Russell Wilson’s standard? ‘Whatever we had been doing isn’t enough’
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the Broncos traded for quarterback Russell Wilson in March, Courtland Sutton knew that his professional existence was about to change.
He just didn’t quite know how it would look and feel.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect,” Sutton said. “I knew that Russ was an amazing football player. I knew that what Russ does on the football field is special to him.
“But the preparation — unless you’re around it, you don’t really understand. And being able to be around him and understand how he has been able to have the success that he’s had — to be a Super Bowl winner, it doesn’t happen by luck.”
It was understandable that Sutton wouldn’t know — at least at the pro level. The Broncos lost 30 of the 50 games for which he suited up over his first four NFL seasons. Only twice has he taken the field in December or January for the Broncos when they entered the game better than .500. They lost both times.
His 12 career touchdown receptions came from six different passers. That group includes Emmanuel Sanders, his teammate during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
It was Sanders and the late Demaryius Thomas who regaled Sutton with tales about how it was all once so different … back in the salad days of Peyton Manning.
“I wasn’t here when Peyton was here, but I was able to hear about it from Emmanuel and D.T., and they raved about [him],” Sutton said. “I mean, Emmanuel would tell me, Peyton would come in, he would wear his pants, his shirt tucked in, everything was to a ‘T.’
“He had a mission, and he knew what he was coming in to do, and it’s a very similar thing that Russ does.”
Happy days are here again.
“He didn’t only change the vibe and energy for the team,” Sutton said of Wilson. “I mean, you can literally feel the energy flowing through the entire city and all of Broncos Country. Everyone is as excited as we are to play with him.”
But that excitement comes with a price: hard work. The work that has a different standard than it did during the interminable, six-season QB-Carousel interregnum that followed Manning’s retirement.
In Wilson, the Broncos finally have a quarterback who raises them through not only his caliber of play, but his diligence.
“He bleeds football,” Sutton said Tuesday after the Broncos concluded their second Phase 3 OTA of the year. “Saying that, he watches the film. He prepares himself to be able to be in the right place at the right time at all times and gives himself an A, B, C [escape plan] in whatever situation may be, all off of his preparation.
“And I think that’s the thing that allows us to be able to gain that connection with him. He’s prepping, but he’s also bringing us along with the prep. ‘Hey, what you guys got going right now? Hey, come up and watch this,’ whatever it may be.”
That’s how you start to raise a standard. What happens on the field in the regular season plays the biggest role. But the work in the spring and early summer lays the groundwork for it.
And the defining characteristic of that standard is simple: What the Broncos did in six seasons of fading relevance was nowhere close to sufficient.
“It’s the standard. Understanding that whatever we had been doing isn’t enough. You’ve gotta bring more to the table, and also being able to maximize the opportunities,” Sutton said.
“.. Holding yourself to the standard that your best is going to be needed every single day. I think [Wilson] being in the building, he definitely encourages that being brought from everybody — from the coaches, players, everyone. Everyone’s best is required every single day.”