BRONCOS

The Jets found out what the Broncos already knew about Hackett

Feb 2, 2024, 5:19 PM

A little over a year ago, the Denver Broncos parted ways with Nathaniel Hackett. The head coach was relieved of his duties just 15 games into his tenure, the sixth-shortest coaching tenure in NFL history at the time.

It’s not as though the axing wasn’t warranted. After all, the Broncos were a mess during the entire 2022 campaign. They settled for a 64-yard, game-winning field goal attempt in the opener, and it all went downhill from there. They couldn’t get in plays, they had 12 or 13 men on the field multiple times, there were shouting and shoving matches on the sidelines, and the losses piled up.

After an embarrassing 51-14 loss on Christmas Day, with entire football world tuned in to watch the Broncos implode, Denver sat at 4-11. Hackett was fired before they played another game.

Surprisingly, the coach landed on his feet. Before the Broncos had found his replacement, Hackett was hired as the offensive coordinator of the New York Jets. It was a bit of a head-scratcher, considering Denver had the worst scoring offense in the NFL under Hackett, averaging just 16.9 points per game.

Three months later, it all made sense. Hackett was hired to help lure Aaron Rodgers to the Big Apple, reuniting the future Hall of Fame quarterback and the OC he thrived under in Green Bay.

Things were looking good in New York. There was legitimate Super Bowl talk in the air.

Then, it all unraveled. After throwing just one pass in the regular-season opener, Rodgers was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. And the Jets season went down the tubes, as New York finished a disappointing 7-10 without their star quarterback at the helm.

Their demise was largely due to their offense. Hackett’s group finished the season ranked 31st on that side of the ball, finishing 29th in points per game.

It was essentially the same thing everyone saw in Denver. Hackett’s offense was a mess, unable to be productive on a weekly basis.

But the similarities don’t end with the statistics. According to a recent story in The Athletic, the Jets were a mess in 2023, primarily because of their offensive coordinator.

The story by Zack Rosenblatt and Dianna Russini was filled with gems, most of which would make Broncos fans chuckle. The entire article reads like an “we told you so” for fans in Denver.

Offensive players felt like Rodgers’ hand-picked offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, failed to adjust after losing his quarterback and didn’t put them in positions to succeed. The Jets lost five games by 20 or more points and extended the longest playoff drought in the four major North American professional sports to 13 years.

That sounds familiar.

“It’s just such a f—ing mess,” one Jets coach said. “Something has to change.”

As does that insight.

“That’s what Aaron wants” was a common refrain from Hackett as he told coaches what plays he wanted to run during camp. Often, Rodgers would hear Hackett’s play call and want something else, so the entire offense would reset.

The tail wagging the dog was a common occurrence in Denver, too. Russell Wilson had way too much say in the offense during Hackett’s 15-game tenure.

Growing pains were expected in a new offense full of new personnel, but one coach said it was concerning how little urgency Hackett and his staff showed in trying to fix it, saying he’d never seen a team watch less practice tape in training camp than the Jets did with Hackett.

Work ethic was always a concern during the coach’s time with the Broncos, as well. He liked to have fun more than he liked to grind over film and game plans.

Hackett struggled to adjust the offense to the team’s new reality. Multiple coaches and players described Hackett as lacking in attention to detail. For most of the season, Hackett would meet with offensive line coach/running game coordinator Keith Carter and passing game coordinator Todd Downing during the week but wouldn’t get together with the rest of the offensive staff until the “last minute” of game prep.

Attention to detail led to a lot of the Broncos issues under Hackett. It’s a bad trait in any coach, but a fatal one in a head coach.

“What happened this season can’t happen again,’ said star receiver Garrett Wilson, who has played with seven quarterbacks in two seasons in New York. ‘We’ve gotta make adjustments in the game, we’ve gotta do things to counter what we’re getting and be able to put points on the board because two years I’ve been here, it’s been tough. Football hasn’t been this hard. When I watch it on the sideline, it don’t look that hard for the other team so we gotta figure out something to get it rolling no matter who is slinging it.”

Anyone who watched the Broncos in 2022 can relate, when the simplest thing – like getting a play off on time – appeared difficult.

The Jets ignored the warning signs. The overlooked the debacle that Hackett created in Denver. And it cost them dearly this past season.

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The Jets found out what the Broncos already knew about Hackett