Sean Payton defends handling of Russell Wilson, hints at ‘Hard Knocks’

After the Denver Broncos benched quarterback Russell Wilson last week, coach Sean Payton faced heavy criticism from fans and pundits for how he handled the Wilson situation this season.

Payton yelling at Wilson on the sideline did not help the perception that the coach was not a fan of his quarterback, but Payton did stick up for Wilson the moment he arrived in Denver.

Pundits like ESPN’s Ryan Clark seem to have forgotten about Payton’s defense of Wilson this offseason. The coach has been absolutely blasted by national media members since Wilson was benched.

The coach was asked last Friday about the criticism he’s faced.

“I think it’s part of the deal, and I understand it,” Payton said. “I get it. It’s the only thing that makes me once and a while want to do Hard Knocks. There’s a perception. That would be the only reason to get an inside look as to this whole ‘old school’ approach. Shoot, you don’t do this this long if you’re not adjusting, funny, creative — all those things. I think I am all those things.”

Because the Broncos will not have a new head coach, did not qualify for the playoffs in 2023 and have not appeared on Hard Knocks in the last ten years, they can’t say no if the NFL asks them to be featured on the show next summer. Payton hinting that he has even the slightest of willingness to be on the show might be something to keep an eye on going into the offseason.

Back to Wilson — Payton insisted after Sunday’s 16-9 win over the Los Angeles Chargers that he has a good relationship with his quarterback.

“Look, I think this idea that he and I, or we, don’t have a good relationship, or he’s not a fit, all of that stuff comes from people further away from our program,” Payton said. “You guys are close to it. I think the further away people are from the program, the more they just jump to a narrative. It is what it is, but he’s approached this week like we expected — like a pro. That’s it.” 

Wilson, as usual, has handled the situation well. New starter Jarrett Stidham praised the quarterback for his help leading up to last week’s game.

“We had a great talk at the beginning of the week,” Stidham said of Wilson after beating the Chargers. “He said he was there for me — anything I needed. We were communicating on the sideline after drives and stuff. [I] can’t speak highly enough about him — I said that earlier this week. Great teammate, great person. He was super helpful throughout the week.”

Payton has insisted that he does not have a fractured relationship with Wilson, but that hasn’t stopped speculation that Wilson will likely be released in March. That’s a storyline to keep an eye on in the coming months — and Denver’s candidacy for Hard Knocks is another topic to monitor.

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Story originally appeared on Broncos Wire