LONDON — In the High Court of public opinion, Sir Russ has been relegated to "Errr, Russ?"
His “Subway” commercial, trashed. His authenticity, under fire (even more so). His quarterbacking, written off. Russell Wilson and the Broncos are in Year 1 of an expensive marriage, and “Team 3” so far is a net zero.
Wednesday, the Russ Show went international as the Broncos held their first London practice on the forested campus of a 450-year-old British boarding school, Harrow School, with its $50,000 tuition and Winston Churchill among the alums. In that mood, Wilson responded to the hard times with a motivational pitch fit for an old-school chalkboard.
“Storms don’t always last.”
Gosh, I hope he's right. The Russ era feels like it’s 450 years old, and it’s still October.
“This one’s not going to last,” Wilson pledged.
His mouth to God's ears. The combo of bad acting and bad football wouldn't pass the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, let alone in Broncos Country.
The Broncos have 99 problems as they prepare to play the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium Sunday — if not for the rest of Wilson’s contract through 2028. The quarterback is the only one that truly matters. You can replace front office suits and coaches. Franchise QB money is almost forever.
So how does a $245 million man combat the storm barreling down on his reputation? Wilson revealed he got his workout on during the team’s 8-hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
“The first 2 hours I was watching film and cut-ups. Then for the next 4 hours I was getting treatment, doing high-knees and working on my legs,” Wilson said Wednesday afternoon.
I feel like this is decent advice, whether you're a president with a free-falling economy or the NFL's worst offense by far: don't tell people how great you're doing. They have eyeballs.
A 4-hour workout over the Atlantic Ocean? Russ might not be the first athlete to hold one, but he might be the first to tell the world about it. Then again, if Russ looks like the old Russ against the Jags, Broncos Country would rock a tank top and channel Richard Simmons on the next flight.
“Go Broncos,” Wilson said to cap his British address. “Let’s ride.”
OK, here’s the first step in rebuilding Wilson’s image: Bury that catchphrase in the Thames. Imagine “Let’s ride” is a bad guy on “Peaky Blinders” and make it swim with the fishes.
There, had to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening.
The second step is winning. That’s truly all that matters, too. The haters aren’t taking jabs at the “DangeRuss” sandwich if the Broncos are 5-2 and Wilson is cooking like the good ol’ days. Instead, the Broncos are 2-5 and wondering if the Seahawks sold them on a bill of goods.
“The thing is, we can control the outside noise by the way we play,” Wilson said. “That’s for everybody, starting with me.”
Wilson has a bum hamstring that kept him out of last week’s game. This is just one man’s hunch, but it’s going to take a lost leg to prevent Wilson from taking the stage in London, not far from the West End theater district. He's a business, man, with international interests, and the NFL badly wants to plant a franchise or four in Europe. Shoot, Russ and Ciara got married up the road in a 19th-century castle in Cheshire. They were guests in the Royal Box at Wimbledon a few months ago.
“Ready to roll,” Wilson said of his playing status. “Super locked in.”
Wilson is 1-0 in London. His Seahawks beat the Raiders here in 2018. He loves this place. Who doesn’t? And London sure is a heckuva lot more comfortable than Denver at the moment, given the bloody bad play of the Broncos' offense.
The Wilson era with the Broncos so far has been one long wince, and I’m not talking about the results. It’s the unawareness that helps turn people off. While many of the darts lobbed at Russ have been over the line and bordering on personal attacks, this isn’t that: I sincerely wish someone close to Wilson would have a heart-to-heart with a good man, if they haven’t already.
Is Wilson a bad dude? Not a chance. Detached from reality? No doubt. There’s a time and place for clout reminders and motivational speeches that could be found on T-shirts at the CHSAA state wrestling tournament. Sitting at 2-5 isn’t one of those times.
Russ has two chefs and a well-paid "Team Russ" around him. What he needs is a Read The Room guy. Hey, this is a football marriage that must work. Colorado can’t wince for six more years.
With the trade deadline coming up on Tuesday, Wilson said he can relate to the whispers that are inevitable for a team that should be sellers. The Seahawks shopped Russ around, too.
“I heard there was some stuff about (Bradley) Chubb and (Jerry) Jeudy and these guys. I told them: ‘Listen, the greater you are, the more people are going to want you and the more people are going to throw your names out there and see what hits and what doesn’t hit,’” Wilson said.
Heading into their ninth game at Wembley Stadium, the Jags have built a following in London. The Broncos are here for the same reason three of their first five games were on prime-time TV back in the States: a brand-name quarterback. Everyone from ownership on down saw a steady stream of fans exit Mile High with the results of two home games still in doubt.
“I think it’s more emotional (than financial). The visual you don’t like to see. You want to feel like the fans are going to stay there until the final horn, the final whistle,” team president Damani Leech said Wednesday.
He added, "It’s definitely something we’re focused on.”
Kent Denver has nothing on Harrow School, an all-boys school with a 9-hole golf course on the grounds. Actor Bennedict Cumberpatch graduated from here to Marvel Comics.
“Dr. Strange?” Broncos safety Justin Simmons said. “I know him!”
The strangest part of the Broncos’ current state is Wilson's crash landing so far. And fixing Russ is the only real solution to their problems.