ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, on track for a career low in touchdown passes and career high in sacks, pointed to his own play in this disappointing season as a regret in the wake of Nathaniel Hackett’s firing Monday as the team’s head coach.
“The reality is I wish I could have played better for him, too,” Wilson said after Wednesday’s practice. “I wish I could have played at the standard, the level that I’ve always played at, know how to play at.”
Hackett was fired 15 games into his first season as Broncos coach with the team at 4-11 and with the lowest-scoring offense in the league at 15.5 points per game. It was the shortest tenure for any non-interim head coach in franchise history.
For his part, Wilson, in his first season with the team since the blockbuster trade to acquire him in March, has 12 touchdown passes in his 13 starts, meaning he likely will finish far below his previous single-season low of 20 in 2014.
Wilson also has been sacked a league-leading 49 times in those 13 games (3.8 sacks per game). His 51 sacks in 2018 are a career high in that category.
Interim coach Jerry Rosburg said Wednesday that Wilson would start the Broncos’ final two games of season, including against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
“We’re going to play every player that’s available and healthy enough to play to try and win a football game,” Rosburg said. “… Russell Wilson is our starting quarterback and will be our starting quarterback.”
Wilson had his worst showing in a season full of uneven efforts in the 51-14 loss to Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Day with 15-of-27 passing for 214 yards and three interceptions. He threw two of those interceptions in his first three pass attempts of the game and both led to Rams touchdowns.
In the wake of Hackett’s firing, Wilson’s play has been scrutinized near and far. Both general manager George Paton and owner and CEO Greg Penner said Tuesday that Wilson can repair what needs to be repaired in his game. Paton and Penner also said Wilson’s struggles were not the only reason Hackett was fired.
“Russ even said he didn’t play up to his standard … he’d be the first one to tell you he didn’t play up to his standard, didn’t play up to our standard, he needs to be better,” Paton said. “I don’t think we made a coaching move based on Russ. That wasn’t what it was all about, that’s not why we’re getting a new coach to turn around Russ. It’s about the entire organization … it’s not whether Russ is fixable or not, we do believe he is, we do.”
On Wilson’s place on the team, Penner said “the decision to have Russell here is a long-term one.”
Wilson echoed those sentiments Wednesday.
“I know I can play exceptionally well, I know what I have in me and what I can do,” Wilson said. “… At the end of the day, each moment that you’re out there you want to play your best, I haven’t been able to do that this year so far.
“… Tough year in a lot of ways, just physically … [I’m] used to scoring a lot of touchdowns, winning a lot of games and that hasn’t happened, [it’s the] first time it’s been like this,” Wilson added. “… My expectations are higher than everybody else’s … my mission is still the same — bring Super Bowls to Denver.”
Asked how attractive he believed the Broncos’ job is for prospective coaches given his struggles and the struggles of the offense, Wilson called it a “special job.”
The Broncos traded five draft picks, including a first-round selection that now projects to be in the top three picks of next April’s draft, as well as three players to the Seattle Seahawks in March for Wilson. The Broncos then signed Wilson in early September to a five-year, $245 million contract.