Why did the Broncos fire Nathaniel Hackett? Infighting, Russell Wilson rejects NFL sentence after 15 games
As it turns out, Nathaniel couldn’t hack it.
The Broncos fired rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett before the end of his first season at the helm, after Hackett helped lead the Broncos to a 4-11 record this year.
The firing comes in the wake of the Broncos’ loss to the Rams, a 51-14 humiliation on Christmas Day, and sealed Hackett’s fate. He is one of only four first-year head coaches to be fired before the end of their first season, joining Urban Meyer (Jacksonville, 2021), Pete McCulley (San Francisco, 1978) and John Whelchel (Washington, 1947).
MORE: A comprehensive timeline of Nathaniel Hackett’s coaching blunders
The Broncos released a statement on Monday, confirming the firing of Hackett but confirming the job security of GM George Paton:
We have split teams with head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
A statement from Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner: pic.twitter.com/1tWMjHv6em
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) 26 December 2022
Hackett was the gift that kept on giving to all who is not it a fan of the Broncos. Here’s why the team ultimately decided to move on from him.
Why did the Broncos fire Nathaniel Hackett?
Even with a top defense, the Broncos were 4-11 and ultimately a rotten team. Hackett showed several shortcomings as bench boss throughout the year.
Clock and game management
The first major red flag in Hackett’s head coaching career came in the first game of his head coaching career.
Hackett famously settled for a 64-yard field goal as time expired rather than go for it with Wilson at the helm. Seattle would take home the win in the effort, and Hackett would second guess himself in the days that followed.
Throughout the season, Hackett’s clock management didn’t improve much, nor did his situational football. Constant goal line shotgun formations, penalties and questionable playcalls doomed Hackett.
Hackett eventually hired a game management coach, which seems, well, like a job the head coach should be doing.
Needless to say, Russell Wilson’s disastrous season goes hand in hand with Hackett’s firing. Ultimately, it’s much easier to fire the coach than the quarterback.
While the Broncos reportedly looked at Aaron Rodgers before the start of the season, the trade for Wilson seemed like a round-stick-square-hole fit with the new head coach. Hackett, who implemented a scheme with West Coast offense principles, was not built for Wilson’s strength, and it showed throughout the year. Wilson will finish with a career low in touchdowns, with just 12 TD passes through 16 weeks, and overall looks like a bad investment. Much of that can be contributed by Hackett.
MORE: Russell Wilson confronted by heated Mike Purcell during loss
The lasting image of Hackett’s coaching career may not have anything to do with him, but rather his players.
On Christmas Day, a group of Broncos players, including offensive lineman Dalton Risner and backup quarterback Brett Rypien, were seen arguing and getting a little physical on the sideline. While arguments do occur among NFL players, arguments on 4-11 football teams are usually somewhat emblematic of deep-seated problems.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the sideline battle may have been a sign that Hackett “really lost his team.”
Well, now the team has officially lost him.