DENVER — Sometimes in sports broadcasting, silence in the booth – letting the moment breathe – can be as powerful as surgical analysis of a play or a prophetic call à la Tony Romo.
Joe Buck, who has one of the highest-profile gigs in the broadcasting business as the play-by-play man for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, knows this as well as anyone. And he expects Monday’s Broncos season-opener to provide plenty of the aforementioned moments, as Russell Wilson returns to Seattle for a bout with his former team in his first game as a Bronco.
“The irony of it is, we’re paid to talk,” Buck said in an interview with Denver7, “but when Russell Wilson takes the field for the first time in Seattle, the last thing [color commentator Troy Aikman and I] will be doing is talking.
“We’re going to sit back and listen to the reaction, and then go off that.”
Adding to the drama, Buck said, is the fact that it will be Wilson’s first game action in the orange and blue. Wilson, of course, watched the entire three-game preseason from the sidelines as the Broncos tried to protect their newly-minted $245 million man.
But the idea behind trading for Wilson (and inking that new long-term deal) and bringing in a new head coach is to be successful long after whatever Wilson’s reception might be from the “12th Man” that adored him as their own for so long.
And consider Buck among those buying into the hype.
“I think they’re going to flush a lot of frustration from the last few years,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an exciting product.”
1-on-1 with ESPN’s Joe Buck on Wilson-led Broncos ahead of season opener
So, how will Wilson operate under a new head coach – and a first-time head coach, at that – in Nathaniel Hackett?
“I think it’ll be a meeting of the minds, but I think the tiebreaker will be what Russell wants to do,” Buck said. “I think it’s always been that way.”
“He likes to launch it, which everybody likes to watch. And that was kind of flying in the face of what [Seahawks head coach] Pete Carroll wanted to do. […] So I think it’s a good situation for Russell at this stage of his life.”
While Wilson steps from one competitive division (the NFC West) to another in a fully-loaded AFC West – “no easy games” in the division, as Buck put it – he has the tools to win football games in Denver. He has a talented receiving corps headlined by Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, what should be a strong backfield pairing in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III, and the league’s third-best scoring defense a year ago that returns the likes of Justin Simmons and Pat Surtain and added pass rusher Randy Gregory.
He also has a fanbase that’s feeling more excitement than it has since Peyton Manning hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in his final season seven years ago.
“I’m well aware of how great of a sports city [Denver] is,” said Buck, whose wife Michelle is a Denver native and former Broncos cheerleader. “Now you’ve got Russell Wilson starting this, what I would assume will be kind of the final chapter in his NFL career.
“So give me that every time. We’ve got two Broncos games on our calendar that Troy and I are doing. And when you’ve got a rabid fan base like that, and a good team, that’s the most important part. We love covering those games.”
Broncos Country shows up in Seattle ahead of Monday’s game