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Broncos Hiring Hackett; Let Rodgers Questions Begin

Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Denver Broncos are hiring Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their new coach, according to NFL Network.

Will a soon-to-be four-time MVP join him in the Mile High City?

In Green Bay, Hackett helped build an offense that won an NFL-high 39 games the past three seasons. Over that span, the Packers ranked fifth in scoring (27.2 points per game), first in turnovers (37; six fewer than any other team) and eighth on third down.

Having that MVP quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, at the controls for all but one of those games gave Hackett an obvious advantage, but he also guided the Jacksonville Jaguars – quarterbacked by Blake Bortles – to within 15 minutes of the Super Bowl in 2017.

That Hackett landed one of the nine head coaching jobs isn’t a surprise given his track record. The son of longtime NFL coach Paul Hackett, the 42-year-old is more than just one of the league’s bright offensive minds. A head coach must not only know X’s and O’s, but he must be able to be the face of the franchise. Packers coach Matt LaFleur, for instance, speaks to reporters five days a week during the season. With his enthusiasm for his job and a zest for life, Hackett will be a tremendous spokesman for the Broncos.

“I think on a base level, the ability to relate to players and lead a room should be at the top of any general manager or owner’s desires,” Rodgers said during the playoff bye. “You have to be able to relate to guys. This whole college mentality, high school mentality – coach needs the player to be scared of him and some of this way of coaching that’s thankfully gone the way of the white buffalo – that shouldn’t be a part of what people are looking for.

“It should be an ability to relate to the guys, understand what they’re into, how to motivate and inspire them best, how to get them to be self-motivated, set the framework for the squad and the focus and then trust your staff that you put together. Trust the leadership of the football team, encourage player-led teams and then it needs to be somebody that can control a room with presence, with speech, with the concise message needed at certain times.”

In three seasons with the 63-year-old Vic Fangio as coach, the Broncos went 7-10 in 2021, 5-11 in 2020and 7-9 in 2019. The last two seasons ended in the AFC West cellar. They haven’t had a winning record since going 9-7 in 2016, and their last playoff berth came in 2015, when they went 12-4 and won the Super Bowl in Gary Kubiak’s debut season. The quarterback of that team? Peyton Manning.

And that leads us to the elephant in the room. Would Rodgers be interested in joining Hackett in Denver?

The Broncos are a very good team in need of a quarterback. They also were a very good team without a quarterback last offseason, when, in the midst of the news that Rodgers was upset with Packers leadership and could be available, they bypassed Justin Fields and Mac Jones and selected cornerback Patrick Surtain III with the ninth pick of the draft.

With his respect for Hackett and obvious knowledge of the offense that Hackett will be installing, Denver would be a potentially attractive situation for Rodgers.

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In Green Bay, Rodgers has the one-two punch of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon in the backfield. Denver has the one-two punch of Melvin Gordon and electric rookie Javonte Williams.

In Green Bay, Rodgers has the indomitable Davante Adams to carry the passing game. Denver doesn’t have an elite playmaker but receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick form a quality trio, and Noah Fant is a big-time threat at tight end. Of note, they’re all under contract for the long haul: Sutton through 2025, Patrick through 2024, Jeudy through 2023 (2024 if they trigger the fifth-year option) and Fant through 2022 (2023 if they trigger the fifth-year option).

In Green Bay this season, Rodgers had a winning defense. Denver’s defense is elite. The Broncos finished third in points allowed (18.9 points per game) and eighth in total defense.

Added together, if the Packers faced the Broncos with Rodgers as all-time quarterback, Denver might have the better team.

Moreover, while the Packers have been an elite team the past three years, they enter this offseason about $50 million over the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com. Only the Saints are in a worse position. Denver, meanwhile, is $34.3 million under the cap, the seventh-best situation in the league.

So, the Broncos not only could afford to absorb Rodgers’ contract but they have the money to handle Adams, too.

The Broncos own the ninth pick of this year’s draft. They also have additional second- and third-round choices after trading Von Miller to the Rams.

On Monday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said he wants Rodgers as quarterback “until he decides to retire.” And Rodgers has said multiple times, including on Tuesday’s edition of The Pat McAfee Show, that his relationship with general manager Brian Gutekunst is much stronger than it was a year ago.

“I feel like I’m at the place relationally with the Packers, in a really good place especially with Brian and the way our friendship and trust has grown, where it would be a simple conversation and whatever comes out of the conversation is moving forward,” Rodgers said. “There’s not going to be a weird standoff, war of silence of anything. Brian and I have had good conversations throughout the year and when it comes time to make a decision, we’ll have a conversation and that’ll be that. It won’t be a long, drawn-out process. I think that’s what’s best for me, for him, for the organization and for all the other decisions that need to be made.”

Rodgers has spoken highly of the two internal candidates to be Green Bay's new offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy and offensive line coach Adam Stenavich. At age 38 and possessing a strong relationship with coach Matt LaFleur, having worked through his issues with Gutekunst and with 17 seasons in Green Bay, Rodgers might not be willing to start anew.

As Rodgers said recently on Adam Schein’s podcast, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it.

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