Nathaniel Hackett is a good person, but he’s a bad head coach
The Denver Broncos need a new head coach. Nathaniel Hackett is not even through his first season as the Broncos’ head coach, and you can already tell that he’s not cut out for the job.
Over the first nine games of the season, Hackett is in contention to be the worst head coach in recent Broncos’ history. This includes guys like Vic Fangio, Vance Joseph, and Josh McDaniels. It’s fitting that Hackett is taking on the Las Vegas Raiders, led by McDaniels, in what could be his last stand as the Broncos head coach.
Hackett’s nice guy personality can only go so far. Everyone believes he’s a good person, but few must believe he’s a good head coach after the way things have gone this season. If the Broncos lose to the Raiders, will Hackett lose his job? Let’s take a look.
Coaching For His Job
Hackett is full of cliché’s when he talks, just like most coaches in the NFL. However, there are times when bits of truth come through in what he says. At times, I think Hackett has been a bit too forward with the media. At other times, I don’t think he says enough. That’s just the way it goes with a young head coach.
He’s certainly on the hot seat. He certainly is not meshing well with quarterback Russell Wilson. He certainly is not making the Walton-Penner ownership group happy. It’s so bad for Hackett that Broncos general manager George Paton is not catching some of the criticism lofted at his head coach. Fans are now blaming Paton for hiring Hackett and making the trade for Wilson.
I know the dirty secret in the NFL is that it’s all about fit. I know Wilson does not fit what Hackett wants to do. I know they already paid Wilson, and that’s bad news for Hackett as he will be the fall guy if that decision is made. Right now, it’s not Wilson’s fault (to some) but it can most all be placed at the feet of Hackett.
On Monday, Hackett admitted that he’s coaching for his job in only the most cliched way possible.
“I learned a long time go that you are coaching for your job every day. Every single day you come in that building, you compete, and you fight to be the best version of yourself and try to bring the best out of everybody around you. That is just how this is, and that is how I’ve always known it is. When it comes to the family, I love them. They know what we got into. This is part of it. I have been doing this my whole life. Since I was born, it’s been going on. Like I said, you are always coaching for your life. To me, it’s not about me, though. It has nothing to do with me. It has to do with this team, it has to do with these coaches, and it has to do with all of us coming together to find a way to win a football game that’s on Sunday. We have to come together as a group. I’m secondary. It’s about all of us uniting and coming together and beating the Raiders,” Hackett said.
How about not coaching for your job? A good coach, Andy Reid, Sean McDermott, Kevin O’Connell, etc are not coaching for their jobs. Hackett should not focus on the dangers of the head-coaching world – everyone already knows about them. Instead, he should focus on being the best head coach he can be and be damned the consequences. Every coach is hired to get fired eventually, and Hackett is making the Walton-Penner’s decision much easier each week.
I thought that in the bye week, Hackett would get to take a longer look in the mirror. I thought Hackett would make some changes because he was able to further self-scout and determine what he could be doing differently. I thought that would be the difference against the Titans in Week 10 and that we’d see a rejuvenated Broncos’ offense.
I was wrong.
Well, I was wrong about the results. Hackett did take time to reflect on his performance, but the results were not there in another loss for the team on Sunday. Hackett should see that his system does not fit with Wilson. Hackett should see that the biggest play of the day, the 66-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Virgil, came from a play change made by Wilson at the line of scrimmage.
Hackett should know that he’s got to craft plays that fit the personnel the team currently has. The offensive line is in shambles. Instead of having plays ready that accentuate short passing, Hackett calls plays where three receivers are running vertical routes that take time to get open. That’s time Wilson doesn’t have in the pocket, and those plays are busted easily by the pressure that is beating up his quarterback.
At his press conference on Monday, Hackett said he evaluates himself more than anybody.
Hackett: “I evaluate myself more than anybody, from the play-calling to the everyday operation to how we run practices.”
Says the biggest thing he’s learned as a HC is the “ability to organize my time,” to give everybody the “due diligence that they deserve.”
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) November 14, 2022
Something needs to change. I hoped the bye week would provide the necessary time for changes to be implemented, but it was more of the same-old, same-old against the Titans. The Raiders are not a good team, but they could certainly beat the Broncos again – especially because Hackett is not self-scouting correctly.
Close Doesn’t Count
The Broncos have been in close games all season long. In fact, if they had averaged a score of 18 points per game their record would currently be 8-1 this season. By scoring 18 points per game, the Broncos would have the no.24 scoring offense in the league. They can’t get to that total, and that’s the reason why they’re 3-6 and 2022 looks like a lost season.
The old saying goes, close doesn’t count unless it’s horseshoes or hand grenades. The NFL is a results-based business, and the results for the Broncos have not been good. Losing close games leans more towards the coaching staff in my opinion. It shows the defense can keep things close, regardless of the opponent. Close losses also show the offense can’t get it done and the coaching staff can’t close out a game properly.
No matter how you slice it, this is not a good look for Hackett. Some think close losses one year turn into close wins the following season. However, there must be signs that things are improving for that to truly be the case. Instead of showing growth as a head coach – and most of us would forgive a first-year head coach who learns from his mistakes – Hackett seems to be stuck in a rut. He’s working night-and-day, but the production has not been there. I see no reason why that would change with more time.
Hackett knows that things must get fixed and that losing close games cannot be a crutch to lean on as a coaching staff.
“We are close, but that is not what we are here for. We are not here to be No. 1 in close games. We are here to win football games. It shows that the men in that locker room stay together, and they battle all the way until the end of the game which is what I believe in. I love all those guys that are in that locker room. It shows that we have the potential to win some of these games, but we have to get this stuff fixed,” Hackett said.
The only loss that wasn’t close this year was the one to the Raiders. In Week 4, the Raiders ran all over the Broncos and won 32-23. So, a close loss to the Raiders would actually be an improvement. A blowout loss might mean changes happen sooner than expected for the Broncos.
So, is Hackett going to get fired if he loses to McDaniels and the Raiders on Sunday? I’d say it depends on the optics.