How being ‘mature’ can help Hackett and Broncos avoid self-inflicted mistakes
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Progress for Nathaniel Hackett and the Broncos starts after the whistle and before the snap.
Truth be told, that’s where they need the most work.
Although there are issues from snap to whistle — red-zone efficiency, execution of certain plays, dropped passes — everything that happens before the snap is within a team’s control. That makes the pre-snap penalties and game-management issues all the more frustrating.
With 10 pre-snap penalties in two games, the Broncos lead the league in such infractions. That is more than twice the league average through two weeks of 4.9.
And ultimately, such issues fall at the feet of the head coach. Which is part of why Nathaniel Hackett took a different tone than before when he met the media Monday. The boundless enthusiasm that defined most of his previous question-and-answer was replaced by a more businesslike presence, befitting the work that lies in front of him and his staff in fixing the glitches in the Broncos’ program.
When asked specifically about the special-teams snafus, Hackett spoke in part of a need to be more “mature.” The Broncos had two delay-of-game penalties on field-goal attempts and burned a timeout when Montrell Washington did not take the field for a punt return.
“One of the hardest things for any special-teams coordinator, assistant, all of them, is getting guys out on the field — just because there is a lot of things that happen prior to that,” Hackett said.
“There was that one when everybody was celebrating,” he continued, referring to the punt return. “We wanted to go defensive stay because the situation. There were some guys that were coming off, and they were celebrating. So, we just have to be more mature as a group and understand the situation and celebrate when we can, but then make sure the right people are out there.
“That’s just something that we have to clean up, we have to talk about, and point out to the team in anything — field goal, all those things. Those are thing were we just have to all be on the same page.”
And the truth is, the need for maturity is probably not limited to the players, as well.
Let’s not forget that this is a staff with coaches learning how to handle larger roles. Hackett, Justin Outten and Ejiro Evero are in their first years with their current titles of head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, respectively. Dwayne Stukes is in just his second season as a special-teams coordinator; he worked in the role in 2011 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The dynamism of their relative youth compared to many other staffs is offset by the lessons that they must learn about their new roles — and how they collectively manage the game.
“I think from the game-management standpoint, we just have to tighten that whole thing up,” Hackett said. “We are all working together for the first time, so we just want to be sure we’re more efficient in that and have the ability to make better decisions and quicker decisions.”
This is the week in which the Broncos need to balance their unbridled, boyish enthusiasm with cool, professional precision.
If they do that, they have a chance to make the self-inflicted wounds of the first two games into nothing more than an unpleasant memory and a building block.