Denver Coach Nathaniel Hackett Trusts His Kicker More Than Russell Wilson, Which Blows Up Social Media

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Week One of the NFL season has come to a close and we now know Nathaniel Hackett is a rookie coach who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

Hackett has an 0-1 coaching record now because the Seattle Seahawks beat his favored Denver Broncos 17-16 on Monday night. And afterward, Hackett lamented about penalties and turnovers in the red zone as reasons his team lost.

“Two turnovers is not a good deal,” Hackett told reporters. “…We have to be better in that red zone, that starts with me. I got to be sure we’ve got a better plan and we’re able to get physical down there and score some touchdowns instead of field goals or nothing at all.”

Hackett missed something that was the biggest problem for the Broncos: His game management and decision-making in the final minute of the game.

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Hackett, you see, engaged in perhaps the most curious clock management and late-game decision-making any coach has put in front of a national television audience in recent memory. Said another way, Hackett made a dumb call.

He decided that on fourth-and-5 from the Seattle 46-yard line, with just under a minute to play, he was going to let the clock run down and eventually settle for a 64-yard field goal attempt for the win.

A Truly Moronic Decision

Let us provide you context here so you understand how utterly stupid this decision was:

The Denver Broncos traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, and three players to the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Russell Wilson. Then, the Broncos signed Wilson to a five-year, $245 million contract extension to secure their franchise quarterback through the 2028 season.

And after making that enormous investment, the rookie coach decided in the duo’s first regular-season game together to take the football out of Wilson’s hands with the game on the line.

The rookie coach instead bet the ballgame on kicker Brandon McManus connecting on a field goal from an outer ring of Saturn.

This feels like a poorly conceived decision in the same way spending a winter night outdoors naked in Siberia seems poorly conceived.

It’s poor judgment according to the metrics, it’s dumb for a coach wanting to show confidence in his most important player. It’s just blind.

And what’s maddening is Hackett had a lot of time to think about it. He apparently decided well in advance that if the Broncos reached the Seattle 46-yard line, the decision would be letting McManus kick.

So when running back Javonte Williams caught a 9-yard pass on third-and-14, the decision was sealed. Wilson and the offense, poised at the line of scrimmage to snap a deciding fourth-down play with 55 seconds left to play, simply just stood around while the clock ticked off.

“He knew where we had to get,” Hackett said. “I thought Javonte made an amazing (play), why I was expecting to have to go for it on that fourth down distance. We were about third-and-14, third-and-15 on third down.

“I thought Javonte made an incredible play to put us in field goal range, the mark we were looking for.”

So the Broncos weren’t looking to have their new franchise quarterback convert on fourth down even though that’s generally the reason teams search desperately for franchise quarterbacks.

Metrics Not On Hackett’s Side

And this is the part of this column where facts blow up Hackett. Pro Football Reference, the encyclopedia to the NFL, says in the last 28 years teams down one score in the final 3 minutes that go for it on fourth-and-5 convert 46.5 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, only 20.5 of field goal attempts of 60 yards or more since 1994 have been successful. And since 2000 there have been 29 field goal attempts of 64 yards or more. Two were successful for a 2.9 percent success rate.

And here is Brandon McManus’s resume on field goal attempts of 62 yards or more:

2016 — 62 yards: Miss.

2018 — 62 yards: Miss.

2019 — 64 yards: Miss.

2021 — 63 yards: Miss.

2021 — 70 yards: Miss.

2022 — 64 yards: Miss.

Hackett actually said in his press conference he thought it better to try that long-distance kick than expect Wilson to convert on fourth down.

I don’t know what’s more insulting to Wilson, the fact the coach thought that or the fact he shared that thought.

Russell Wilson And Pete Carroll React

Wilson, by the way, played along like a good soldier.

“I don’t think it was the wrong decision,” the quarterback said.

So he would rather have someone take the ball out of his hands? Look, if Wilson actually believes that, he’s not the right guy to lead a franchise. But I believe he’s simply saying this to avoid amplifying a controversy that’s already here.

Pete Carroll, who coached Wilson for the last decade, shared what he would have done in Hackett’s position and it wasn’t taking the ball out of Wilson’s hands.

“I was surprised they took Russ out at the end,” Carroll said. “We weren’t thinking field goal there. We were thinking they were going. It gave us a chance to win the game on that play. Very fortunate there.”

Hackett’s ears must have been ringing after this game because social media lit him up for his late-game (mis)management.

And this:

The Broncos’ season isn’t over because of this loss. But for rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett the honeymoon in Denver surely should be.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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