MERILATT MONDAY

“Broncs cheer” sends a clear message during Hackett’s home debut

Sep 18, 2022, 7:25 PM | Updated: Sep 19, 2022, 6:57 am
Nathaniel hackett...
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

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During a fourth-quarter drive, the fans at Empower Field were “helping” the home team. The Broncos faithful counted down the play clock, from 10 to zero, in an attempt make sure that the orange and blue were aware of how much time they had to snap the ball.

It was a sarcastic, hilarious way for the 73,000-plus in attendance to send a clear message. They weren’t happy with the way the Broncos looked in their home opener. They weren’t amused with Denver’s sloppy play. They weren’t okay with a second-consecutive week of coaching miscues.

The frustration was evident throughout the game. In the first half, the Broncos were booed by the home crowd en route to a 6-6 tie at intermission. But the “Broncs cheer” in the fourth quarter took the cake. It was a classic move by one of the best fan bases in sports, a funny way to say “this isn’t going to cut it.”

To his credit, Hackett admitted that the fans were right. He knows that his team isn’t playing good football.

“I don’t blame them,” he said after the game. “I was booing myself. It’s frustrating.”

The same things that plagued the Broncos in their Week 1 loss at Seattle were on display again on Sunday. This time around, however, Denver couldn’t blame it on a hostile environment.

On the day, the Broncos had 13 penalties, one more than they did a week ago against the Seahawks. One of those infractions, a delay of game, took three points off the board.

That was one of many issues Hackett and company had with the play clock. It’s why the fans were mocking him late in the game.

They speak to perhaps a bigger issue. It’s hard not to wonder if Hackett is in over his head.

The head coach is calling offensive plays, which is a big job. He’s also trying to manage the game, which involves a lot of nuance. This has led to issues.

Last week’s late-game debacle in Seattle has gotten a lot of attention, when the Broncos decided to try a 64-yard yard field instead of going for it on fourth-and-five with just over a minute to play, but this time around was just as bad. The Broncos win over the Texans was a textbook example of game mismanagement.

Denver couldn’t get plays in on time. They couldn’t decide if they wanted to punt, kick or go for it in a timely fashion. They were out of timeouts halfway through the fourth quarter. It was embarrassing.

But that was only the beginning. The Broncos miscues continued.

Denver was flagged for 12 men on the field. They had to call a timeout because they didn’t have a returner on the field when Houston was going to punt. That same returner fielded a punt at the three-yard line, setting up a drive that started at the eight.

The Broncos also ran an option play, with tight end / fullback Andrew Beck as the centerpiece, on a third-and-two. It failed miserably.

They had to settle for a pair of 20-yard field goals, as Denver’s red zone struggles continued. The Broncos are now 0-for-6 in terms of getting in the end zone once inside the 20-yard line this season.

All of these things are on Hackett. He’s the play caller, making the blunders on key plays his responsibility. And he’s the head coach, putting the undisciplined or foolish decisions by his players squarely on his shoulders.

Broncos Country has no patience for it. After two years of Vance Joseph and three more of Vic Fangio, the fans have no interest in watching a head coach learn on the job. They don’t want to watch their team struggle because of coaching incompetence.

Is that fair? Maybe not, as Hackett is paying for the sins of VJ and Vic. But that’s the reality. And the current head coach is going to have to deal with it.

It certainly isn’t asking too much. Getting plays in on time is something middle-school teams can do. Having enough players on the field is too. Avoiding penalties is what all well-coached teams manage to accomplish. So is scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

Thus, it’s clear that the Broncos, at least right now, are a poorly coached team. And it’s put Hackett squarely in the crosshairs.

He’s the one that decided to blow off the third and final day of mandatory minicamp for a field day. He chose to have his team do a “jog through” every three days during training camp. He elected not to play most of the starters at all during preseason.

Those moves were examples of Hackett insisting that he knew better than everyone else. The naysayers were wrong; they were old-timers stuck in their ways.

It reeked of arrogance. And it’s blowing up in the head coach’s face.

On Sunday, that became evident in the fourth quarter. That’s when the “Broncs cheer” let Hackett know how things work in the Mile High City.

Denver’s head coach needs to get his act together. His team needs to stop being such a complete and utter mess. He needs to quit making the franchise a national punchline.

Broncos Country is out of patience. Their play clock countdown sent that message loud and clear.

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“Broncs cheer” sends a clear message during Hackett’s home debut