Sports Columnists | Kiszla: Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson has heard he’s washed up and has kept the receipts

Vengeance, thy name is the pain of Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson.

Is he ready to make the hated Raiders and the champion Chiefs pay?

After getting buried by a mountain of criticism for doing a painful pratfall during his debut season in Denver, I asked Wilson on Wednesday if he kept the receipts.

“I think you have to keep them in your back pocket,” replied Wilson, a mischievous grin lighting up his face.

A little salty, don’t you think?

And refreshing, especially from a quarterback whose words are usually as warm and soft as a puppy dog’s nose.

But from the first time I met Wilson, way back when he was playing football for the Wisconsin Badgers, it was evident there’s a big chip on this little quarterback’s shoulder.

While Wilson proudly wears his religious faith on his sleeve, if I correctly remember how Samuel L. Jackson devilishly misquoted Ezekiel 25:17 in “Pulp Fiction,” there can be heck to pay from a man who seeks vengeance with receipts in his back pocket.

“Listen, I’m used to some of those who believe and some of those who doubt,” Wilson said. “I think when you’re playing high stakes and you dream to be the best that you can be every possible day, there’s always going to be people who question whether you can do it or not.”

Coming off the worst season of his NFL career, there’s no doubt Wilson has heard the endless criticism born of his miserable first season in Denver. Talking knuckleheads on the TV called him washed up, former teammates called him phony and new Broncos coach Sean Payton called him out in an interview with an ESPN reporter.

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“I think I’ve proven throughout my career what I can do,” Wilson said. “And I’ve got to do it again. That’s just the name of the game.”

While I’m not predicting the Broncos will win a championship in Payton’s first year in charge, I fully expect a philosophy of “less Russ is more” to get Denver back in the playoff hunt.

In fact, I think there’s an interesting parallel between where Wilson is now and a bold move John Elway made late in Peyton Manning’s stint with the Broncos.

Coach John Fox had let Manning write the offensive playbook, and ceding control looked good through the 2013 regular season, when PFM threw 55 touchdown passes.

But starting with the Super Bowl debacle against Seattle and a hangover that lingered into the next season, Manning began to show signs he could no longer be the puppet master of the NFL universe.

After a 22-7 loss to St. Louis in November 2014, Elway made the tough decision that the Broncos would no longer revolve around Manning. The change in direction made both Fox and Manning bristle, leading in no small measure to the departure of Fox as coach.

It proved to be a wise move for a team stacked with defensive talent. The Broncos discovered they could win big, and even hoist the Lombardi Trophy, without Manning at the center of everything they did on the field.

Payton sent a clear signal the moment he acquired offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers in free agency, that the Broncos will pound the rock with Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine, and lean heavily on Wilson only if the scoreboard dictates that Russ must cook with the game on the line.

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In a buzzworthy article published this week by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, Payton reportedly told Wilson to worry more about football and less about his brand, with this blunt criticism: “Will you … stop kissing all the babies? You’re not running for public office.”

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Usually more on time than a Swiss watch, Wilson ran late for his weekly meet-the-press session. He explained he had to get in his workout after practice before stating how crucial it is for the Broncos to beat Las Vegas in what I regard as a must-win game in the season-opener.

Well, it’s good to know the coach, the QB and the rest of us are finally all on the same page in a city that lives, dies and bleeds orange for its pro football team.

While everybody in Broncos Country and his harshest critics across NFL Nation will track the numbers, demanding that Wilson ramp up his touchdown production and cut back on the interceptions, how far DangeRuss and the Broncos go in the upcoming season might be better quantified by a whole different kind of statistic.

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Less baby kissing. More kicking tuchus and taking names.

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