It feels like it was a lot more than just three or four months ago at this point, but let’s take a painful trip down memory lane to the Denver Broncos Week 1 loss against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. It was the beginning of a new era, but the Broncos’ offense was struggling against Seattle. Not particularly with moving the ball down the field, but scoring it.
Late in the game, with a chance to drive down the field and win it with a field goal, the Broncos’ clock and game management were so bad that people have been talking about it ever since. The team faced a fourth down play near midfield and instead of putting the ball in their newly signed franchise QB’s hands, they decided to attempt a 64-yard field goal to win it.
Of course, that didn’t go well. Brandon McManus missed the field goal, the Broncos started the season 0-1, and more importantly, the team clearly had issues in terms of game and clock management. It was so bad in terms of the delay of game penalties, timeout use, and overall clock management through the first two games of the season that the team hired Jerry Rosburg as a game management consultant to join the coaching staff.
What we were told at the time was that Nathaniel Hackett was the one who hired Jerry Rosburg. It was communicated as a sign of accountability on Hackett’s part, that he knew he wasn’t doing a good job in this area and needed help, so he got it.
Fast-forward now three months to where we are today. Rosburg was barely with the Denver Broncos in time for the annual team photo in late September, and now he’s leading the team as the interim head coach. He had a nice, long, introductory press conference that included a 13-minute opening statement that felt more like a monologue of sorts. He is clearly a sharp, serious coach whose tone is vastly different than what we’ve grown accustomed to with Nathaniel Hackett.
He’s not quite as blunt as Vic Fangio, but you can tell the two are from a similar “school”. At any rate, he revealed something about the process that led to him becoming an assistant with the Denver Broncos…
"“The other person that started this whole process is George Paton. I was introduced to George Paton when he was a young scout in Chicago, and I was a secondary coach at Notre Dame. We had an opportunity to meet at a spring clinic and we really took to George and he had really good engagement for that particular moment of time. Then we went our separate ways and here we are back together again. I’ve always had great respect and admiration for George. I know what an incredible job he does. He was the one that contacted me about coming here to assist in game management. I said ‘yes’ because of George. I thank him for this opportunity.Jerry Rosburg (via Broncos PR)"
Rosburg went on to say that part of the process was also Nathaniel Hackett realizing he needed help, but there’s a conclusion to be drawn from George Paton being the one to reach out to Rosburg all the way in September.
The conclusion is simple: George Paton had to have known Nathaniel Hackett’s fate from that first game against Seattle, if not sooner. How long has Paton known that Hackett wasn’t cut out for being a head coach in the NFL? The fact that he reached out to Rosburg just two weeks into the season speaks volumes.
Then, if you’ll recall, there were a ton of rumors circulating just before the Jacksonville Jaguars game in London that Hackett’s job could be on the line that particular week. Given the timeline of events with the Broncos’ early-season struggles, the hiring of Jerry Rosburg, and some of the smoke signals that Hackett’s job could be on the line as early as mid-season?
It makes you wonder how long the Broncos have been planning on moving on from Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett is such a good human being that I think the Broncos wanted to give him every opportunity to excel, so that’s what they did. But you also can’t help but notice how quickly the team grew tired of his shortcomings as a head coach and how quickly they decided that he desperately needed more of a veteran presence on the coaching staff.
Could we see Hall of Famer Peyton Manning have some input on the Denver Broncos' next head coaching hire? His input could be valuable.
It’s merely a theory at this point, but it seems to have some validity when you look back on everything with hindsight.