After Embarrassing Loss (And Season), NFL People Expect Broncos Coach Nathaniel Hackett Will Be Fired

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If Nathaniel Hackett is still the Denver Broncos head coach next season people across the NFL will be surprised.

Hackett, you see, has shown little growth in leading perhaps the most disappointing team in the league to a 4-11 record. That’s not how it was supposed to play after the Broncos made a blockbuster trade for quarterback Russell Wilson in the offseason.

The Broncos were expected to vie for a Super Bowl and definitely make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. But we’re light years removed from those expectations now.

My phone lit up Sunday evening with texts from a current coach, a former coach, and personnel people spanning 23 years of league history, some wondering if Hackett survives even past Monday or Tuesday.

“They might as well start their search now,” a former personnel director said.

All this after the Broncos were beaten 51-14 by the Los Angeles Rams.

Nathaniel Hackett hasn't put Russell Wilson in position to succeed.
Larrell Murchison of the Los Angeles Rams sacks Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos. (Getty Images)

Hackett Has Broncos Unprepared

That game was not just about an embarrassing 37-point loss but also an embarrassment in how the Broncos conducted themselves.

Hackett’s team, apparently unprepared to play, allowed the Rams to score every time their offense had the football from the start until a quarterback kneel down mercifully ended it three hours later.

That was bad but what happened on the sideline and after the game seemed somehow worse.

That drama included a sideline incident in which Denver offensive linemen, who were at least partially responsible for yielding six sacks, got into an exchange with backup quarterback Brett Rypien. After one of those sacks Rypien was apparently upset none of the linemen helped pick up Wilson.

Guard Dalton Risner responded to Rypien barking at him by pushing backup quarterback away, according to the sideline reporting from CBS.

Wilson was later seen speaking with Risner as part of an apparent effort to calm the situation. But even that moment was awkward as Wilson held a football up to his mouth as he spoke.

The quarterback seemed to be covering his mouth to guard against potential lip readers but in the process looked like a total goofball holding that football in front of his face.

The moment, by the way, tells you all you need to know about Wilson on the Broncos and in the Hackett offense this year: It’s all well intentioned.

But it just doesn’t play out right.

Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is furstrated.
Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos was unable to muster much offense (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Russell Wilson Says Broncos Frustrated

“I think we’re all frustrated,” Wilson said later. “We feel like we can be better. We all feel we’re capable of being better … Nobody wants to put out what we put out today. That was not us.”

No, the Broncos haven’t made a habit of losing by five touchdowns. But they’ve gotten very familiar with failure. So losing is them. It’s totally them.

What made this worse is that after losing, the Broncos did more loser things.

Defensive end Randy Gregory decided to show more fight afterward than during game by punching Rams guard Oday Aboushi as players were greeting each other in the middle of the field.

Aboushi responded with a punch of his own.

It’s unclear what led to the exchange. Gregory declined to speak with reporters after the game but not before he admitted, “Ya’ll wanna know if I hit him in the mouth? I did.”

This paints a picture of a team that makes mistakes and doesn’t seem to realize how bad or wrong it is.

It paints in broad strokes the Broncos as a team with little discipline — a fact backed up on the field by the team’s league-leading 107 penalties.

“Everybody’s frustrated,” Hackett said. “That was a bad game. An embarrassing game. That’s the first one we’ve had like that. We addressed it. We’ve talked about all those things. Talked with Randy, talked with all those guys.

“We can’t show our frustrations. We’ve got to take our frustrations out on the field the right way.”

Broncos Head Coach Nataniel Reacts To Fans Booing The Team
Head coach Nathaniel Hackett of the Denver Broncos has struggled throughout the season. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Hackett Has Had Terrible Season

Hackett was obviously not going to discuss the disaster of the entire season. He was speaking in context of one very bad game.

But even in that limited context this was a terrible showing by Hackett against an equally bad Rams team that didn’t have its starting quarterback, or two starting receivers, or starting running back, or two starting offensive linemen, or its best defensive player in Aaron Donald.

This 37-point loss came against a team that averaged 16.4 points per game.

So Rams coach Sean McVay schooled Hackett.

“It always starts with me, without a doubt,” Hackett said. “That was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed. That’s not what we’re about.”

The Broncos are owned by the very wealthy Walton-Penner ownership group that is tied to the Walmart fortune. These people didn’t hire Hackett but rather bought the team after he was already the coach.

What that means is Hackett is working for people who don’t have to admit a mistake when they fire him. He’s working for people that know a lot about success and have the money to chase that success. All this pieced together suggests change is coming to the Broncos.

“A lot needs to happen,” Wilson said. “No. 1 is I have to play to the standards that I know how to play, too. You know, and I’ve been playing to my whole career.”

What the team will do about its high-priced and underperforming quarterback is another matter. That will be addressed after Nathaniel Hackett is probably gone.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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  1. It was clear very early on this dude wasn’t HC material. Sometimes you have to just cut your losses and admit it’s not going to work out, even if it causes embarrassment. I’d argue the first game of the season he proved his lack of ability. The decision to kick a 60+ yard FG instead of trying one or two more plays to get closer was one of the most idiotic things we’ve ever seen a coach do on the field.

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