DENVER (AP) – The most one-sided trade in NFL history sent Herschel Walker to Minnesota for two handfuls of players and draft picks who served as pillars of the Dallas Cowboys dynasty in the 1990s.
The Russell Wilson deal isn’t quite so lopsided, but eight months into it certainly looks as one-sided as any deal since the Walker washout, which Jerry Jones immediately dubbed “The Great Train Robbery.”
What Denver has 33 years later might very well go down as “The Big Bamboozle.”
Walker wasn’t exactly a bust in Minneapolis, scoring 25 touchdowns in 2 1/2 seasons with the Vikings. But he was long gone by the time the Cowboys’ trade blossomed, following Jones and Jimmy Johnson’s Emmitt Smith, Alexander Wright, Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, Dixon Edwards, Robert Jones, Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson on their way to three Super Bowls parades had drafted.
Wilson wasn’t what the Broncos expected when GM George Paton sent first- and second-round picks this year and next, along with three players for the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who is said to be still in was its heyday.
The $245 million preseason extension he granted Wilson only adds to the anxiety of Broncos fans, who have seen a string of quarterback failures since Peyton Manning left after winning Super Bowl 50 to play with his brothers Making game shows and commercials.
The Seahawks selected tackle Charles Cross in the first round and edge rusher Boye Mafe in the second with the premium picks from Denver. As it stands now, they will have the No. 6 overall pick in the 2023 draft thanks to Wilson’s debacle of a Denver debut.
Not only that, Geno Smith, Wilson’s replacement in Seattle, is having the kind of season that everyone outside of Washington expected Wilson to play in the Rocky Mountains this year.
Smith tied the surprising Seahawks 6-4 on the NFC West with the 49ers. He completes a league-high 72.8% of his passes in his first year as a starter since 2014 and has 17 touchdown throws and four interceptions.
With six losses from nine starts, Wilson is completing a career-worst 59.5%, is on his way to a career-high 57 sacks and has thrown just seven touchdown passes with five interceptions.
The Broncos are 3-7 and sitting in the basement of the AFC West after being swept by the lowly Raiders and coach Josh McDaniels on Sunday.
The Seahawks are averaging 25.7 points per game with Smith at quarterback, just a touch above the 25.3 they averaged during Wilson’s tenure in Seattle.
Wilson’s startlingly poor game in Denver prompted a reporter to ask him Sunday after the 16-16 overtime loss to the Raiders if the Broncos just weren’t good enough to win these kinds of games.
Fans are beginning to wonder if it’s Wilson who isn’t good enough anymore, as the Broncos have lost six games by one point and negate Denver’s dominant defense, averaging just 14.7 points.
They’d be an NFL best at 9-1 right now if they just averaged the 19.7 points per game they averaged last year with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock as quarterbacks.
Or the 20.2 they scored the year before when Lock led the league with 15 interceptions.
Or the 20.6 they averaged with Case Keenum in 2018.
Or the 19.3 they averaged with Trevor Siemian in 2016, just as they averaged with Tim Tebow in 2011.
Wilson did not team up with rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who has now hired someone to help him administer the games and appointed another staff member to officiate the games.
After weeks of stubbornly refusing to give up his play-calling duties, Hackett relented and turned them over to Klint Kubiak, his QBs coach and passing-game coordinator.
The move paid off immediately as Wilson staged his first touchdown with the Broncos, a 92-yard beauty that was followed by nine drives that either went empty or ended in field goals.
Hackett recently added 7-on-7 drills to practice after abandoning training camp staples last summer and depriving Wilson of hundreds, if not thousands, of throws to develop a relationship and rhythm with his receivers.
Now many of them are injured along with several offensive linemen. But that’s not all that hurts Denver’s sputtering offense.
Wilson made poor decisions and poor throws during the crunch period that have cost the Broncos losses to the Colts, Chargers, Jets, Titans and now the Raiders.
He keeps missing open receivers with either his eyes or his arm and has only shown flashes of the vintage Russell Wilson the Broncos thought they were getting last spring.
The Broncos have managed just four touchdowns at home, the fewest in a five-game home stretch in the franchise’s 63-year history.
They’re 0-3 in overtime, including Sunday’s game when Wilson couldn’t even touch the ball in overtime after scoring one just after the 2-minute caution in the fourth quarter when the Raiders ran out of time-outs made a crucial mistake.
He threw incomplete on thirds and 10s instead of sliding down and taking the sack that would have burned another 40 seconds off the clock. That left Derek Carr just 1:43 to put the Raiders within field goal range to tie it.
“I think at the end of the experience we learn how to win again,” Wilson said. “Sometimes it’s a journey; sometimes it’s ugly, sometimes it’s tough. What probably hurts more than anything is that those games were close, one goal. We have to be able to find ways to win them .”
Then Wilson said something interesting.
“It’s never good to lose,” he said, “but it’s almost like at least someone’s kicking our ass.”
Wilson could get his wish.
The Broncos have two games left against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, who they have beaten 13 straight times and are averaging 30 points per game, more than double Denver’s batting average.