As the monkey’s paw in Russell Wilson’s hand curls, Nathaniel Hackett is the best Legendarily Bad Coach prospect outside of the Belichick shrub that we’ve seen in a while:
It’s a good thing Nathaniel Hackett doesn’t seem to understand the concept of time, because otherwise he’d be a little flustered by how quickly his welcome has worn out in Denver. Hackett, a product of the esteemed Doug Marrone coaching tree, was hired to be Denver’s head coach this offseason after thriving as Aaron Rodgers’s offensive coordinator. (Pretty much everybody thrives as Aaron Rodgers’s offensive coordinator.) It’s going poorly. After trading for Russell Wilson in the offseason, the Broncos have only 32 points in their first two games under Hackett, which is pretty bad—but that’s not even what people are mad about. It turns out that Hackett is terrible at making decisions, which is probably the most important aspect of being an NFL head coach.
Things were clearly off from the beginning of his first game as head coach—it took an unusually long time for Hackett to get play calls in from the sideline, leaving the Broncos scrambling to snap the ball before the end of the play clock. But then he epically botched the endgame: The Broncos needed a field goal to win, and crossed midfield with a little bit over a minute left. At that point, he should’ve run a play or called a timeout. Instead, the Broncos let 40 seconds go off the clock, then called a timeout, after which Hackett asked Brandon McManus to kick a 64-yard field goal, which would have tied for the second longest in league history, in one of the toughest stadiums to kick. Thanks to Hackett’s indecisiveness the Broncos didn’t even have a chance to get the ball back.
Those issues continued on Sunday. At the end of the first half, the Broncos were on the goal line with all of their timeouts remaining. Hackett was indecisive about whether to go for it, and wasted enough time that the play clock expired. Now facing fourth-and-6, the decision was made for him, as Denver settled for the field goal.
But his masterpiece came in the second half, with Denver trailing by three points. On third-and-1, Hackett called an option with fullback Andrew Beck as the primary ball carrier (???), losing a yard and bringing up fourth down. Hackett left the offense on the field, then changed his mind, bringing on the field goal unit. McManus drilled a field goal—but not before the play clock expired, bringing about another delay of game. And instead of kicking a game-tying 59-yarder, which McManus clearly had the leg for, Hackett opted to punt. His indecision had officially cost his team points.
Hackett burned two second-half timeouts—one because the team forgot to send a punt returner onto the field, and one because the play clock was about to expire. That left them without any timeouts in the final 7:30 of the game, when timeouts tend to be very valuable.
Two games in, Broncos fans are already fed up. After turning the field goal attempt into a punt, Broncos fans started counting down the play clock en masse to help Hackett’s offense successfully snap the ball without drawing a delay-of-game penalty.
Amazing stuff — it’s like combining the clock management of Andy Reid at its worst with the offensive imagination of late-period Jeff Fisher. Admittedly, he did have overwhelming credentials: his father was a mediocre OC, and he was the “offensive coordinator” for the Green Bay Packers (i.e. carried around a Surface tablet with nothing loaded onto it and fetched Aaron Rodgers his ivermectin smoothies.) So I’m sure he’ll get better in no time!
In other bad coaching news, since starting his career 6-0 as a head coach Josh McDaniels has now been 5-19.