Danger-Russell Wilson Revival: A Liger’s Primal Roar

DENVER, COLORADO - SEPTEMBER 25: Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos rushes during the second half against the San Francisco 49ers at Empower Field At Mile High on September 25, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - SEPTEMBER 25: Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos rushes during the second half against the San Francisco 49ers at Empower Field At Mile High on September 25, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Liger: “…offspring of a male lion and a female tiger. The liger is a zoo-bred hybrid …. (which possesses) features of both parents … but (is) generally larger than either.” – Britannica Or, if you’d prefer a less scientific definition: “(A liger’s) pretty much my favorite animal. It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed… bred for its skills in magic.” – Napoleon Dynamite

Whichever of these definitions draws you in, you probably have legitimate concerns about the emotional and/or rational state of a man who would begin a football article discussing the merits of a hybrid predator which may or may not possess skills in the mystic arts. Safari with me just a little bit longer, football fans, and I’ll do my best to demonstrate that I possess at least a few scraps of sanity.

State of the Union, Denver Broncos Edition: Where are we at with Russell Wilson?

Let’s take stock of where we are with three weeks down. Slowly but surely, we’re beginning to catch slight glimpses of the identity of your 2022 Denver Broncos. Here are a few of the hallmarks we’ve witnessed thus far:

The Dominance of The Darkside

Coach Evero’s star-studded, but perpetually hobbled defense appears to be a legitimate cornerstone of this year’s team, and although that may not have been what was anticipated following the signing of a future Hall of Fame Quarterback, it’s tough to be anything other than thankful for the stability.

Mortal Kombat or Bloodsport – Pick Your Carnage Descriptor

The weekly list of injuries reads more like an All-Pro watch-list to this point in the season, and yet, miraculously, the team has managed to stay in the fight for the division, thanks in no small part to a few stumbles out of the gates on the parts of our division rivals. I never thought I’d say this, but “Thank you, Andy. Thank you, Brandon. Thank you, Jo…” Nope. Sorry, I just can’t…

Putting the ‘Special’ Back in Special Teams?

The Special Teams Unit – like every micro-team on a team with its share of growing pains – has faced some challenges early on, but if you’ve been able to watch each of this season’s games, you can’t help but notice a steady improvement from week to week. Hey, at least Waitman didn’t add to the Broncos’ legendary legacy of posterior flubs by punting between the hashes of his own blocker.

Wanted: Professional Cat Herder

Coach Hackett’s play-calling has produced top-notch results between the 20s – actually, you could probably claim that the results have been championship level from 5-to-5. If the red zone were to deepen in hue as it inched closer to the goal line, then the problem has been somewhere between the crimson and maroon zones. If we’re being fair, though, you can’t call the game, throw the ball, catch the ball, and protect the ball as you cross the goal line – although he might be the most heavily scrutinized man in Denver, he is still just that – a man.

Having said all of that, Nathaniel Hackett deserves a ton of credit for the rare dose of humility and self-awareness that led to his mid-week decision to identify and hire Jerry Rosburg to assist with game management decisions, a decision that would appear to have paid dividends as early as his first game onboard. Things appear to be heading in the right direction, here.

The Reign of King George

And, oh yeah, George Paton. What an underrated relief to have a General Manager who can be trusted. It may be that a mediocrity-scarred Broncos Country finds itself second-guessing the Hackett and Wilson decisions, but if we’ll take a step back for just a moment, I believe we’ll see a man who is worthy of our trust.

Here’re just a few reasons – Pat Surtain, Javonte Williams, Baron Browning, Quinn Meinerz, Caden Sterns, Jonathon Cooper, and if early returns are any indication, it would appear that players the likes of Damarri Mathis, Montrell Washington, and Matt Henningsen will be significant contributors, with higher profile players such as Nik Bonitto and Greg Dulcich expected to make an even more substantial impact as opportunity presents.

Oh, right, the Free Agents – how could I forget? Simmons, Sutton, and Patrick were wisely signed ahead of the price-gouging curve. Ronald Darby, Randy Gregory (a revelation), DJ Jones, Josey Jewell (a seriously underrated signing whose absence was rattling), K’Waun Williams, Alex Singleton (an outstanding bridge at ILB, and a Special Teams stalwart), and Billy Turner. And last, but certainly not least, THE trade

The Liger’s Roar: The Best of Both Worlds?

Which brings us to the finer point of this article…

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Russell Wilson!” Customarily, this is where Broncos Country would rise to their feet, loudly welcoming their future Hall of Fame Quarterback in one deafening voice, and yet in this particular season, those cheers have carried a tune more commonly heard by a visiting division rival. HINT: It sounds like ‘ewe’ and starts with the letter ‘b’… In fact, it would seem that Denver fans have desired so earnestly to welcome Russ to Denver that they’ve felt it only proper to make him feel at home by allowing him to experience what it’s like to have the vaunted ‘12th Man’ leveraged against him on his home turf.

On Sunday night, however, I’m here to tell you that we may just have witnessed that critical turning point we’ve all been waiting for – the moment where the mouths of the Denver faithful begin to remember what it was like to be used for something other than disillusioned jeers.

While one might be able to argue about the launch point – a 3rd down scramble for a narrowly missed first down at 13:25 of the 4th quarter, or the improbable but vintage Russell Wilson escape from a pile of malevolent humanity to deliver a strike to Kendall Hinton with 8:10 remaining in the 4th – the fact remains, when the pressure was on, the lion in Russ intertwined with the tiger in Hackett to produce a low, but undeniably primal roar.

Russ’ competitive juices began to flow, and for nearly seven minutes, the football world saw the Russell Wilson they’d come to know and love – Broncos Country had a reason to believe again, and more importantly, it appeared that Russ began to remember who he was. In those few minutes, starkly contrasted against the hurried and hyper-pensive performance he’d delivered up to that point in Sunday night’s contest, Russ seemed to take a quantum leap in the painful fusion process of his dominant instinctual traits, with the complexities of Hackett’s offensive philosophy.

For those seven minutes, it was not an ‘either/or’ – it wasn’t the lion in Russ at the expense of the tiger in Coach Hackett; it was a brief demonstration of the benefits of genuine hybridization – the strengths of each, joining forces to create something more grandiose than either was capable of bringing to the table on his own.

Perhaps you’re inexplicably opposed to analogies involving animal husbandry, or maybe you’re immune to the effects of the magical skills attributed to the liger by the Honorable Napoleon Dynamite – if that’s you, allow me to bring it home for you in another way. It’s seven minutes, right? What can we possibly learn about a team’s or a player’s trajectory in seven minutes? What did we learn of Denver Broncos Legend John Elway in the five-minute span of what we now coin ‘The Drive’?

George Paton – a man we’ve determined is worthy of our trust to this point – put his money where his mouth is with a $250 million vote of confidence in the makeup of Russell Wilson, so the team’s leadership did not necessarily learn anything ‘new’ about Russ, but the fan base may well have been introduced to the Quarter-Billion Dollar Man they’ve been hoping to meet. As trust continues to grow between Hackett and Wilson, as confidence blossoms within each, and as each player embraces his role within the team, I firmly believe we’re going to see two brilliant football minds, each bringing out the best in the other.

Russell Wilson and Coach Hackett share an uncanny positivity and passion for the game, but this deliberate interweaving of grit and ingenuity is an experiment that deserves the patience and support of Broncos Country – if the final minutes of Sunday Night Football are any indication (and I believe they are), a significant barrier to the success we’ve all been craving may well have been breached.

“Broncos Country – Let’s… Believe.”