Amid coaching change, Broncos players embrace responsibility for disappointing season
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the wake of the Broncos organization’s decision to part ways with head coach Nathaniel Hackett, the players have not viewed the move as a sole assessment of one man’s body of work.
While Hackett was ultimately responsible for the team’s performance, several players he managed, including some of its biggest stars, said Wednesday they also feel responsible for a disappointing 2022 season.
“Obviously, I’m devastated for Coach Hackett because I think he’s a wonderful man, wonderful teacher, wonderful father — just [from] watching him with his kids — and what he’s been able to do and how he’s learned the game for us,” Russell Wilson said. “This season has been one we never thought would happen the way it did. … It’s been a crazy season — tons of injuries, tons of everything else — but the reality is, I wish I could have played better for him, too. I wish I could have played at the standard I have played – that I have always played at and know how to play at. But what I do know is he’s resilient, he’s going to be a great coach, like I said, and I love him to death and everybody misses him, for sure.”
Safety Justin Simmons, who will soon be playing for a fifth head coach in Jerry Rosburg on an interim basis, has experienced the feeling before.
“Obviously it’s tough, it’s hard,” Simmons said. “You build relationships with coaches and families and Coach ‘Hack’ was one of the better people I’ve been around. So it’s always tough. This game is always going to be about winning. For me, I’m just disappointed as we as players kind of don’t get that job done. That’s what I’m thinking. It’s tough all the way around.
“… [T]The fact is we have to go out and find ways to win football games. Speaking defensively, it was obvious that the last game was not even close to the standard we hold ourselves to.”
For linebacker Alex Singleton, the Broncos’ shortcomings must at least partially fall on the players due to errors in the execution of game plans.
“Players play and when we don’t execute and things don’t go our way and things like that happen, it’s crazy,” Singleton said. “I loved Hackett, love everything about Hackett – that’s the first thing I texted him. But we’ve still got two games to play so [we have to] stay the course … and do our job.”
In the search for the next head coach, Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner said Tuesday they will look for a leader who can instill “accountability and discipline” and “an identity on offense.” And yet the players know that whoever that person is, it will be up to them to make sure the coach succeeds.
“We’ve got to get better and that starts with me,” Wilson said. “I’m looking forward to turning this thing around and making it special. And that’s going to make the hard days — the dark days, which we’re in some of those right now — that’s going to make it that much more worthwhile.”