BRONCOS

In rare interview, John Elway says Broncos almost hired Kevin O’Connell

Oct 13, 2022, 2:32 PM
John Elway...
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How close were the Broncos to hiring someone other than Nathaniel Hackett as their head coach this past offseason?

According to John Elway, very close.

In a rare interview, Elway spoke with Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press earlier this week. Tomasson, because he covers the Vikings, asked Elway about Minnesota’s new head coach Kevin O’Connell. The Vikings are off to a fast start at 4-1, and the 37-year-old O’Connell is a big reason why. He interviewed with the Broncos for their top gig back in January.

“We were really, really impressed with his interview, so it does not surprise me that he’s having good success up there,” Elway said of O’Connell so far with the Vikings. “He was very, very impressive in the interview process, and it was nip and tuck which way we wanted to go. So I was glad to see that he got an opportunity, and I’m glad to see he’s having the success he’s having because he gave a great interview with us.”

That’s a pretty fascinating quote from No. 7. First of all, Elway didn’t hire Hackett, GM George Paton did. But it shows “The Duke of Denver” was still very much involved in the hiring process. His official role with the team is now as a consultant, but clearly Elway’s giving input on big decisions.

Instead, the Broncos braintrust went with Hackett. After a brutal 2-3 start, in which the Denver offense is 31st in the NFL in points per game, O’Connell looks like he would have been a better choice.

The Broncos are averaging just 15 points a contest, while Minnesota is putting up 23 points per game, tied for 12th in the NFL. Things have been smooth with Kirk Cousins and his best weapons, something the Broncos can’t say about Russell Wilson and his group.

“I think the system coming out from in L.A., being with the Rams, and what he learned out there, obviously he’s taken that, and I’m sure he’s putting in his own wrinkles to it,” Elway said. “But I think he’s grown up under a great base of coaching, especially offensive-minded coaches, to where he’s now taken it up there. Obviously, it’s working for Kirk. That’s the key thing.”

O’Connell, of course, was the Los Angeles offensive coordinator under head coach Sean McVay the last two seasons. The Rams won a Super Bowl, in part because Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr. and the offense thrived.

There’s a lot of season left, and a bit of time for Hackett to make things right. For now, though, it seems like Elway has a twinge of regret about Denver’s decision.

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