MERILATT MONDAY

It’s time to strip Nathaniel Hackett of some (if not all) of his duties

Oct 7, 2022, 6:00 AM | Updated: 12:23 pm
Nathaniel Hackett...
(Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

This article is brought to you by Mercedes-Benz of Loveland


It’s only been five games. Have a little patience. Everyone has to get used to working together. It takes time for everything to come together.

Balderdash.

The Broncos are a disaster. And it’s because they’re the worst-coached team in the league.

This fact has been on display all season long. It was evident in the opener, when Denver settled for a 64-yard field goal to try to win the game, thinking that the second-longest kick in NFL history was the best chance at victory. It was clear after two weeks when the team had to bring in Jerry Rosburg, adding a veteran coach to a staff of 30 in order to provide some guidance during games. And it was clear on Thursday night, when the Broncos gave away a sure win against the Colts.

It’s hard to describe the gross level of incompetence that was on display. But here are the highlights.

Leading 9-6 with 2:13 to play, Denver had a third-and-four at the Colts 13-yard line. Get a first down and the game is over, as Indianapolis was out of timeouts. Fall short, kick a field goal and likely win the game, given that the Colts would’ve needed a touchdown to pull out a victory and hadn’t come close all night long to finding the end zone.

What did the Broncos do? They threw the ball into the end zone and Russell Wilson was intercepted. Moments later, Indy kicked a game-tying field goal and forced overtime.

The ineptitude didn’t end there. After falling behind 12-9 in overtime, Denver drove down the field and had a chance to win the game. They faced third-and-two at the Colts six-yard line. But the drive stalled.

The Broncos ran the ball on third down, getting just one yard. Then, they went for the win, bypassing a chip shot field goal to extend the game, on fourth-and-one from the five-yard line. Instead of going for the first down, the Broncos threw into the end zone, challenging the Colts best defensive player, Stephon Gilmore, and watched the pass fall incomplete.

Denver lost 12-9. They dropped a game where the opponent was dreadful. They lost to a team that couldn’t do anything offensively. The Colts entered the game as the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. They failed to reach their season average of 14.3 points per game. And they won.

How did this happen? Because the Broncos were a comedy of errors all night. But in particular, they were a mess down the stretch.

In the drive before Wilson’s interception, they moved the ball 72 yards on 11 plays. On their march in overtime, they went 70 yards on six plays. That’s 142 yards of offense without a single point. In a 12-9 loss.

It was the type of game that seemed almost impossible to lose. Yet somehow, the Broncos found a way to fall to 2-3.

In the process, they became the laughingstock of the NFL. For the second time in five weeks, everyone is pointing toward Denver and chuckling.

It happened after the late-game debacle in Week 1 on national TV. It happened again on Thursday night, when the Broncos were once again excruciatingly bad in primetime.

Clearly, Hackett is in over his head. It’s something everyone should’ve seen coming.

When he was the offensive coordinator in Buffalo and Jacksonville, his offenses were mediocre. At best. He was the OC in Green Bay the past three years, but Matt Lafleur called the plays and Aaron Rodgers executed them. Now that it’s Hackett’s show, it’s a mess.

The Broncos have scored 75 points through five games. They’re averaging an anemic 15.0 points per game.

It’s not working. At all.

Which begs one question: What are the Broncos to do at this point?

More specifically, what is the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group to do? Or, what is George Paton going to do?

Clearly, they’re willing to step in and force change. Someone already did that with the hiring of Jerry Rosburg after just two games. So the precedent has been set. There’s no reason to sit still.

At this point, there are two viable options. The Broncos are 2-3, they have a very good defense and there’s plenty of time to save the season. How can they do that?

The most-extreme option is to part ways with Hackett. Turn the team over to Ejiro Evero, the defensive coordinator who oversees the one phase of the team that is actually functional. He’s going to be a top head coach candidate in the offseason. Why let other teams steal him away?

The other path is to revise things on offense. More specifically, turn things over to Russell Wilson. Let the quarterback call his own plays, similar to what John Elway did in 1987. That season, Elway won his only NFL Most Valuable Player award. Dan Reeves turning things over to his QB gave his offense a much-needed jolt.

Could it be any worse? Two weeks ago, the Broncos had more three-and-outs against the 49ers than they did when Kendall Hinton played quarterback against the Saints. On Thursday night, they scored nine points at home, bringing their total in three games at Empower Field to 34 offensive points, or 11.3 per game.

Are both of those options outlandish? Perhaps. But standing pat seems equally as ludicrous.

There is absolutely no reason to think things are going to get better with the Broncos. Hackett has shown zero improvement, as the team is arguably worse now than they were on opening night.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. That’s where the Broncos stand. That’s what 5,000 official no-shows, which was actually closer to 10,000, says. That’s what fans streaming for the exits when overtime commenced communicates. That’s what getting mocked by everyone around the country signals.

It’s time to do something bold. Stripping Nathaniel Hackett of at least some duties is the only viable option.

***

Merilatt Monday

George Paton...
James Merilatt

George Paton might go down as the biggest villain in Broncos history

Denver's general manager has saddled them with a bad coach, a quarter-billion-dollar QB on the decline and a lackluster, losing roster
7 days ago
Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson...
James Merilatt

Two plays define the debacle of the Hackett era with the Broncos

Two key moments in Sunday's loss to the Raiders tell the story about the Broncos season and explain why their head coach is on the hot seat
15 days ago
Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett...
James Merilatt

Sunday’s loss ends all hope that Hackett can turn around the Broncos

Coming off of their bye week, Denver had a chance to fix a lot of what ailed them in the first half; failing to do so is a very troubling sign
21 days ago
George Paton...
James Merilatt

George Paton deserves most of the blame for this year’s Broncos mess

Denver's general manager has his fingerprints over every aspect of the franchise, so the team's struggles are squarely on his shoulders
21 days ago
Russell Wilson...
James Merilatt

Why can’t the Broncos go on a playoff run after the bye week?

The bye week provided Denver with a chance to hit the reset button and find the solutions to problems that have cost them in one-score games
28 days ago
Russell Wilson...
James Merilatt

Hackett and Wilson provide glimmer of hope because of one vital trait

With the game on the line, as well as perhaps the season and jobs, the Broncos head coach and quarterback delivered when it mattered
1 month ago
It’s time to strip Nathaniel Hackett of some (if not all) of his duties