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Nathaniel Hackett Watch Begins at Broncos HQ

All eyes are on the Denver Broncos to see if Nathaniel Hackett is relieved of his duties.
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Try as he might, Nathaniel Hackett has failed to move the needle for the Denver Broncos. All of Hackett's horses and all of Hackett's men haven't put the Broncos back together again. 

A head coach hired because of his offensive expertise has presided over the NFL's worst scoring offense and the regression of a nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback in only his 11th NFL season. Hackett capitulated to the pressure and relinquished play-calling duties, giving QBs coach Klint Kubiak the privilege in Denver's 22-16 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.

The change failed to spark anything remotely resembling an offensive renaissance. The Kubiak-called offense did show signs of improvement. The Broncos were more balanced, and the play-calling definitely catered to Russell Wilson's strengths more, and that of the depleted offense. 

But the same core problems that have haunted the Broncos offensively were present in Sunday's loss to the Raiders. The Broncos converted just 3-of-12 third downs (25%), went 1-of-2 in the red zone, and Melvin Gordon fumbled again

Although Gordon's fumble was recovered by the Broncos, it happened on the Raiders' 3-yard line on 3rd-&-1 after he'd seemingly picked up the yardage to buy Denver a new set of downs. The recovery happened behind the line of scrimmage, forcing the Broncos into fourth down. 

Brandon McManus' field-goal attempt, a veritable chip shot, was blocked by Maxx Crosby, erasing gimme points off the board. That's what Hackett's reticence to cut bait with Gordon, in the face of mounting fumbles, bought the Broncos on Sunday.

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It completely shifted the momentum of the game, and the Broncos never recovered. Denver's inability to muster a counterpunch in the second half ultimately saw the team collapse in the fourth quarter once again, as the Raiders forced the game into overtime. From there, a walk-off touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Davante Adams (his second of the day) ended the game, securing Las Vegas with its third consecutive sweep of the Broncos. 

The final dagger is the reality that the Raiders' 2022 sweep came at the hands of Josh McDaniels. Las Vegas has three wins on the season, and two of them are against the Broncos. 

How much more humiliation and ignominy will the Walton/Penner ownership group in Denver suffer before Hackett is handed his walking papers? Going into Week 11, it was a safe bet that Hackett would be a one-and-done head coach in Denver. 

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If the Broncos are going to ultimately fire Hackett, Broncos Country wonders: why wait? The counter-argument is that with no sure-fire option to be promoted to interim head coach, what's the point of Denver firing Hackett now? 

Dom Capers is more of an advisor to Hackett than he is a coach, and although he's an experienced head coach in the NFL (if not a successful one), he's 72 years old. Broncos fans want the interim torch to be passed to defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero if Hacket is fired, but promoting him in season, according to KOARadio's Benjamin Allbright, would expose the young up-and-comer to NFL hiring predations in 2023. 

"If the Broncos keep Evero as DC they own his contract as DC going forward unless someone offers him a HC job," Allbright tweeted

In other words, if you want Evero around beyond 2023, don't make him interim head coach. So who could step up if Hackett is fired? Kubiak? Capers? Certainly not offensive coordinator Justin Outten, who wasn't even good enough at his job to be given play-calling duties when Hackett relinquished them.

The Broncos' ownership group is between a rock and a hard place. But with the villagers arming themselves with pitchforks and demanding blood, the Walton/Penner group might be inclined to lower the temperature outside Broncos HQ and deliver Hackett's head to the mob. 

Hackett Watch has officially begun. 


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