Nathaniel Hackett’s job is secure for now, but if the Broncos don’t start winning, he’ll join an unenviable roster

Perhaps no NFL team is further from its preseason expectations than the Denver Broncos. At 3-8 and fresh off a primetime game against the leading MVP contender, the proud Broncos franchise is doing its best to salvage a lost season.

Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett sits in the hottest seat among NFL head coaches. But at this stage, I’m told it’s unlikely a decision will be made to fire him during the season. Sources believe the Walton-Penner Group, which officially bought the Broncos earlier this year and had no say in hiring Hackett, is not discussing any mid-season moves – while still issuing no guarantee.

Prior to last week, the Broncos had played nine one-scored games this season and won three. The 23-10 loss at Carolina last week was the biggest margin of loss for the Broncos this season, and they will face tough tests in the next two games against the Ravens today and the Chiefs next week.

When Broncos co-owner and CEO Greg Penner spoke to reporters in London ahead of Denver’s 21-17 win over Jacksonville, he reiterated how much the team needed to pick up wins in the second half of the season. season.

“I support Nathaniel and we really want him to succeed,” Penner said when asked if he could assure Hackett would be the coach for the rest of the season. “As you know, it’s a weekly sport, so we’re always evaluating things and our goal is to win as many games as possible in the second half.”

The Broncos haven’t won in North America since September. The offense was the worst in the NFL in many ways. They’ve scored just four touchdowns in five home games this season, and they have just one touchdown pass at home.

The Broncos owe the league’s worst offense and average 14.09 offensive points per game when the league average is 21. That’s the fourth-fewest offensive points per game for an NFL in the past five seasons. .

Hackett, who had served as offensive coordinator in three previous stops, was hired in part to help bring Denver’s offense up to today’s standards. The Broncos haven’t had a ranked offense in the league’s top half since the Peyton Manning era, and the addition of nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson was only meant to help with that.

Instead, no team is worse than the Broncos at scoring in the red zone.

“It’s a problem when your basic skill turns out to be a deficiency,” a league source said.

Hackett remained upbeat and positive during press conferences and in the locker room. He showed conscience and humility by hiring Jerry Rosburg to help run the game and giving call-up duties to Klint Kubiak. Despite the loss, I’m told there’s no sort of mutiny in the locker room against Hackett.

It is also extremely rare for a team to fire a first-year head coach during the season. The Jaguars knocked out Urban Meyer last year, but before that it hadn’t happened in the NFL since 1979.

The NFL officially endorsed the Walton-Penner Group as owners of the Broncos in early August. Penner and Rob Walton were warmly welcomed by fellow owners and curator Roger Goodell, and Penner was particularly active and engaged as CEO.

Penner was not indiscreet, I am told. He lets the footballers run the football. When Penner arrived, general manager George Paton was entering his second season there, Hackett was in his first training camp as head coach and Wilson had already been traded.

There was no stipulation in the trade that the Broncos would have to extend Wilson last offseason. In recent years, it’s become common practice to sign a player you’ve traded multiple first-round picks for an extension as soon as possible. This player was worthy of the trade, and the market price would only go up the longer you waited.

It was clearly Paton’s thought process, signing Wilson up for a deal this offseason rather than waiting until 2023 when young quarterbacks like Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert come in for mega deals.

But the Broncos couldn’t sign Wilson for an extension until the new ownership group was installed because it was such a big expense and move for the franchise. The Walton-Penner Group was also expected to say “yes” to the deal. To the extent that the Wilson deal – in real time or in retrospect – could be considered a mistake, no one could take all the blame.

The truth is, the Broncos have gone nine one-scored games due to elite defense, and the offense continues to squander opportunities to play at an average level. Denver is coming off its worst loss of the season against a Panthers team with its third quarterback and second coach, and it faces two playoff contenders in consecutive weeks.

Hackett’s Broncos need a few wins to close out the season, or he might just join an unenviable roster of unique coaches.

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