Remember the good ol’ days?

In John we trust!

In Sean do we trust?

For just a moment, remove the emotion, the choosing of sides and the strong opinions as to whether benching Russell Wilson was the right thing to do. Instead, look ahead.

What’s the plan, man?

To some extent, the relationship between Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson and Broncos head coach Sean Payton is spilled milk (or, perhaps more accurately, spoiled milk). What’s done is done. Words have been exchanged publicly. Wilson stood up for himself. Payton said aloud he “wasn’t privy” to what was taking place behind closed doors. It’s all a lot of semantics and posturing, but ultimately, it adds up to a pretty simple translation: Payton doesn’t want Wilson to be a part of the Denver Broncos future so long as he’s in charge.

Agree or disagree; it doesn’t matter.

What matters is what’s next.

In fact, that’s a great question, the only one anyone associated with the Denver Broncos should be asking right about now. What? Is? Next?

Given the hefty contract tied to Russell Wilson (and all the salary cap implications that come along with it), the Broncos are in a tough spot with or without their “Let’s Ride” Guy. If he stays, he bogs down the salary cap and – more than likely – needles grouchy Coach Payton from August to January. If Wilson goes, he still bogs down the cap, and leaves a gaping hole at the most difficult position in sports.

What’s a coach to do?

Let’s assess Payton’s options.

Option 1: Bring Russ back. Now, this goes against everything that’s just unfolded. It’s as clear as day that Payton wants no part of coaching Wilson – not now and especially not next season. Ironically, keeping Wilson might be easier on the Broncos balance sheet than letting him go. But, hypothetically, if they were to brush all of this under the rug and hand the ball back to Wilson next season, the Broncos would not be any worse (on paper) than they are right now. In fact, Wilson would likely be better after one season of running Payton’s offense. Then again, the cat’s out of the bag, and Payton obviously doesn’t prefer Wilson captaining his offense. If Wilson were to come back, buckle in for 19 weeks of sheer drama.

Option 2: Draft a quarterback. There’s no denying that Broncos don’t sit in the driver’s seat when it comes to the draft. So, if you’ve got visions of Caleb Williams wearing orange and blue, go ahead and erase them. Denver has very little draft capital and not much by way of tradable talent; aside from Patrick Surtain II, which Bronco would bring much in a trade-up scenario? Trading “way” up is a pipe dream; so “assuming” the Broncos will get a pro-ready quarterback via the draft is unlikely. Perhaps more unlikely is that Payton has the patience to develop any young quarterback. He certainly didn’t have the patience to coach around Wilson’s deficiencies.

Option 3: Trade or acquire. It’s hard to say if bringing in any sort of veteran quarterback is even feasible, given the salary cap challenges a Wilson-less Broncos team will surely be facing. From Kirk Cousins to Justin Fields – or even anyone who fits the Teddy Bridgewater mold – there’s no such thing as a “neat” solution. There are question marks, financial challenges or utter mediocrity that come along with anyone who’s already cashed a paycheck in the NFL. Is it possible? Probably, but it will take someone with a sharp pencil or secret sauce to adequately replace Wilson, whether you think he’s great or not.

Option 4: Jarrett Stidham. As Mile High Sports’ Cody Roark reports, the Broncos are already knee deep in the evaluation of Stidham. Oddly, he could be the most financially feasible – as well as competent – replacement the Broncos can find. That said, the Cliff Note’s report on Stidham is that he’s boarding on the “journeyman” label already and didn’t look significantly better or different than Wilson in his lone start this season. He’ll get another one against the Raiders, and Sean Payton had better hope for a coming out party of sorts. If that doesn’t happen, the Broncos had better move on – or – they’d better settle in for their annual version of Bridgewater, Rypien, or even Orton – to get them to .500 +/- a game. Yawn.

And really, the question isn’t what they’ll do against the Raiders this weekend, or whether or not the future of the franchise arrives via the draft, a trade or free agency.

The question, as ESPN senior writer Jeff Legwold posed on Altitude Sports Radio, is “Will the Broncos be better off in June?”

The answer had better be “yes.”

Otherwise, Sean Payton is a man without a plan.