ENGLEWOOD, Colorado. The images were everywhere, and headlines appeared from coast to coast. In about 14 days, Denver Broncos freshman coach Nathaniel Hackett went from a potential breath of fresh air to a coach whose team identity included penalty shootouts, time management issues, and arcane late-game decisions.
Hackett may be the first coach in Broncos history whose home fans were disappointed enough during the honeymoon period of the new coach, who routinely counted the game clock before every snap in the fourth quarter… win.
“I love how passionate our fans are, I really do,” Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten said last week, smiling and echoing Hackett’s words that everything is fine. “… You can take it as sarcasm or something, but just to show passion, how much they love this game and how much they love the Broncos… and we’ll make them proud.”
It’s safe to say that a lot happened in Hackett’s first three weeks of the regular season. That stretch began with a somewhat disorganized loss to the Seahawks in the return game of quarterback Russell Wilson, who spent his first 10 seasons with Seattle.
Trailing 17-16 with 1:11 remaining, a short pass in third put the Broncos out with a fourth and 5 of their own 45. The Broncos had two timeouts and could choose to have Wilson put them in a better position for a field goal.
Instead, Hackett sent kicker Brandon McManus to score such a long field goal—64 yards—only two kickers in league history have scored from that distance. McManus did not finish third.
Denver was also marked with 12 penalties for 106 yards, including two game delay calls, due to curious clock and game management decisions.
Hackett, who later admitted he should have gone for it on the fourth down, found himself the subject of many “what was he thinking” comments and a video from an Sportzshala telecast in which Peyton Manning signaled a timeout 62 times during that Broncos Final Drive. went viral.
Some of those problems continued in a sloppy Week 2 victory over the Houston Texans in the Broncos’ home opener, with fans counting the game clock loudly as it neared zero for much of the fourth quarter. It came in a rare public admission that the Broncos needed help — and quickly — as Hackett hired longtime NFL assistant Jerry Rosburg as a senior assistant last week to help with game management issues. Rosburg was on the coaching floor during Sunday’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
“We knew we had something, especially myself, that we had to deal with,” Hackett said. in and hear the information and make the best decision. I appreciate all these guys and all the extra work we put in last week to get this process right.”
Despite all this, the Broncos are still leading 2-1 in Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders (4:25 pm ET, CBS).
Hackett’s learning curve was demonstrated during prime time in two of the Broncos’ first three games. They also have three of their next five games – Thursday night’s game against the Colts on October 6, Monday night’s game against the Chargers on October 17, and the October 30 game against the Jaguars in London – on broadcast. slots, so Hackett’s progress will be scrutinized.
“If people want to think they know more about football than our coaches, they may believe it, but we believe in what we do,” said Broncos defenseman Dalton Risner, who grew up a Broncos fan in Wiggins. Colorado, so he understands local passions like no other. “We are going to announce these games later and everything will be fine and everyone will applaud… we will continue to work every day to make sure this happens.”
It’s a far cry from Hackett’s preseason sunshine when he was praised for unconventional tactics, such as hiring “training instructor” John Vieira, who was Hackett’s classmate in neuroscience at California Davis. In the preseason, Hackett was praised for his enthusiasm for analytics and innovative thinking, as well as features that his players heartily approved of, such as a new player break room and a basketball hoop in the team meeting room.
Hackett continues to believe that Vieira’s presence, as well as the structure he has created, will pay dividends. He believes the early season stumbles have more to do with the new coaching staff.
“This is the first time that many of us have worked together,” he said. “We’re newbies, Russ is newbie, we believe in what we do.”
Running back Melvin Gordon III said: “We just have to be clean. … We know it, we believe in what we are doing, it is still early. We have time if we work.”
Wins as close as they are, even ones like an 11-10 win over the 49ers on Sunday night that had 10 punts from the Broncos and just one ride within the San Francisco 20-yard line, help Hackett’s cause. Through the concrete walls after the game one could easily hear the loud celebration of the players and coaches.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who like Hackett is his team’s offensive linebacker, said last week Hackett’s rough start sounded familiar.
“I remember my first game, I went to it four times, and those were the ones I shouldn’t have gone to,” Shanahan said. “And then I realized, okay, you can’t think like a coordinator. all the experiences you go through for the first time, but he did it for a while… [they have] There’s a good coach and a very good striker.”
Hackett understands what comes with being the head of a successful franchise.
“No one ever told me it would be easy,” Hackett said. — I think that in accepting this job, you knew that there would be ups and downs, and I accepted it.
“I think for me it’s just getting better every day… I always want to get better at everything I do. There will always be a lot of scrutiny whether you lose, whether you win, whether you tie, there will always be something people will say that you can do better, and I’m going to do everything in my power to get better. ”