BRONCOS

The debate over whether Russell Wilson is “corny” is just stupid

Jul 20, 2022, 10:15 PM | Updated: 10:48 pm
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

“Broncos Country, let’s ride.”

Russell Wilson said those words at his initial press conference after becoming a Denver Bronco in March.

With the aid of a social-media producer, he posts Instagram videos of the travels he makes with his family. Videos commemorating his love for his wife, Ciara. Videos of his workouts with teammates.

This bothers some people, and I don’t have the faintest clue why.

Because it’s … “corny”?

As Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson might say, “Child, please.”

This is the problem people have with Wilson? With all that ails the world and all the nonsense in sports, this is what raises umbrage in some?

What a colossal waste of time, energy and bandwidth. I can think of few things less relevant and more pointless than the perception that Wilson might be “corny.”

***

First of all, Who cares if he is “corny”? You’re not asking the man to set trends or organize a Colorado version of Coachella.

You’re asking him to be a quarterback. Which, more and more, means connecting with teammates despite being a generation older than most of the players surrounding him. That was the case for Peyton Manning when he took his first Broncos practice snaps at age 36, and even with the generation gap and effectively being a coach on the field, things worked out fine.

Wilson’s teammates think enough of him to show up at his San Diego home for a few days in their July downtime to get in some extra work.

OK, so maybe they do that because they want to impress Wilson.

And that’s a problem … how?

Last I checked, he’s got far more skins on the wall, in the parlance of John Fox, than everyone else at Camp Russ combined. Nine Pro Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl starts and a Super Bowl ring.

It’s like when Manning walked into Dove Valley 10 years ago. He joined a team that had two playoff games in the previous six seasons. A team that hadn’t even broken .500 in the previous five years.

Like the Broncos of today, those players were willing to listen to someone who knew how to win.

When someone like that talks, you listen. At least if you care even a single iota about being successful after being one of just two teams — along with the New York Jets — to miss the playoffs for the last six consecutive years.

The Broncos, as recently constructed, didn’t have the road map to success.

Meanwhile, Wilson walks into Denver with a brand-new atlas in the breast pocket of his impeccably-tailored suit jacket.

***

The Broncos’ recent failures started with quarterback, of course. Denver’s cumulative post-Super Bowl 50 passer rating of 79.1 is fourth from the bottom.

In that same span, Seattle’s passer rating is fourth-best. Wilson threw almost all of those passes. And even with its defense taking massive personnel hits as the “Legion of Boom” aged, Wilson kept the Seahawks competitive, relevant and regulars on the playoff dance floor while the Broncos became wallflowers.

Yes, his salary chewed up more of the Seahawks’ cap. But Seattle also doomed itself with curious draft decisions and questionable trades. The aging of the “Legion of Boom” didn’t help; by the end of 2017, two of the original four members of that secondary had played their final NFL games.

Yet Seattle remained a playoff regular. In the seven seasons following their most recent Super Bowl appearances, the Seahawks made the postseason five times and had just one losing season — the one in which Wilson missed three games due to injury.

The quarterback some call “corny” was the biggest reason why the Seahawks stayed in the conversation while the Broncos, with their own great mid-2010s defense, faded.

I’ll take “corniness” with an 165-to-42 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the last five years over …

  • … trying to be cool with touchdown dances whilst having the type of TD-to-INT rate that hasn’t been acceptable since the mid-1990s;
  • … being so cool that you don’t even say hello to your teammates as you walk the halls of team headquarters;
  • … or being cool to the idea of displaying any kind of mentorship to the rookie quarterback who is a decade younger.

All of those woes washed away when Wilson walked into Broncos headquarters.

***

Meanwhile, the “corny” critiques — specifically those from the 12s, the Seahawks’ fan base — have a spurned-lover quality to them.

I can almost hear Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” as I see the defiance. And I understand the sentiment.

After all, what choice do the Emerald City’s supporters have? Crawl into the fetal position and sob, or try to talk yourself into a quarterback competition featuring an unproven young QB trying to find consistency and an eight-year veteran best known for dalliances with flat-earth theory, once tweeting, “I been studying this whole flat earth vs globe thing… and I think I may be with Kyrie on this.”

(I mean, I’d give the job to Lock on that basis alone, even if his career TD-to-INT ratio was 10-to-40 instead of the actual 25-to-20. The mental side is part of being a quarterback, and flat-earth flirtation means you kind of fail that test. It doesn’t make you a critical thinker; it makes you a nonsensical one.)

What some call “corny,” I call “earnest” — especially when it reflects his actual personality. And there is no tangible evidence what we see isn’t Wilson’s true, authentic self.

Being earnest used to be a good thing. Only in recent generations — some defined by ironic detachment, others featuring a too-cool-for-school mindset that pervades the social-media landscape — has this sort of thing become frowned upon.

This is who Wilson was when he walked into the locker room in Madison, Wisc. 11 years ago as a graduate transfer to Wisconsin. He learned the playbook, earned the respect of his teammates and by the start of the season, was a team captain.

You do that by being your truest self and earning the respect of those around you.

Critiquing Wilson for being “corny” is just nonsensical foraging for a reason to “hate.” It means nothing. And besides, Broncos Country needs a little rah-rah, a little old-school vim and vigor.

Better to be yourself and be “corny” than to pretend to be “cool” when it’s something that eludes you. If you’re a nerd, be a nerd.

Authenticity always beats fake coolness.

So, stop worrying and let Russ cook … and better yet, let Russ be Russ.

Because it’s more than Broncos Country has had since Peyton Manning said, “God bless football” and strode into his orange sunset.

***

So, if you shouldn’t care about nonsensical erceptions of “corniness,” what should you care about?

Care about Wilson’s performance.

Care about his chemistry with his receiving targets and his offensive linemen.

And care about Wilson’s community involvement, which was so massive in Seattle that it earned him NFL Man of the Year honors. He’s already begun laying the groundwork for a similar impact in Colorado, with hospital visits and his recent passing-academy day.

Odds are, he’ll pass every test. And he’ll continue to be a role model and a father whose children adore him.

Whether he’s “corny” or not, that’s up to you. But if you get wrinkled up about that, it means you’re focused on something that means diddly squat in terms of what he is as a quarterback and as a human being.

“Broncos Country, let’s ride.”

If you don’t like that after six years of false starts and dashed hopes from the quarterback position, go roll your eyes someplace else.

***

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The debate over whether Russell Wilson is “corny” is just stupid