Jarrett Stidham Could Be Only One Excited by Denver Broncos Win | Westword

Is Jarrett Stidham the Only One Excited by Broncos Win Over Chargers?

The season has turned into a slow-motion car wreck, with several casualties during the New Year's Eve game.
Jarrett Stidham led the Broncos to victory against the Los Angeles Chargers on December 31 despite an average performance.
Jarrett Stidham led the Broncos to victory against the Los Angeles Chargers on December 31 despite an average performance. Denver Broncos via YouTube
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After your Denver Broncos defeated the woeful Los Angeles Chargers 16-9 on New Year's Eve, starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham (man, is it weird to type those words) summed up his experience by telling the press, "What a cool feeling it is."

For him, certainly, since the victory was his first from the pilot seat since entering the NFL. But most Broncos fans on social media and beyond were notably less enthusiastic, and who can blame them? During the previous week, the franchise had essentially transformed itself into a giant wienie roast, and even after the win, there were more than enough flaming dicks to go around.

The leader of this non-exclusive club was head coach Sean Payton, who days earlier had said he'd decided to bench pricey QB Russell Wilson for the final two games of the bizarre 2023-2024 season and install Stidham as his replacement, in part because he thought the move might spark the squad — so disingenuous a lie that it could have, and probably should have, prompted the reporters to whom he made this claim to burst into derisive laughter. In truth, Payton simply needed someone to blame for the Broncos' underperformance other than his dyspeptic self. Hence, the Russ-for-Stidham swap, which could save the Broncos $37 million if/when they jettison Wilson in the weeks and months to come, but is all but guaranteed to plunge the franchise into years of futility.

Not that Payton would ever admit such a thing. His belief in his own genius is positively Trumpian, as is his confidence that he can transform any stiff into a superstar. Witness his earlier attempt to turn New Orleans Saints tight end Taysom Hill into a field general — which didn't exactly end with Hill hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. But the Stidham move buys Payton time, positioning him as the only person capable of resurrecting the Broncos even if the path to redemption looks suspiciously like the Bataan death march.

For his part, Stidham eagerly seized his opportunity. But on the field, he looked like exactly what he is — a career backup whose floor and ceiling are in close proximity. Stidham wound up completing twenty of 34 passes for 224 yards versus the Chargers, who were helmed by another longtime bench-sitter, the soon-to-be-forgotten Easton Stick, and were simply playing out the string on an ultra-disappointing campaign that had already cost coach Brandon Staley his job. But these stats are padded by the performance of Lil'Jordan Humphrey, whose miraculous 54-yard touchdown pass was 5 percent Stidham and 95 percent him. Subtract that, and Stidham's numbers would have essentially duplicated Wilson's play at its most mediocre.

Granted, Stidham is a handsome fella — the hunkiest Broncos quarterback since Brady Quinn, who now makes his living on television panel shows rather than the gridiron. Start practicing your punditry now, Jarrett.

At the outset of the contest, the Broncos had not yet been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs — but Kansas City's belated triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals put an end to that fantasy. Now, all that's left for the Broncos is the drama, and there's plenty of that. Wilson has been left to wander the Denver sidelines like the world's saddest motivational speaker; CBS cameras captured him several times on Sunday trying to pump up his teammates, who mostly avoided making eye contact with him. Meanwhile, general manager George Paton, whose trade for Russ is already being called one of the worst in professional football history, has disappeared from sight entirely. Perhaps the Walmart executives who now own the team have placed him in the witness protection program for fear that he might spread some of the blame for the current catastrophe to them.

And fans? Judging from the following takes on the Service Formerly Known as Twitter, they're alternately bitter, confused and conflicted over Wilson, Stidham and the other events that have set so many tube steaks ablaze. See what we mean below:

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