ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When General Manager George Paton first approached Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett about the possibility of acquiring nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson, Hackett responded with an emphatic yes.
Well, sort of.
"I don't think he said 'yes,'" Paton said Wednesday at Wilson's introductory press conference. "I think he said, 'Eff yes.'"
Most Broncos fans likely responded similarly as the Broncos' trade to acquire the Super Bowl champion became official on Wednesday. With Wilson under center, the Broncos now undoubtedly have their best quarterback since Peyton Manning retired following a Super Bowl 50 win.
The deal, which Paton said took more than a month of negotiations, began to heat up at the Combine in early March. And when it became clear the Broncos had a realistic chance to acquire Wilson, he became their top priority.
"Once we knew that Russell could be available, he was our No. 1 target," Paton said. "He was our priority for the offseason. We were going to do anything it took to get Russ. It's just unique that you can trade [for] a quarterback, a franchise quarterback, in his prime, and we just felt we had to take that chance."
In Wilson, the Broncos have added a quarterback that Paton said is more "obsessed with winning" than any player he's ever met — and that's been clear in his results. No quarterback has ever won more games through their first 10 seasons than Wilson.
"He has elite arm strength, elite accuracy," Paton said. "We feel he has the best deep ball in the NFL. And then you watch him off schedule and his eyes and his instincts and the play-making ability, and the 'it' factor that all the great quarterbacks have, Russ has. He's the best in the biggest moments. He's best in the end of the game to win the game."
Paton saw those traits as he studied film of Wilson this offseason; Hackett said he didn't even need to watch.
"I wanted him to watch the tape," Paton said, "[and] he said 'I don't need to watch the tape. He's kicked my ass [for] many years.'"
Wilson has no plans to slow down, as he said he wanted to play 10 to 12 more years and win three or four more Super Bowls.
"That's the plan," Wilson said. "That's the mindset. That's why I came here, to hopefully be able to finish my career here and to finish on top as a champion and do it multiple times. That's my mindset."
Wilson said he wouldn't have waived his no-trade clause from Seattle unless he was headed to a winner, and the Broncos fit that bill. As he studied the team's film — he's watched all 17 regular-season games and all three preseason games, multiple times — he saw the characteristics of a winner. That wasn't just talk, either, as Wilson identified specific plays from the previous season for a handful of his new teammates.
"I came here for one reason," Wilson said. "I came here for one reason. And that's to win. And that's what I believe in. So every day, what you're going to get from me is that mentality. You're going to get that juice, you're going to get that energy, you're going to get that focus — and we're going to do it together. … We're here for one thing, and that's to win. It's to win at the highest level often."
As Paton said Wednesday, "nothing's guaranteed" because of the acquisition of Wilson. The Broncos, though, believe Wilson is the right person to lead them toward the next step. That progression is attainable, in part, because of the details of the trade. While Paton said it was difficult to part with Noah Fant, Shelby Harris and Drew Lock, the Broncos largely avoided shaving their top talent from their roster.
"Those three players are really good players, and we're going to miss them," Paton said. "But we had more good players here. I felt like we wouldn't have done the trade — and Russell probably wouldn't have wanted to come — if we had to gut our entire team. I still think we have a lot of good players in place, a lot of core players. As I mentioned at the end of the season, I think we have a really good foundation in place. I think Russell saw that. We're going to add. We added in free agency. We're going to continue to add. The work is never done. We're going to do everything it takes to win, and we feel like we have a lot of good players here."
Those players will head toward the 2022 season poised to face an AFC West challenge that looks as formidable as ever. With three of the league's top quarterbacks already in place with division rivals and a new influx of pass-rush talent, the division schedule will likely be a bear.
The team's new quarterback is far from deterred, though.
"I want to play against the best," Wilson said. "I don't fear anything."
Sound like a quarterback that Broncos Country can get behind? Like a player that can lead the Broncos back to a championship level of play? Like the future of this franchise?
Eff yes it does.