Russell Wilson Has the Money. Sean Payton Has the Power and Respect in Denver.

Jarrett Stidham will start for the Broncos on Sunday against the Chargers

Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton.
Sean Payton and Russell Wilson may not have much to talk about now.
RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty

With two weeks left to play in the 2022-23 regular season, then-Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels shut down starting quarterback Derek Carr in favor of backup Jarrett Stidham so the Raiders could make a playoff push.

“None of us is happy with where we’re at, but we think it’s an opportunity to evaluate a younger player who hasn’t had much time to play,” McDaniels said at the time. “Talking to Derek — who was great — he understands the scenario that we’re in and the situation.”

Unfortunately, Stidham was unable to save the day, and the Raiders’ playoff push failed. Since then, McDaniels (fired), Carr (New Orleans Saints) and Stidham (Denver Broncos) have all left Las Vegas.

Now, with two weeks left to go in this season, Stidham finds himself thrust into the same role a bit further east as the Broncos have sent starting quarterback Russell Wilson to the bench with two games left to play in a season that has been a bit of a disaster. Coaxed out of retirement, first-year Denver coach Sean Payton made the call.

“Look, I can tell you we’re desperately trying to win,” Payton told reporters, via “Sure, in our game today there are economics and all those other things, but the No. 1 push behind this — and it’s a decision I’m making — is to get a spark offensively.”

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If Stidham, who threw four touchdowns and three interceptions in two losses for the Raiders after taking over for Carr last year, provides a spark offensively, Payton will look like a genius. Even if Stidham, who entered the league as Tom Brady’s backup, flops during his latest audition as a starter, Payton may be making his employers happy, as Wilson has a $37 million injury guarantee for 2025 that becomes fully guaranteed in March. By sitting 35-year-old Wilson, who is already fully guaranteed $39 million in 2024, the Payton and Broncos are giving themselves the option to cut ties with the one-time Super Bowl champ following his second season in Denver.

Would it be messy? Sure. And will it feel even messier given what the Broncos gave up to get Wilson? Yup. But ripping off the Band-Aid now, instead of waiting and wading through multiple mediocre seasons, is probably the right move. Denver’s ownership likely would want to stick it out with Wilson if Payton wasn’t in charge, but, as things are, they have a choice. They already chose to give Wilson the money, but it looks like the higher-ups in Denver are giving Payton the power and respect. We’ll see what he does with both — but it won’t include Wilson.

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