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Nathaniel Hackett Slammed by NFL Analyst, on 'One-&-Done' Path

The Denver Broncos head coach has been pilloried by the national perspective.
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The Denver Broncos are trying to focus on the coming home tilt vs. the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football — the team's second prime-time game in three weeks. However, the outside noise isn't making it easy. 

After showcasing an alarming incompetence to manage a game and make crucial decisions in crunch time in the season-opening loss in Seattle, Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett only intensified those concerns in Week 2's ugly victory over the Houston Texans. Hackett's oblivious game management not only failed to improve, one could argue that it got even worse. 

The mystifying delay-of-game penalties continued vs. Houston, despite the presence of an 11th-year quarterback calling the signals. You know, the nine-time Pro Bowler. 

Without rehashing Hackett's litany of gaffes, suffice to say, he became a national meme when Broncos fans in attendance at Empower Field at Mile High collectively shouted the play-clock countdown while Russell Wilson and the offense were on the field in the fourth quarter. 

After years of suffering through bad football, and coming off six months of hype for the Hackett/Wilson ticket, the same fans who wouldn't dare open a bag of Doritos in that stadium while Peyton Manning was at the line, showcased their collective disdain and exasperation by audibly telegraphing to the quarterback when to snap the ball. 


Hackett's foibles have been laid bare and it's not just fans and local media sounding the alarm. The Ringer's Ben Solak shared his speculative opinion that Broncos GM George Paton settled on Hackett as the head-coaching hire solely as a recruiting beacon in the Aaron Rodgers sweepstakes. Then Solak put Hackett on a trajectory no head coach wants to be on just two games into his tenure. 

Hackett isn’t on the hot seat. It’s September—the seats of first-year coaches don’t get hot in September, no matter how reactionary the NFL media space becomes. But Hackett is on a totally unknown seat. He doesn’t have Rodgers, he doesn’t have ownership, and right now, he doesn’t have anything on his résumé that proves he can be an NFL head coach. He has the rest of the season to change that, or the argument for Hackett as anything more than a one-and-done coach will be impossible to make.

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No credible analyst I know is going to pick nits in Solak's lampooning of Hackett through two games, but there's no evidence that Hackett was hired only because of how he could help lure Rodgers to Denver. It's all conjecture. 

Now, Hackett's early body of work thus far has been unprofessional at worst, and incompetent at best. The Broncos aren't 2-0 right now in large part due to Hackett's game-management faux pas and amateur decision-making torpedoing the team. 

Far be it from me to defend an NFL head coach who is failing to execute even the most rudimentary tasks in-game and is verging on dereliction of duty. I know it's been bad, but keep in mind, it's also very early. 

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Obviously, Hackett has some learning to do. And he'd better cram that education in quickly and on the go, because there are 15 games left to be played. There's no rest for the weary and the NFL doesn't suffer fools. 

But, again, it's early. As concerning as Hackett's coaching has been, he is a first-timer and the season just kicked off. It's fair to wonder whether Hackett could be a "one-and-done coach" — to quote Solak — but saying that he doesn't have "anything on his resume" that proves he can be a head coach, that treads into "ax to grind" territory. 

Solak's bias is bleeding through onto the page. So take what we wrote with a grain of salt. 

As someone who has covered the Broncos every single day since 2012, I'm not going to tell you not to worry. How could I? I'm worried myself. 

But if there's any salve to soothe this situation, it's the presence of Wilson. While Wilson has to share some modicum of complicity in the delay-of-game gaffes, he's the reason the Broncos beat the Texans 16-9. 

Wilson struggled for much of that game, like his team, but when the chips were down and the Broncos need him to execute most, the veteran came through with the go-ahead touchdown pass to secure the win. Wilson is still getting used to his new football environs, supporting cast, and coaching staff. 

Wilson's body of work thus far has put him on the path to Canton, OH, and if he's still a franchise QB, then he'll be the tide that indeed raises all ships. Once he gets a feel for things with Hackett and company, and finds a groove, my hunch is that these major wrinkles the Broncos have displayed will be ironed out.

For what it's worth, Hackett went back to the drawing board and says he's made the necessary tweaks to avoid those same game management mistakes. 

“That's something that we really jumped into and wanted to make sure that we can get better at that," Hackett said on Wednesday. "That starts with me, and I'm doing every single thing I can to try to put myself in a position to be able to make quicker, faster [and] more efficient decisions. George [Paton], ‘Moug’ (Assistant GM Darren Mougey), all those guys have been absolutely spectacular in helping me through that process because that is something that is new for me. I think we're going to have some good answers as we move forward.”

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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