I’ve noticed a ton of debate about Russell Wilson and the ability of elite quarterbacks to elevate the situation around them in the modern NFL. So one of the debates I have seen within the Broncos’ realm of social media is the idea that elite quarterbacks are supposed to elevate the situation around them.
This obviously comes as most of the fans have watched Russell Wilson play the worst football, likely of his entire football career. They might say something like “Well, great quarterbacks in the NFL are able to elevate the people around them.”
Players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, for example, were always able to make the players around them better and perhaps cover up for the shaky coaching. This comes as Russell Wilson struggles mightily in his first year in Denver. Some have twisted the argument to say that Wilson is not a truly great or perhaps even good quarterback because he’s failed to elevate the current disastrous situation around him.
Well, I don’t think that is a fair or correct argument for multiple reasons.
Firstly, let’s look at coaching.
Coaching is the single most important thing in sports. Without quality coaching, a team isn’t likely going to see success, at all. The Denver Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett, thinking he’d be a success story in the continuing NFL trend of the young, offensive-minded coach.
However, the Hackett hire has proven to be historically bad. In fact, there have been many arguments to fire him during his first season. There have only been four coaches in NFL history since the merger who have been fired during their first season, and Hackett has a sensational argument to be the fifth.
Benjamin Allbright even hinted that a firing could have come had the Broncos lost their game against the Jaguars in London.
So, the Broncos seemed prepared to make Hackett just the fifth coach in the NFL since the merger to be fired before finishing their first year. I say that to say that it’s unreasonable to think that Russell Wilson should be able to elevate the poor coaching.
I then want to seg-way that into some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL currently and their current coaching situations.
Patrick Mahomes has Andy Reid. Lamar Jackson has John Harbaugh. Josh Allen has Sean McDermott. Tua Tagovailoa, who looks sensational now has Mike McDaniel. Drew Brees had Sean Payton. Tom Brady had Bill Belichick. Peyton Manning had John Fox and Gary Kubiak. Jalen Hurts has Nick Sirianni. Jimmy Garoppolo has Kyle Shanahan. Dan Marino had Don Shula. Ben Roethlisberger had Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin.
Do you see my point? Some of the very best quarterbacks in the NFL today and all time had the privilege of playing for, at the very least, a competent head coach. Sure, a good quarterback is able to perhaps make the coach look a bit better, but to me, the coaches I provided in this example are and were objectively good at their jobs.
Nathaniel Hackett at this point can only dream of being as effective of a head coach as those men were. The other consideration to make is the staff that he built outside of Ejiro Evero. The staff is incredibly young and inexperienced. Good head coaches in the NFL are able to assemble a staff likely filled with veteran coaches.
Kevin O’Connell, the new head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, has a chance to win coach of the year in his first year. His qualifications were no better than Hackett’s, but O’Connell decided he was going to build a staff filled with quality, veteran coaches, and look at the result.
I don’t fault Russell Wilson for not being able to overcome mediocre coaching.
Secondly, the injuries have been unprecedented for the Broncos. They are missing a ton of starters on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. Again, are we to expect an NFL quarterback to overcome back-breaking injuries?
They’re human, and they can only do so much. Russell Wilson had no control over Garett Bolles, Lloyd Cushenberry, Billy Turner, Tim Patrick, and Javonte Williams to all miss significant time. Wilson also can’t control the number of drops that the Broncos’ players have had this year and the fumbles that Melvin Gordon committed.
The Kansas City Chiefs know how to go for the jugular. They have signed former Denver Broncos RB Melvin Gordon to their practice squad.
To me, the truth is that there is so much going on with the team outside of his control that we can’t fault a future HOF QB for the way the offense has played this year.