As the Denver Broncos face a make-or-break game for this season’s playoff hopes, the relationship between head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Russell Wilson has never been more in question. While Payton has been careful to avoid using Wilson’s name specifically, he’s made comments that inferred that his quarterback’s perceived shortcomings have led directly to more than one of the Broncos’ losses this year.

Payton, however, is directing the personnel, meaning that he’s the one who decided putting inexperienced tight end Lucas Krull on the field on the Broncos’ final offensive play against Houston in their loss last week instead of veteran Adam Trautman, who had a spectacular touchdown catch only one week prior. Though Wilson is certainly responsible for the interception that ended the Broncos’ chances, he didn’t call the play – nor did he call the plays prior, in which Denver wasted so much time that Wilson’s options to scramble were removed, forcing a desperation thrown into the end zone.

It’s obvious that Payton wishes that he was still coaching Drew Brees instead, but according to Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick‘s eyes, Wilson can still do most of what made him great… when the Broncos allow him to, that is.

“They’re finding out about one another,” Billick told Shawn Drotar and Sandy Clough this week. “They’re finding out about the talent they have around Russell, what they can do, what will work, and what’s manageable in order to win the game.”

The Broncos’ offense has definitely improved this season in comparison to last year’s disastrous campaign under then-head coach Nathaniel Hackett, but even 12 games into the season, it still has yet to look in sync. “When they’ve been able to win, they keep tight margins, be efficient, run the ball, play pretty good defense and make enough plays down the field – but you can’t turn the ball over,” Billick explained. “Those three interceptions [Wilson threw against Houston] were a killer; you can’t do that on the road against a good team… It’s gotten better, but now, at the end of the season, is when it’s got to get good.”

While the Broncos’ offense has been curiously conservative outside of the red zone, when asked if Wilson, now 35 years old, still had the ability to still make explosive plays, Billick didn’t hesitate. “Yeah, he does. That’s his game – but you’ve got to wrap the right things around him. That sounds kind of silly to say, because if you wrap enough talent around anybody, they’re going to have a certain level of success, but I think if you can wrap the right talent around him and play that game; [one] that allows him a 30-to-35 pitch count, move around and make those big plays down the field, he’ll protect you – typically – from making the big mistakes. But those are tight margins, and you’ve got to be pretty good to do that. And I don’t think that Denver’s quite there.

“But, yeah, I think Russell Wilson can still do that; particularly if you can get to the playoffs, and that pedigree can kick in – where he can bring back that championship pedigree, and really make a difference in the playoffs by rallying that team around him.”