BRONCOS

Do the Denver Broncos have an accountability problem?

Nov 17, 2022, 6:43 AM
Nathaniel Hackett...
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I think the Denver Broncos have an accountability problem. They have several problems, mostly on the offensive side of the ball and with their offensive coaches. They don’t have an identity, they aren’t running the system we saw all offseason and during training camp, and even worse the Broncos offense seems to let mistakes slide – for both players and the coaching staff.

Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett is quick to fall on the sword on a weekly basis after another loss from his inconsistent team. At his most recent press conference, Hackett once again brought up the “A” word when talking about his message to the team about the poor offensive play.

“In the end—like we’ve talked about—is accountability. It starts with me. I want to always hold myself accountable and make sure that I’m giving the guys the ample opportunities to make plays. Then it’s just talking about all the different things that we can do better as a team. When we do that, we put the tape up there in front of the entire group and we talk it through. We talk about where maybe I went wrong, where maybe a player went wrong, and it’s an open forum. We want to have that relationship in that room so we can all see those things and say, ‘Hey, if you make this play here and there, things change.’ It’s not just one guy. It’s multiple guys and we have to get everybody on the same page because we have to get a win,” Hackett said.

So, do the Broncos have an accountability problem? Let’s take a look.

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Turnovers Are Not Okay

Nobody in football would ever say that turnovers are okay. However, with his actions of leaving Melvin Gordon as the starter that’s kind of the message that Hackett is sending. Sure, Gordon has not fumbled in a few games – but against the Tennessee Titans in Week 10 Gordon fumbled twice (one he was ruled down, one as he was going out of bounds). They were not turnovers, but both were reminders that having Gordon tote the rock is a dangerous proposition.

Gordon has been the starter for the Broncos since Javonte Williams was lost for the season. He’s getting to start even though the Broncos could go to Latavius Murray as the starter. Murray is the better back in my opinion, but for whatever reason Gordon is the player Hackett trusts to start.
Hackett talked more about accountability on Wednesday.

“I think accountability for all of us—like I said, it starts with me. You never want to turn the ball over. You want to score more touchdowns. We want to find ways to get more first downs—diving for them, running for them, throwing for them. It doesn’t matter. I don’t really care how we do it, we just have to do it. We have to be about those details in every way. We have to be better, and we will be better.”

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Little to No Improvement

I don’t think the Broncos have a good offensive line coach in Butch Barry. For whatever reason, the Broncos decided to move on from Mike Munchak. That’s mistake no.1 – with the second mistake coming with the hiring of Barry – a first-time offensive line coach. He’s not known as a teacher, and instead Barry is known as a yeller when it comes to motivation. That may work at a lower level, although that’s quite debatable, but it’s certainly not working with the Broncos.

Who on this offensive line has gotten better? Go ahead, think about it…I’ll wait. Did you come up with anyone? That’s okay, I didn’t either.

The fact that no player has improved under the guidance of Barry is quite telling. For me, it says that Barry’s message – however delivered – is not getting through. If Hackett was truly accountable, then he would have removed Barry as the offensive line coach. Against the Titans, Russell Wilson was hit 18 times and sacked 6.0 times. If there was any time to fire an offensive line coach, that would be it. Wilson is your franchise quarterback, like it or not, and he’s not going to survive the rest of the season if he keeps getting hit like that. I know people will blame injuries, but these guys have enough talent to protect Wilson better – if they were better coached.

Barry is failing as a coach. I’m certain the players know this, and that’s a bad look within the building in my opinion.

Hackett talked more about accountability and how the team can protect Wilson better with a better scheme. You won’t be shocked to know that it starts with Hackett…again.

“A lot of the time, we try to go a little bit more intermediate [routes]. Sometimes those things can get extended. Yes, we want to be able to get the ball out of our hand quick and we want to be able to protect, especially with these two very good defensive ends that we’ll be facing. Their entire front four—front five at times—is very good. We’re taking all that into perspective, depending on who’s going to be out there. You never want one-on-one matchups. You want to try to limit that as much as you can. You want to run the ball. All those things are things that we take into account. We want to still be aggressive, but smart at the same time,” Hackett said.

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Not So Special Teams

I like special teams coach Dwayne Stukes. He’s fired up, and you can tell he loves football. However, coach Stukes is not putting out a good product. The Broncos special teams has been a joke for years, and still in 2022 their struggles continue. I’m sure Stukes is fuming over the play of his unit, especially because he is such a motivator.

Still, this is a results-based business and their results on special teams aren’t good. After the Titans game, the Broncos released wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland. He was making mistakes, and the team felt they could move on. However, rookie return man Montrell Washington – who we can all see now was a bad pick – can make mistake after mistake after mistake yet he’s still out there as the starter. The Broncos keep Washington out there when a guy like Jalen Virgil – a dangerous return man in college – would be a better option.

Hackett talked about whether the release of Cleveland had to do with accountability since he was making mistakes on offense and special teams.

“First, it’s about numbers and George (Paton) handles a lot of that stuff. We needed a spot, and we have a lot of wide receivers. Tyrie has really worked hard. He’s done a good job for us. He’s been really good on special teams and all those things. That’s just part of the business,” Hackett said.

So, Cleveland can get cut when he’s a core special teams’ player and a “four phaser,” yet Washington can continue to make mistakes – and not learn from his mistakes – and he is still the starting return man? That just doesn’t make sense, and I think it sends the wrong message.

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Summary

Do the Broncos have an accountability problem? You can be the judge. To me, their biggest problem is Nathaniel Hackett. The messages being sent to the fans and likely to the team is just wrong. That’s a message crafted by Hackett’s coaching style and personality. As I’ve previously written, he is a nice guy, but I don’t think he’s the leader of men this Broncos team needs.

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Do the Denver Broncos have an accountability problem?