wilson in the morning about the decision and then told the team.

Wilson was not happy as he went to X (formerly Twitter) to react to the benching.

Wilson has liked posts from Bleacher Report insider Jordan Schultz saying that the Broncos went to their starting quarterback back in October, after they beat the Kansas City Chiefs, asking him to defer $37 million in guarantees another year. Schultz also reported that the Broncos “threatened” to bench Wilson and make him inactive.

Another X post that Wilson liked suggested that he was having a better statistical year than Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

The other likes were from other outlets making the reference to Schultz’s report on the Broncos threatening to bench Wilson.

Shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, Wilson published an X post of his own, writing: “God’s got me. Looking forward to what’s next.”

It’s rare for a team to bench their starting quarterback while still being in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots in the AFC.

“Right now, we’re average to below-average, I would say, in a lot of things offensively, and it’s not good enough,” Payton said on a Zoom call with the local media on December 26.

Economic Reason for Russell Wilson’s Benching

According to Schefter, Wilson is due $39 million fully guaranteed for the 2024 season and another $37 million would become guaranteed if Wilson cannot pass his physical in early March.

Making sure that $37 million doesn’t get triggered, the Broncos made the business decision to bench him to prevent an injury.

As of now, Denver will start Stidham and Wilson will be the No. 2 quarterback behind him against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 17.

Currently, the Broncos will have an $85 million dead cap hit if they release Wilson going into 2024.

Per James Palmer, if the Broncos release Wilson after June 1, that would divide the dead money over two seasons, $35.4 million in 2024 and $49.6 million in 2025.

ESPN’s Dianna Russini has also reported that Wilson expects to be cut by the Broncos in March 2024 and for nearly two months, the 35-year-old “has been starting knowing the organization was most likely going to move on from him after this season.”

Sean Payton Claimed He Would Fix Russell Wilson’s ‘Flaws’

While Wilson was struggling under former head coach Nathaniel Hackett, Payton went on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” in October 2022 and explained how Wilson could be fixed.

“You correct flaws immediately, and then we don’t worry about how long the process is going to take,” Payton said. “In other words, I’d want a cut-up today of all of Russell’s pass plays of 30 or more yards from the field and I’d want to see, ‘Are there some schemes that he felt very comfortable with?’”

Payton also mentioned that he would like to see what Wilson did successfully in Seattle.

“I know that they did a great job in Seattle of bringing him off of a naked-boot and then pulling up,” Payton said. “And then we all saw that throwback to [Tyler] Lockett across the field where the ball traveled 60 yards in the air.”

In 2023, Wilson has only attempted 92 play-action passes which is the lowest amongst the data that Pro Football Rference has calculated.

Over Wilson’s entire career, he’s averaged at least 7.2 yards per pass attempt. This season, Payton has restricted Wilson to a career-low 6.9 yards per pass attempt.

Payton would also want to see the touchdowns that Wilson has thrown in the red zone.

“I’d want to look at another film of his red zone touchdown passes inside the 20,” Payton said. “What I’m asking for from assistants is, I’m asking for some of his greatest hits, and to make sure that we have those song lyrics available, and if not, let’s put them in.”

This season, Payton’s offense ranks 16th in the NFL with 21.8 points per game.

Payton also told Trey Wingo of The 33rd Team before the 2023 season that it was going to work in Denver with Wilson and himself.