Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton talks with quarterback Russell Wilson Sep 17, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton talks with quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the fourth quarter against the Washington Commanders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton said Friday the decision to bench Russell Wilson is “strictly” about winning, and not about the quarterback’s contract dispute with the team.

Wilson then told reporters the decision is the direct result of that contract issue.

Who’s telling the truth? The NFL world was left wondering following the directly conflicting reports.

The Broncos announced earlier this week that Wilson would be benched the final two games of the season for backup Jarrett Stidham. The surprising move was followed by reports that Wilson expects to be cut by the team in March and that the two sides had been at odds for a couple of months, with Broncos officials threatening to bench him if he didn’t adjust his contract terms.

Payton denied knowing anything about those contract talks, and said his move to sit Wilson was “strictly” a football decision.

“I’m not privvy to any of those (negotiations). I’m handling the football,” Payton said (via Andrew Mason of “I’m not involved in any of that (contract talks). Certainly, I’m involved in a lot. There will be a time and place at the end of the season where maybe some of the questions you might have, someone else will be able to answer.

“My focus has been on winning. … I know how this has been written, but this decision is strictly what I believe gives us a chance to win No. 8. It’s a hard decision …”


Payton’s claims clouded the narrative for a few minutes, until Wilson talked with reporters and confirmed what everyone had been reporting.

“They came up to me during the bye week and told me if I didn’t change my contract, I didn’t change my injury guarantee I’d be benched the rest of year,” Wilson said.


Wilson has an injury guarantee in his contract for 2025 that the Broncos had requested he defer.

Regardless of what really happened behind the scenes, Payton’s reputation has taken a beating not only this week, but dating back to the recent incident where he yelled at Wilson during a game.

Payton’s claim that Wilson’s demotion is all about “winning” left many fans very skeptical, although some cast doubt on Wilson’s account of the situation, too.

[Parker Gabriel, Denver Post]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.