To say that last year’s season for the Denver Broncos was a disaster would be an understatement, at least on the offensive and coaching side. While the defense was able to shape itself into a consensus top five unit during the season, the team consistently fell short of expectations and was the cause of an embarrassing 5-12 record on the year. And yes, injuries played a big factor, but the offense was never able to find its groove under first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
Earlier this offseason, Hackett was officially hired as the next offensive coordinator of the New York Jets after a rough 4-11 record at Mile High led to his firing. While most believe that the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett by Broncos GM George Paton was in part due to the belief that it would lure 4X MVP Aaron Rodgers to Denver, it simply did not work out for Hackett and the Broncos. Instead, the organization is now moving forward with a younger QB in Russell Wilson and head coach Sean Payton, who is a much more proven play-caller and leader than Hackett ever was.
In a recent interview with NFL sportscaster Peter Schrager on The seasonHackett gave his honest thoughts on his tenure with the Denver Broncos and what he was able to glean from the rollercoaster of an experience.
“At the end of the day, you have to win. That’s what it’s all about. Whether you’re a coach or a player, you have to win, and we [Broncos] didn’t win enough. I look back and there were so many things I learned from my time [in Denver]. I think it was a great experience. You never know what it’s like until you sit in that chair, and it was an honor to sit in that chair, even if it was for a limited time. You’re constantly taking all the things you went through and the things you could potentially do better. As coaches, we question everything. We will always try to make ourselves better and I think there are many things that will make me better. I believe everything happens for a reason. To be able to get an opportunity with the New York Jets and be back with Aaron [Rodgers]it’s incredible.”
– Nathaniel Hackett in his time in Denver
Obviously, no one can talk about what Hackett specifically claims he learned from last season’s offensive woes because none of us were directly in his shoes. Maybe Hackett went back to the drawing board after the season and was able to straighten things out on film and identify where the offense went wrong. From the outside looking in, there were plenty of other flaws that could be fixed, such as clock management, locker room control, and overall coaching and game planning — all areas where Hackett let the team down.
But the scheme fits between Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson never made sense, especially for what Hackett’s offense demands of its quarterbacks. Hackett simply never tailored his offense to Wilson’s strengths and thus the offensive identity was never to be found in 2022 until after Hackett was fired. In the last two games of the season under interim head coach Jerry Rosburg and former OC Justin Outten, the Broncos averaged 27.5 points per game. game as opposed to an abysmal 15.1 points per game when Hackett called the game. Wow.
As a Broncos fan, you can take Hackett’s word two ways. Very respectful way to address his time in Denver or an attempt to excuse his failure. Calling last season a “great experience” is certainly an interesting choice of words, but I understand where he’s trying to go. I respect his mindset of trying to take the positive learnings from the situation, but you have to be real at some point and we all know that last season was not a “great experience” for anyone in and out of Dove Valley.
It’s also kind of frustrating to repeat “everything happens for a reason” throughout the podcast when he references his firing that led to his reunion with Aaron Rodgers. Yes, this could be apart of his spiritual beliefs, which is totally fine, but it’s almost like he’s trying to imply that his firing was a good thing and that his poor performance as a head coach is why he put him where he belongs – – reunited with Aaron Rodgers.
Later in the episode, Hackett also took a jab at some fans who have criticized his coaching, saying, “There’s only so much a coach can control, no matter what anyone likes to admit.” Although this is true, there were so many factors that were able to control his control in 2022, yet he let it get out of his reach. For example, the play-calling was horrendous by Hackett at critical times in the first half of the season, among other things previously mentioned. If you want to see a head coach take proper full control of their franchise upon immediate arrival, take Sean Payton for example in both New Orleans and Denver.
All in all, I commend Hackett for his devotion to the Broncos and understand that he wanted nothing more than to win football games in Denver. While I know he means well, he certainly could have used a better choice of words when talking about his time in Denver. Fortunately, the Broncos are in much better hands with Sean Payton leading the way and will ensure a “good experience” in 2023, not by Hackett’s standards.
With Nathaniel Hackett calling the plays in New York, the Broncos are officially set to host the Jets in Week 5 of this upcoming season in a highly anticipated matchup. We’ll see how many things Hackett can control against Denver’s hungry defense…