Nathaniel Hackett’s Tenure as Denver Broncos’ Coach Already Looks Like Lost Cause | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Some individuals are simply not cut out to be head coaches. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an excellent coordinator or position coach. The big seat becomes a daunting task for many.

How a team reacts under the supervision of a new head coach is always telling. The 2-4 Denver Broncos are currently counted among the league’s worst teams at the start of Nathaniel Hackett’s tenure.

They play undisciplined football. They’re bad in multiple phases. The franchise’s near-quarter-billion-dollar quarterback can’t seem to establish any kind of rhythm or consistency whatsoever.

A lot must be going through the mind of new owner Rob Walton, who set a North American sports record by buying the Broncos for $4.65 billion. Walton wasn’t the driving force behind hiring Hackett, though.

The sale of the organization to the current ownership group wasn’t official until August. A terribly played 19-16 overtime loss Monday to the rival Los Angeles Chargers should have Walton already wondering if someone else is better for the job.

Hackett has given zero indication that he can handle his current position.

A truly great leader of an NFL franchise is more than someone with an in-depth knowledge of Xs and Os. The very best are CEOs who know how to manage people and situations. They can delegate while getting the locker room to buy into their vision. No magic word will turn a coach that’s in over his head into a superhero hire.

Maybe Hackett just needs time. But time is precious in the NFL. Coaches are getting less and less time to build a program. Professional football brings a win-now mentality that consistently harkens back to Jerry Glanville’s prophetic words, “This is the NFL, which stands for Not For Long … “

“This is very disappointing,” Hackett told reporters after his squad’s third straight loss. “We need to have a lot more urgency across the board. It starts with me … “

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 17: Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos is sacked by Khalil Mack #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the first quarter at SoFi Stadium on October 17, 2022 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Harry How/Getty Images

Yes, it does. The locker room may already be turning on its coach. Frustration tends to boil over, especially after back-to-back overtime losses.

Some comments may become overblown as a result. But open discussion about a lack of leadership points directly to the coach, whether it’s intended or not.

“I don’t know. … It starts with leadership,” safety Justin Simmons said when asked what’s gone wrong during the Broncos’ first six games.

The defensive back elaborated“It starts with leadership from a defensive standpoint, offensive standpoint, special teams. Something obviously isn’t going right. And we need to find a way to fix it. … We can’t keep doing the same things .. . and think things are going to change.”

The coach’s job is to identify areas of concern, make necessary changes and place his players in a position to succeed.

Currently, Denver scores fewer points per game (15.2) than any other squad. A struggling unit trying to find its footing is one thing. An undisciplined team with as many mental mistakes and blown plays as the Broncos is something completely different.

Talent can be found on the roster, particularly on defense.

Simmons, Patrick Surtain II, Bradley Chubb and Baron Browning are excellent football players. Each is a potential long-term building block.

The offense has potential with multiple weapons in the passing game and backs to run the ball, even without Javonte Williams in the lineup after suffering a season-ending torn ACL. Yet Melvin Gordon III was nowhere to be found throughout most of Monday’s contest because the staff decided Latavius ​​Murray provided the Broncos with a better starting option.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Montrell Washington (12) misses a punt by the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct.  17, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif.  The Chargers recovered the ball.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The mistakes and poor decisions are stacking with each passing week.

In Hackett’s debut as head coach/offensive play-caller, he struggled to get plays in on time and make sound situational football decisions. As a result, Broncos fans responded by counting down the play clock in Week 2. Before Week 3, Denver hired Jerry Rosburg to serve as senior assistant and help the head coach with game management.

The Broncos squeaked by the San Francisco 49ers before starting their current three-game losing skid. In Denver’s latest effort, the team’s 151 penalty yards during a Monday Night Football contest are the most since the stat started being tracked in 2000, per TruMedia Sports (h/t The Athletic).

Former president of football operations and current consultant John Elway already lived through a similar situation. Elway hired Vance Joseph to be the Broncos’ head coach in 2017 and nearly fired him after one season. But Elway allowed Joseph to coach a second season before regretting the decision.

“I talked to [Vance Joseph] before the process a couple of years ago and knew him, and going in, I had an idea that he was kind of our guy. I admit it. I was wrong on that one,” Elway told NBC Sports’ Peter King. “I don’t like to say it out loud because I don’t want to offend VJ, who is a good football coach. But things didn’t work out.”

If asked by the new owner what he would do with Hackett, Elway can look at his experience and suggest the team go in a different direction.

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 02: President of football operations John Elway of the Denver Broncos looks on during warm ups prior to the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

At the time, Elway added, “The other thing that I’ve learned is that the bottom line in this league, it’s about winning. Forget about anything else. You want to do things the right way, and we work on everything else. It’s very difficult to do it year in and year out unless you find a franchise quarterback.”

Well, Wilson is the guy the franchise had been searching for since Peyton Manning retired. The financial realities of his contract mean he’s the starting quarterback through, at minimum, the 2024 campaign.

However, Hackett wasn’t even the clear choice during this year’s hiring cycle.

“We interviewed [Kevin O’Connell] last year, and we were really impressed with his interview, so it does not surprise me that he’s having good success up there,” Elway told the st. Paul PioneerPress‘ Chris Thomasson.

“He was very, very impressive in the interview process, and it was nip and tuck which way we wanted to go. So I was glad to see that he got an opportunity, and I’m glad to see he’s having the success he’s having because he gave a great interview with us.”

The Broncos are a mess. Is everything Hackett’s fault? Of course not. Individuals on the field must be held accountable for their mistakes.

At the same time, the culmination of multiple factors—including, but not limited to, a stagnant offense, a struggling franchise quarterback, sloppy football and a losing record while quickly losing ground in the AFC West—portends a change at head coach.

The same mistakes can’t be repeated. With a coach seemingly in over his head, a fresh start for ownership and Wilson may be exactly what’s needed.


Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.

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