By Chad Jensen
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (247SPORTS)– Derek Wolfe is always going to give it to you straight. There’s a reason the Denver Broncos don’t stick him in front of a microphone more often than they do.
But the PR department can’t control which reporters talk to which players when the team holds an ‘open locker room’ media day. On Tuesday, The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala published an incendiary Wolfe quote on Twitter.
Before we get to said quote, let me first set the stage. The Broncos are sitting at 3-6 with almost half the schedule left to be played. Like the old saying, ‘and into the garden a serpent did come’, losing opens the door to all forms of temptation and back-biting.
It opens the team up to discontent and turmoil. Players are going to be tempted to complain. They’re going to oftentimes point fingers. You would hope that team leaders, like Wolfe, wouldn’t throw his team or coaches and teammates under the bus. But perhaps the truth hurts to resist the temptation.
“I thought we were going to have a quarterback. I thought we were going to keep a lot of the guys on the defense,” Wolfe said. “That’s why I took that haircut. A huge haircut, because I wanted to stay here and be a part of the best defense to play it. I didn’t know that [former Broncos DC] Wade [Phillips] was going to end up leaving. I thought I was going to have Wade for a while. Nothing against Joe Woods, I was just really comfortable with where I was at. Then everything changed.”
Suffice to say, Wolfe isn’t happy with the state of the Broncos. Whatever company line the team brass sold Wolfe back during the 2015 season — in order to get him to sign a team-friendly extension — the player clearly doesn’t believe the Broncos held up their end of the bargain.
But in fairness, its not like GM John Elway hasn’t tried to solve the quarterback problem. Elway’s tried the draft, the trade market and free agency but thus far, no player has been up to the task of succeeding Peyton Manning.
Let’s face it; nobody can replace Peyton Manning, just like no quarterback could replace John Elway in Denver after he retired. Those caliber of quarterbacks are hard to come by, but as Elway himself has stated, he’s going to “keep swinging” until he finally connects with a bona-fide franchise player.
Meanwhile, the natives are restless. Wolfe is unhappy, and is obviously still bitter about losing Wade Phillips following the 2016 season. That coaching loss can be laid squarely at the feet of Elway.
Denver’s front-office czar has made three colossal mistakes since Super Bowl 50 (more can be argued but..) that have set this team back by a couple years. To wit:
- Choosing to draft Paxton Lynch in round one in 2016.
- Letting Wade Phillips depart due to money in 2017.
- Hiring Vance Joseph as head coach in 2017.
The bottom line is that after his unit served as the tip of the spear that brought home Super Bowl 50, Phillips wanted to be the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the NFL. Elway didn’t want to pony up and the L.A. Rams were willing. End of story.
If Wolfe is talking about it, it likely stuck in the craw of every defensive player the Broncos had at the time who are still with the team. Since Phillips’ departure, we’ve seen the Broncos defense decline in every substantive way possible, so Wolfe has a point.
But I’ll say this; I get tired of hearing Wolfe talk often of the ‘haircut’ he took to stay in Denver. He agreed to the contract and he’s still making $8 million in base salary this season, despite dealing with some scary injury issues that have declined his play over the years, but the team has stuck behind him.
Derek Wolfe would be hard-pressed to find a contract of that ilk on the open market today. But he’s not wrong about 2015; he took less than what the open market would have paid him following Super Bowl 50. That doesn’t mean he needs to remind everyone every time he gets a mic shoved in his face. Still, according to Wolfe, he wouldn’t go back and change his decision.
“No, because I am where I am. I’m happy. If we were winning I’d be real happy.”
Wolfe’s comments reveal the cracks in the foundation in Denver. As a bedrock player, Wolfe knows the score and likely feels he has squandered the prime of his career under Vance Josephand Joe Woods. Von Miller feels your pain.