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Russ’s Redemption: Can a Struggling Russel Wilson Rediscover his Red Zone Magic?

Zach Godsey

Payton hopes to light a spark in the Broncos offense, reviving Russel Wilson.


As of November 2022, Russel Wilson was the worst quarterback in the NFL in terms of red zone production. His total quarterback rating (QBR), once 91.9, has dropped down to an abysmal 6.3. While part of the blame can fall on his age, Wilson’s decline can be mostly attributed to a poor coaching situation and a weak supporting offense. Once considered as one of the league’s most efficient quarterbacks, with an 8.2 percent touchdown percentage in 2018, Wilson’s sudden decline has become a massive cause for concern. In 2020, his 60.4 QBR placed him at a respectable 16th in the NFL, but the 2021 season saw him drop to 21st, and the disappointment continued into 2022, as his QBR plummeted to a lowly 27th in the league. This soon became evident on the field, as the Broncos finished the regular season with a disappointing record of 5-12. Gone is the quarterback who could be relied upon to deliver under pressure near the goal line, and now Wilson finds himself in the unenviable position of a struggling passer. If he could rediscover his red zone magic, Wilson may salvage the back half of his career, posing the question: can Russel Wilson be fixed?


If anyone is capable of orchestrating a turnaround, it is Sean Payton. Payton has earned a reputation for being one of the league's best play callers, and his impact on Drew Brees’ career stands as a testament to his aptitude. While Payton’s coaching paved the way for the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl run, his true brilliance shines through in Drew Brees’ veteran years, during which Brees’ arm strength had declined significantly. In his final season, the 41-year-old Brees was throwing an average of only 7.5 yards per throw. Despite this, Payton’s adaptability generated new ways to get in the end zone, taking the Saints to the playoffs in five of their last ten seasons.


While an aging Wilson is now facing the harsh reality of both physical decline and a new receiving core, the prospect of Sean Payton’s intervention offers a glimmer of hope. Payton's track record of adapting his offensive strategies to suit both the strengths and limitations of his quarterback makes him the ideal candidate to change Wilson’s declining trajectory. The football community has vocalized their confidence in Payton, with longtime veterans such as Tony Romo offering a vote of confidence for the pair. In an interview on a recent podcast, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback pointed out Payton’s knack for understanding his players and placing them in an advantageous position with his playcalling, as Romo said, “Sean has done that for a long time.”


While some have doubts about Payton’s future with the Broncos, criticizing his style of offense, Romo has predicted otherwise, saying that Payton will “come in and fit this offense to [Wilson].” In light of Romo’s analysis, it is evident that despite the skepticism surrounding Payton’s coaching style, he should be able to tailor an offense to fit the strengths of Wilson’s skill set, bringing him back to life.


In the face of doubt and skepticism, it is important to recognize the transformative power of coaching, especially that of Super Bowl Champion, Sean Payton. While Wilson’s recent struggles have been significant, the prospect of revival to his previous glory remains within reach. The stage is set for Sean Payton to work his magic once again and lead Russ's redemption.


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