The case for keeping Nathaniel Hackett in 2023 as Broncos head coach

Denver Broncos, Nathaniel Hackett (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos, Nathaniel Hackett (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos’ 2022 season has been arguably one of the worst in team history, but is there a case for Nathaniel Hackett to return in 2023?  Before my entire livelihood is ripped apart in the comment section, I’ll be the first to say that I am not advocating for this, but rather am trying to construct an argument that I personally do not agree with.

In all likelihood, Nathaniel Hackett, at the end of the 2022 season, will get to sit down with George Paton and others and have a chance to present his plan to fix the Denver Broncos.  The plan probably consists of new coaches on the offensive side of the ball, Hackett himself no longer calling plays and a free agency period that involves signing other offensive players.

It’s then that Paton and the rest of the crew decide whether or not Hackett will get to remain as the head coach.

The issues with the Denver Broncos are obvious:

  • Most undisciplined and penalized team in the NFL
  • Worst offense the league has seen in years
  • Notably bad performances from the OL and QB
  • Historically bad injuries

Many of these issues can be traced back to Hackett.  He should hold most of the blame for what the Broncos have turned out to be in 2022, but if I were to put myself in Hackett’s shoes, what would I say to try and save my job and make a case to stay around for 2023?

Could Nathaniel Hackett save his job in 2023?

The first thing I’d say if I was Hackett is that I could not be fairly evaluated as a head coach, specifically with the offense because of the number of injuries the unit endured.  The offensive line, wide receivers, running backs, and Russell Wilson himself have all had significant injuries occur.

The offensive line is perhaps the most banged-up unit on the roster, and trotting out a different OL combination every two games would never work.  The top four wide receivers on the roster, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and KJ Hamler are all either out for the year, have missed significant time, or have missed patches of games here and there.

Javonte Williams, who was going to break out this year, has also missed most of the season as well.  Evaluating the performance of the offense and holding Hackett accountable for how bad it has been might not be fair considering the number of injuries they’ve gone through.

Next, the defense.  Hackett hiring Ejiro Evero was perhaps the best thing he’s done for the team.  The defense is elite and hardly needs to be touched.  Perhaps some movement in the secondary and defensive line is needed, but for the most part, the unit will all be back next year, and Evero is likely to remain as the DC.

Nathaniel Hackett could argue that the team simply needs to focus heavily on the offense in both free agency and the NFL draft.  Giving your attention to one phase of the roster instead of multiple might be a good thing to an extent.

He could also argue that the team might need to tweak something in order to reduce the number of injuries, and perhaps the injuries aren’t the fault of Hackett and his practice schedule.  I’m not inside the building myself, so I can’t speak on that, but maybe the injuries can be traced back to someone not named Hackett, and if that’s the case, that would be something he’d argue.

Nathaniel Hackett could also present them with a plan to replace certain coaches on the roster.  The two main culprits would be offensive line coach Butch Barry, offensive coordinator Justin Outten, and QB’s coach and play-caller Klint Kubiak.

I’m not sure how likely it is that Hackett would be able to find competent coaches to come on board, but he could argue that ridding the team of these men in favor of more experienced coaches (Mike Munchak’s return?) could make life easier for him.

In the same thought, he could also say that he’d like to take the approach of someone like Nick Sirianni, where he’s a young coach but has two coordinators and a veteran coaching staff that make his life easier.

It’s about guaranteed that Hackett has learned that the young and inexperienced coaching staff he assembled did not work, and would likely bring in more veteran coaches to try and fix this issue.

Lastly, Hackett could argue that not only has he not lost the locker room but that he’s still well-liked by the players and that the team still plays hard for him, evidenced by them nearly beating the Kansas City Chiefs after being down 27-0.

Again, I am not advocating for him to return.  I do think he should have been fired weeks ago and am personally hoping Frank Reich ends up as the new head coach, but Hackett will likely get a chance to plead his case to the organization.