Denver Broncos fire coach Nathaniel Hackett after 4-11 start

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday.

The move comes after a 4-11 start and Sunday’s 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Hackett’s firing abruptly ends the shortest tenure of any non-interim head coach in franchise history. The Broncos’ new ownership — the Walton-Penner Group, led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, his daughter Carrie Walton Penner and son-in-law Greg Penner — quickly ran out of patience for a team with one of the best defenses in the league. with an attack that just couldn’t score.

“After extensive conversations with [general manager] George [Paton] and our ownership group, we have determined that a new direction would be in the best interests of the Broncos,” Greg Penner said in a statement. “This change has been made now out of respect for all involved and allows us to immediately begin the search for a new head coach. .

“Going forward, we will carefully evaluate all aspects of our football operations and make the necessary changes to restore this franchise’s winning tradition,” Penner said, adding that Paton will help with the search for coaches. No interim was appointed.

The team has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday at noon ET.

At one point this season, the Broncos featured the #1 scoring defense and #32 scoring offense. The Broncos also missed the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year, the longest playoff drought since the franchise’s early years, when they lost the playoffs between 1960-1976.

A far cry from Hall of Fame Pat Bowlen’s three decades as owner, when the Broncos went to more Super Bowls (seven) than lost seasons. This season is also the fifth time the Broncos have averaged less than 20 points per game in the past seven years. Until Hackett’s firing, Wade Phillips had the shortest tenure as the team’s non-interim head coach in the post-AFL-NFL merger era – two seasons (1993-1994) – before being fired by Bowlen to hire Mike Shanahan.

Hackett, 42, was hired in January as the franchise’s 18th head coach after serving three seasons as offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers under Matt LaFleur. At the time, Paton called Hackett a “dynamic leader and coach whose intelligence, innovation and charisma impressed us early on in the process.”

Then-Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn were also shortlisted for the role. O’Connell was subsequently signed by the Minnesota Vikings, whose resurgent offense carried them to a 12–3 start. Shortly after Hackett was signed, the Broncos traded five draft picks, including two first-round and two second-round picks, as well as three players to the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson signed a five-year, $245 million contract extension shortly before the start of the season.

But the Broncos’ offseason excitement quickly dissipated when Hackett’s decision-making in the game was called into question from the start of the season.

In Week 1, his call for kicker Brandon McManus to attempt a 64-yard field goal instead of Wilson trying to convert a fourth-and-5 in the final minute of a 17–16 loss to Seattle proved controversial.

“Looking back, I definitely should have tried,” Hackett said the day after the loss. “One of those things, you look back and say ‘Of course we should try, we missed the field goal.’ But in that situation we had a plan, we knew 46 was the mark.”

Game management issues continued in the weeks that followed – fans even counted the game clock during some home games – and former Baltimore Ravens assistant coach Jerry Rosburg was brought in in September to help with management decisions. game. The disconnect between Hackett, Wilson and the attack persisted, however. Hackett routinely stressed that he wanted to “build this thing around (Wilson)” and do what Wilson was “comfortable” on offense, even when Wilson repeatedly said he was comfortable “doing a lot of stuff”.

At 15.5 points per game, the Broncos are at their lowest single-season point total since 1966.

Injuries to frontline players like left tackle Garett Bolles, running back Javonte Williams, wide receiver Tim Patrick and outside linebacker Randy Gregory certainly didn’t help matters. But as the season went on, there was much less talk in the public domain about Hackett’s willingness to think outside the box in his teaching methods and more about why the Broncos’ offense was so historically bad. Five of the Broncos’ first six losses and eight overall were one-score games.

That was not the case on Sunday, as Denver’s defense saw the Rams score on eight of their nine possessions. Additionally, backup quarterback Brett Rypien and guard Dalton Risner exchanged words on the sideline after a third-quarter run when Wilson was sacked on back-to-back plays.

Gregory was pulled out of the game twice by Hackett, once in the first half when he was flagged after throwing his helmet after a Rams touchdown, and later when he was flagged for a late hit on Los Angeles quarterback Baker Mayfield. “After that second, we took him out – that’s unacceptable,” Hackett said.

As the teams crowded the middle of the field on their way to their locker rooms after the game, Gregory and Rams guard Oday Aboushi exchanged words – with helmets on – and Gregory punched Aboushi in the helmet. Aboushi responded with a punch before breaking apart.

With the richest ownership group in the NFL, as well as a fan base passionate enough even now to have given the Broncos a home sales streak stretching back to the 1970s, the Broncos head coaching role will be an attractive job. .