The circus that is the 2022 Denver Broncos reached a bit of a peak in terms of in-season drama this past week when reports emerged that quarterback Russell Wilson — not head coach Nathaniel Hackett — was losing some in the organization and the locker room. That report, which came from NFL Network, was refuted by the Denver Broncos and a number of key voices on the team, including key leaders on both sides of the ball.
Although nobody really knows exactly what it’s like in the locker room on a day-to-day basis, you can’t help but start putting some of the dots together and making educated guesses or assumptions about what is really going on here. What it feels like is that the writing is on the wall for the coaching staff led by Nathaniel Hackett, which is unfortunate because Hackett seems like a genuinely nice and good person who simply hasn’t been able to click in Denver.
Regardless of what the media reports are right now regarding Russell Wilson or the coaching staff, if one is going to go in the 2023 offseason, it’s going to be the coaching staff. The Denver Broncos gave Wilson a five-year, $245 million contract extension with $124 million in practical guarantees, $57 million of which were paid out in 2022.
There’s simply zero chance the team moves on from Wilson in 2023 but rather does everything in its power to figure out how to properly surround him. And they should also be looking into better contingency plans if you ask me. With that writing on the wall, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is some jockeying and posturing already in the media for who exactly is at fault for this whole debacle that has been the 2022 season.
Ultimately, even if you completely ignore the failure of connection between Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett, there is one really massive indictment against this coaching staff that cannot be ignored above all the other issues with this team.
The one major issue this Denver Broncos coaching staff will go down for
Although the fact that Russell Wilson is playing arguably the worst season of his NFL career will be looked at by many as the biggest failure of this Denver Broncos coaching staff, something else really stands out to me and will probably stand out to you after you really think about it.
When it comes to player development on the offensive side of the ball, who has gotten better on this Denver Broncos roster? When you genuinely think about this question, a question I posed on Twitter on Friday, barely any names come to mind for people. If there were a consensus selection and a name that actually had to be chosen, it seems like most people said Kendall Hinton was the team’s most improved offensive player from last year.
Hinton has had increased opportunities from last year, to be certain, but only out of necessity. Keep in mind, Hinton wasn’t even determined worthy of a final 53-man roster spot initially by this new coaching staff. Has he taken advantage of opportunities? Some. But over the last few weeks, Hinton has also had some maddening plays and very frustrating missed opportunities, but he’s consistently graded on a curve because of the fact that he helped the team out greatly in the QB/COVID came back in 2020.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Kendall Hinton as much as the next person, but Hinton dropped a touchdown pass against the Panthers this past week when he failed to properly flatten his route in the end zone, and he dropped a big play and perhaps a touchdown in the Broncos’ November 20 loss to the Raiders. He also dropped a pass on 4th down this past weekend against Carolina, but he still gets graded on a pretty favorable curve given his history and circumstances.
And is Hinton really the only improved offensive player in Denver? It sure seems that way, if you even want to throw his name into the ring.
The receivers, as a whole, seem worse. The running backs are hurt but the running game is not good, which leads to the offensive line. The offensive line has had injuries but has been worse all-around. The tight end position has seen a massive decline for Albert Okwuegbunam, even if it’s seen some nice things from Greg Dulcich. Even if you want to nit-pick and say that not every player on the offense has gotten worse, it’s pretty clear at this point that nobody has gotten markedly better.
That also includes Russell Wilson, who has been much, much worse this season compared to last year. Down the stretch for the Seahawks in 2021, Wilson had a QB rating north of 105 with 15 touchdown passes compared to just three interceptions. The Broncos would kill for that kind of production right now and unfortunately, Wilson’s stats over the final seven games of last season look better than his stats through 10 games this year.
I think the greatest indictment of this coaching staff led by Nathaniel Hackett and offensive coordinator Justin Outten is that the offensive personnel have not progressed even in the slightest. There are layers to this problem as well, such as failing to find a way to keep Mike Munchak on the staff as well as running backs coach Curtis Modkins. Heck, even keeping Chris Kuper around for the offensive line seems like it would have been favorable.
The Denver Broncos responded to reports from NFL Network insiders that Russell Wilson has started to lose some of the locker room.
The point is, the Broncos’ players on offense have not gotten better under a coaching staff whose primary expertise is on that side of the ball. That’s a massive problem and something that can’t be ignored by George Paton or anyone else in upper management for the Broncos.