Last year, while he was still working for FOX Sports and not the Denver Broncos, Sean Payton was asked by Colin Cowherd what he would do to "fix" Russell Wilson. Of course, the 2022 season was the worst we've ever seen from Russ, and there may have been some decent reasons for that...
Looking back in hindsight, we now know that Russ was dealing with more than we knew off the field in terms of losing a friend and "mental coach" Trevor Moawad as well as dealing with a variety of injuries throughout the season.
He had a surgery done on his right knee in the 2023 offseason for an issue that had been nagging him for a couple of seasons. It's easy to forget this, but does anyone else remember that Wilson actually had a procedure done on his shoulder following the Broncos' loss to the Colts last October? He had a torn hamstring that led to his eventual "high knees on the airplane to London" situation. He got a scary concussion in a near-comeback against the Chiefs.
When you stack it all together, it's actually a wonder Wilson played at all in 2023. Everyone could see he wasn't himself out there, including Sean Payton, to circle this all back. Payton, while working for FOX, was obviously not oblivious to Russ' struggles out there, and he made some interesting suggestions about what he would do to get the best out of a guy who had consistently been great the first 10 years of his NFL career.
"I’d want a cut up of all 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 said. “Like, I know that they did a great job in Seattle of bringing him off of a naked boot[leg] and then pulling up and we all saw that like throwback to [receiver Tyler] Lockett across the field where the ball traveled 60 yards in the air. Then, I’d want to look at another film of his red-zone touchdown passes inside the 20. And so what I’m asking for from assistants, I’m asking for some of his greatest hits and to make sure we have those song lyrics available. And if not, let’s put them in."- Sean Payton (via PFT)
Payton has actually utilized this analogy on a couple of occasions since he said that to Colin Cowherd last year.
It seems like Payton wasn't just saying that for fun, either. It looks like he's actually implementing it in Denver.
When you think of Russell Wilson's "greatest hits" as an NFL player, what do you think of the most? You think of the big-time throws to Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Doug Baldwin, and all those other players through the years that Russell Wilson just dropped the ball to in a bucket deep downfield.
You know Sean Payton is putting his money where his mouth is, because what did the Broncos do with their top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft? They went out and selected Oklahoma speedster Marvin Mims.
If the plan is to play Russell Wilson's greatest hits, then the Denver Broncos now have the means to actually do so. Not that speed doesn't exist in the receiver room for Denver, but with KJ Hamler recovering from injury and the team not likely planning on him playing a major role this season anyway, Mims gives you the chance to play Russ' Greatest Hits.
You can't play Russ' greatest hits without the speed demon at receiver, and a guy who can capitalize on those downfield throws. Mims is that guy.
A lot of people were up in arms over the Denver Broncos drafting Mims in the first place, noting that the team "doesn't need a receiver" but the reality is, if you want to play Russ' Greatest Hits, you've got to have a guy like this. I think Marvin Mims' role in 2023 has been immediately diminished or discarded by so many because of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Tim Patrick, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mims was the WR3 by season's end in terms of snaps played.
It's a novel concept, isn't it? Figure out what a guy does well, and actually do it. Call the 2022 season whatever you want to in terms of the train wreck that it was. There's no doubt that the Broncos weren't doing consistently what Russell Wilson has always done well. There was no balance or flow to the offense.
I think we can take it to the bank that, under Sean Payton, this offense is going to be playing those "greatest hits" more often than not.