Just seven weeks into the 2022 NFL season, there are already questions about Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett. After high hopes that the Broncos might return to the playoffs, they’re 2-5 and have arguably the worst offense in the NFL, paired with one of the league’s best defenses.
The Broncos also have new ownership — the Walton/Penner group — who might be asking whether or not Hackett will ever prove he’s the right guy for the head-coaching job.
That’s what Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is wondering. Florio discussed the Broncos’ coaching situation on the October 24 edition of The Rich Eisen Showwhere he talked about the Walton-Penner ownership group and how they view job situations.
“What I know is they have a group of owners who did not hire Nathaniel Hackett and the Walmart crowd, they are smart, they are rich and they are ruthless — and I mean that in the most positive way that the word ruthless can be used. They are not going to make anything other than a calculated, strategic business decision about what to do with Nathaniel Hackett.”
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Florio mentioned he has talked to other people in the NFL about how teams may compound mistakes by not admitting to them. But he added that the best football teams are quicker to acknowledge mistakes, and if the Broncos lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, the Walton-Penner ownership group may have seen enough.
close to home, KOA Radio‘s Broncos insider Benjamin Allbright also spoke on the subject of the new owners showing Hackett the door if things continue to go sideways across the pond.
“I would have said (and have) no in-season firing, that they’d wait til after the year, but I know ownership is embarrassed. Really felt a shift yesterday that if this thing doesn’t get turned around and fast that anything is possible,” Allbright said on Twitter.
Bringing it back to Florio, who also brought up the Peter Principle, which says that everyone rises to the level of their own incompetence — meaning you get promoted up the ladder until you reach a position you don’t hold for long because you aren’ t good at it. That’s when Florio mentioned the likes of Wade Phillips and Norv Turner, both top coordinators who kept getting head-coaching jobs but never found much success in that role.
Some people have wondered about Hackett and his experience with calling plays, but he has done that in the past with the Jaguars and Buffalo Bills. It’s certainly possible that Hackett is a good coordinator who just can’t handle the head-coaching position.
But as Florio put it, it’s possible the Broncos’ owners could ask if defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero should get a chance to stabilize the team, in which defense is emphasized, the offense is simplified, and they could see who else could get the most out of Russell Wilson.
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“These folks are not going to take any options off the table and they have no loyalty to anyone who was working there the moment that they got the keys to the car,” Florio told Eisen.
Florio also mentioned Sean Payton, who some Broncos fans are touting as a savior and replacement for Hackett. However, the New Orleans Saints own his rights and will demand draft picks for any team who wants to hire him. Most likely, that means a 2023 first-round pick, which the Broncos don’t have because it was sent to the Seahawks.
Furthermore, Florio said Payton might be more interested in working with a younger quarterback, bringing up the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals, both of whom have QBs with more years ahead of them than Wilson.
While Broncos fans may have to give up on the Payton dream, that doesn’t mean Hackett will last. And while I suspect that any coach who takes over will have his own struggles, it doesn’t mean the ownership group won’t be quick to move on from Hackett.
What happens with Broncos’ GM George Paton is another question. But given that he has shown that he can do good things as a general manager, it may mean the new owners don’t simply hold his first head-coaching hire as grounds for dismissal.
But what will be interesting to watch is how the owners consider what Paton does in terms of building the team around Wilson and any future head-coaching hires. After all, the Broncos are stuck with Wilson until 2025, when they can trade him, or 2026, when they can release him.
As for Hackett, this Sunday’s game against the Jaguars may determine his fate.
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