Super Bowl buzz asks of Broncos offseason: Who plays QB in 2024?


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Shannon Sharpe, among most others, doesn’t think it will be Russell Wilson. But who?

LAS VEGAS — There are many needs the Denver Broncos must address this offseason. And there is but one.

Russell Wilson, the supposed franchise savior, was benched by head coach Sean Payton in the final two games of the season and the expectation is he will be gone 5 weeks from now.

“Look, I, like everybody else, thought it would be better than what it was,’’ said former Bronco tight end and forever Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe. “I just think Sean is going to want to go get his guy. Now I don’t know who his guy is, but it doesn’t seem to me that Russ is his guy.’’

No, it doesn’t. Payton, who was in town promoting an on-field tracking product, was asked by Jim Rome on the latter’s show what he was looking for in a quarterback.

“I think it’s important that they’re quick processors,’’ Payton said. “This was a strength of Drew’s, it’s a strength of Mahomes.’’

He was referring to Drew Brees, his quarterback for 14 of his previous 15 head coaching seasons in New Orleans, and Kansas City’s superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, who is about to play in the fourth Super Bowl before his 29th birthday.

Notice how Payton did not mention Wilson as an example. He didn’t mean anything by it. But the mind goes where the mind goes.

Payton talked about all the things a quarterback has to do before the snap – “point out the Mike (linebacker) ID, he’s going to send a receiver in motion, he’s going to alert the running back for a checkdown, he’s going to alert (Travis) Kelce it’s cover zero,” (did he say, Kelce?) – and after all that, he’s got to say hike and perform the play.

“These guys have to operate quickly in 6 or 7 seconds,’’ Payton said. “It’s the hardest thing for us to evaluate.”

Wilson, to his everlasting credit, is best not only after snap, but after the play that was called breaks down and he has make it up as he scrambles. He’s a proven good, winning quarterback (even if he’s not been his best the past two years with the Broncos) and Payton is a proven good, winning head coach (even if his 8-9 first season with the Broncos was not his best).

Together, these two winners, Wilson and Payton, seemed to fit like a dried up golf glove before the No. 1 tee box.

So who is Sean Payton’s guy?

Broncos players are like everyone else: They want to know what’s going to happen with Russ and their quarterback position. But they are also deferring the decision to the decision makers.

“I don’t know, it’s just tough,’’ Pro Bowl cornerback Pat Surtain II said Thursday while wearing dark shades and a bright-orange, Gucci-tailored suit from the NFL Honors Red Carpet. “Obviously, I don’t have any say-so as to what plays a part in that but I believe we will make the right decision. We’ll see.”

“I love Russ. We have a great relationship,’’ said left tackle Garett Bolles from the same piece of Red Carpet while wearing a more traditional, business-like suit. “We probably text or call each other every day. But at the end of the day it’s my job to protect whoever’s back there.

“Coach Payton is going to do whatever he’s going to do. George (Paton), the Penners are going to do what they need to do to help the organization win. And I’m going to do whatever I can to block for whoever is back there.”

Even if Payton was telling radio and TV reporters he has not yet ruled out a Wilson return, know this — Wilson’s contract means he would be back not only for $35 million in 2024 but for $37 million in 2025. That seems silly, given the circumstances. The circumstances include Payton yelling at Wilson on the sidelines during back-to-back games against the Chargers and Lions. And it includes Payton benching his starting quarterback in the final two games.

Wilson and his agent Mark Rodgers believe the benching was for contract reasons – and so do many others.

“I don’t like the way it ended. I don’t think you tell the guy, ‘Hey, redo this or we’re going to bench you,’’’ Sharpe said. “If you’re going to bench him just bench him and move on. Don’t wait til the guy loses a couple games and then you think that covers you.

“That’s not the way the Broncos have been. That’s not the team, that’s not the organization I was part of for 12 years. I hope they get that resolved.

“The Broncos haven’t been to the playoffs for how long now? Eight years? I’ve got to talk about Kansas City, seems like, I’ve been talking about Kansas City for the last eight years. And here they are in another Super Bowl. But it just shows you if you get that guy. You get that guy, this is what the possibilities are.

“It doesn’t matter what round you get him in. You see (49ers quarterback) Brock Purdy. Mr. Irrelevant. He’s very relevant now. But you’ve got to have that guy. But I believe you have to have a coach and organization that believes in you. Kind of like the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan believe in Brock Purdy.

“The Broncos, now I don’t know what Sean’s going through, I don’t know who his quarterback is but whoever it is moving forward that’s got to be the guy. OK, we gave you the power and the authority to go get who you believe is going to lead them.

“Because having met the Walton-Penner family, I know they want to win. I don’t know a whole lot about them. I know they’re very wealthy. But I know they want to win. Having a private conversation a couple years ago with them, they want to win. And rightfully so. When you’ve invested the kind of money they’ve invested, when you spend that kind of money on the coaching staff, they want it to pay off. And hopefully this is the year, in 2024, that it pays off.’’

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Super Bowl buzz asks of Broncos offseason: Who plays QB in 2024?

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