BRONCOS

Hackett and Wilson show that they don’t get Broncos-Raiders rivalry

Oct 2, 2022, 7:56 PM
Russell Wilson and Derek Carr...
(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

All week, Nathaniel Hackett was given the opportunity to embrace the rivalry between the Broncos and Raiders. Denver’s head coach was asked repeated by the media if this week’s game was special, given the storied history between the two franchises, and each time he declined to lean into the conversation.

“It’s part of the West and the West is the fastest way to have a chance to get to the playoffs,” Hackett said. “There’s definitely emphasis on that. (You) can’t really hate anybody in this world. That’s too much energy. It’s another game, we’re excited to go against the Raiders.”

Technically, Hackett is right. It is just another game. A win or loss against the Raiders counts the same as one against the Seahawks, Texans or 49ers.

But to the fans, to the diehards in Broncos Country, it means more. A lot more.

The Broncos have been playing the Raiders twice per season since 1960, when both teams were founding members of the American Football League. In the more than 60 years since, there have many memorable moments that have led to a disdain for Oakland / Los Angeles / Las Vegas in Denver.

In the early days, the Raiders dominated the rivalry. That created a scar that still exists for long-time fans.

The Broncos got more competitive over the years, starting with a win over Oakland in the 1977 AFC Championship Game. The rivalry has seen Lester Hayes trying to gouge out Vance Johnson’s eyes, Lincoln Kennedy going into the stands at Mile High Stadium to confront a snowball-throwing fan, Mike Shanahan’s obsession with beating the Raiders and more.

Add it all up and the games simply mean more to people in Broncos Country. They have a negative reaction whenever they see silver and black.

Hackett could’ve endeared himself to the fan base by acknowledging that fact last week. He could’ve shown an appreciation for the 62-year history between the two franchises.

Instead, he called it just “another game.” It’s not.

On Sunday, the inability to read the room spread to his quarterback. After a disappointing 32-23 loss to the Raiders, Russell Wilson was all smiles on the field.

That’s an image that is sure to make skin crawl in Broncos Country. It’s hard to imagine John Elway or Peyton Manning doing that after a loss to the Raiders.

Do Hackett and Wilson have a “healthier” approach to the situation? Maybe. But they’re also not making things any easier on themselves in the process.

No one expects Hackett to truly hate Josh McDaniels, Mark Davis or any member of the Raiders organization. But a general “sports hate” of the team would be nice.

And no one expects Wilson to be a poor sport who won’t talk to the opposing quarterback. But perhaps saving the jersey exchange for a private moment in the bowels of the stadium would be a better approach.

Broncos Country would rather see and hear what Bradley Chubb did this week. Denver’s edge rusher admitted his disdain for the Raiders. And then when the final gun sounded in Las Vegas, he made a beeline for the dressing room, not appearing to stop for pleasantries.

Losing to the Raiders can have bad consequences in Denver. Ask Wade Phillips. Ask McDaniels. Ask Vic Fangio.

Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson are now 0-1 as Broncos against the team’s most-hated rival. That’ll make the fan base angry. The head coach and quarterback are only adding fuel to that fire with their approach to the game.

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Hackett and Wilson show that they don’t get Broncos-Raiders rivalry