BRONCOS

Broncos fire Nathaniel Hackett after disastrous 15 games

Dec 26, 2022, 10:43 AM | Updated: 10:56 am
Nathaniel Hackett...
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Nathaniel Hackett is out as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.

At 4-11, the Broncos are cutting ties with Hackett after 15 games at the helm. His tenure in Denver is one of the shortest for a full-time head coach in NFL history. Shortly after the NFL Network report, Broncos CEO Greg Penner released a lengthy statement on Hackett’s firing. Penner made it clear Hackett’s coaching wasn’t good enough, while also providing an endorsement of general manager George Paton.

Hackett was hired in late January, signing a four-year contract. He came from Green Bay, where he was the Packers offensive coordinator, with thoughts of luring Aaron Rodgers to Denver. Hackett, the son of a pro and college coach, had been an offensive assistant in the NFL and college since 2006. His Broncos offense this season was one the worst in the league and could be the worst in franchise history depending on the final two games.

Hackett was GM George Paton’s first head coaching hire in Denver. He made the call before Denver’s ownership changed hands from the Pat Bowlen Trust to the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group. The change in ownership to some of the wealthiest folks in the country upped the urgency of Hackett working out. As did the massive trade for Russell Wilson, followed by a quarter-billion-dollar contract extension.

The move is uncommon in Broncos history, with the previously shortest-tenured coaches for Denver all lasting at least two seasons, outside of Josh McDaniels. He made it just 28 games. Again, the context for where the Broncos are as a franchise with the hype of a playoff drought being broken spurred the change, as much did Hackett’s failures, which were numerous.

The taking of Hackett’s whistle is also unique in NFL history; only a few have had shorter tenures. Bill Belichick lasted 24 hours with the 2000 New York Jets, 49ers coach Pete McCulley lasted nine games. While Lou Holtz, Bobby Petrino and Urban Meyer, who all had comically bad tenures in the NFL, lasted 13 games.

Hackett was a friendly coach, but was criticized off the bat for how loose he was and how little the Broncos did during training camp. He never seemed to get it going with Wilson, and his safety-first strategy didn’t pan out as Denver is the most banged-up teams in the league.

His last game was an embarrassing 51-14 loss to the Rams on Sunday. Despite finally giving up play-calling, it was just too little, too late, as this team never showed signs of improvement, and the final game was full of meltdowns.

The Broncos coaching search will begin promptly, as internally defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero could be a candidate, while some have floated the external pie-in-the-sky idea of recently retired Saints head coach Sean Payton. Denver can begin interviewing candidates from other NFL teams this week.

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