COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Chargers are down to their final two games of the season. As it looked like they would face Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes to end the season…Denver had other plans.
On Wednesday morning, Broncos head coach Sean Payton announced that they would bench Wilson for the final two games.
“Ultimately, our job is to get the ball in the end zone, and we have to be more efficient doing that. All of us,” Payton said. “I can’t replace the entire offensive line. I can’t bring in five new receivers. If it continues over a period of time, there will be another (coach) here talking to you, as well. These are difficult decisions.”
Wilson has completed 66% of his passes, throwing for 3,070, 26 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He also has ten fumbles and has been sacked 45 times (4th most in NFL).
He has been terrible, but he hasn’t been good. That could be said for Payton’s first year as the Broncos head coach.
They started the season 1-5 and got beaten 70-20 by the Miami Dolphins. They went on a five-game win streak until losing late against Houston, where Wilson threw a game-losing interception. Since that loss, they have gone 1-2 but still have a small playoff hope.
It seems odd to bench Wilson now, but there are financial incentives behind it due to an injury clause he hasn’t waived, according to various reports.
“It doesn’t change our mindset, going forward,” Chargers S Derwin James said. “With the guys that we have on defense, we have to come out and make it about us.”
Jarrett Stidham is now in a situation similar to last year when he was a member of the Las Vegas Raiders. They benched quarterback Derek Carr because of contract incentives, and he started the final two games.
The Raiders went 0-2, with Stidham throwing four touchdowns and three interceptions.
“I’m 0-1 versus Jarrett Stidham, he beat me in 2017 when I was at Alabama,” defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley said. “He’s a good player, pocket guy. He has sneaky athleticism. He’s bigger than you think. We’ve researched him from the Raiders and Denver, and we have a pretty good idea of who he is.”
Ansley was a defensive backs coach at the University of Alabama when Stidham was Auburn’s quarterback. The Tigers beat the Crimson Tide 28-21, with the quarterback scoring a rushing touchdown.
Stidham versus Easton Stick was not the matchup many expected, but this will be an interesting game.
The Chargers sit at 5-10 with the sixth overall pick, something they would want to improve, only going further up, not down.
“Just trying to win,” Stick said. “I’ve said it before, you put everything into this game. When you do that, obviously, there’s a ton of pride. This matters to a lot of people — not just in this building, but especially in this building, it matters a lot.”
Wilson gives them the best chance to win, but without him, it is a toss-up to who wins the game.
The Chargers will continue to play for pride while the Broncos are still somewhat alive. Even with the quarterback change, the Chargers expect the Broncos’ best punch.
“We’ll prepare for whoever goes out there, even if they switch it back,” Smith said. “We’ll have a gameplan for all the quarterbacks.”