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4 best Denver Broncos coaching candidates to replace Nathaniel Hackett

Matt Johnson
Denver Broncos, Nathaniel Hackett
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos coaching search in 2022 landed on Nathaniel Hackett, bringing in the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator to revitalize the offense. A few months later, Hackett is in jeopardy of being one of the NFL coaches fired in 2022.

Hired on Jan. 27, 2022, many viewed Hackett as the bait that would entice quarterback Aaron Rodgers to demand a trade to Denver. Instead, Rodgers stayed in Green Bay and the Broncos traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, Noah Fant and Shelby Harris to the Seattle Seahawks for Russell Wilson.

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Entering the season with optimism, things quickly spun out of control for Denver. Hackett’s inexperience showed immediately. Horrible time management in Week 1 cost the Broncos in their season-opening loss to Seattle. Hackett later acknowledged he made the wrong call, but the issues persisted.

  • Nathaniel Hackett record: 2-5, 0-for-3 on challenges

Making matters worse, the Broncos’ offense is one of the worst units in the NFL this season. Through its first seven games, Denver ranked last in scoring (14.3 PPG), 23rd in total yards (328.6 ypg) and 30th in third-down conversion rate (30.4%).

Related: NFL insider believes Denver Broncos could fire Nathaniel Hackett after Week 8

While it’s rare, there is a history of NFL coaches fired after one season. The Houston Texans fired David Culley in January after his lone season at the helm, while Urban Meyer was dismissed by the Jacksonville Jaguars with cause.

There are no guarantees that Hackett is fired after less than a full year, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented. With that in mind, let’s examine four potential Denver Broncos coaching candidates who could replace Hackett.

Denver Broncos hire Dan Quinn

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

During the last Broncos coaching search, it came down to Hackett and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Ultimately, the decision seemed to be influenced by the need to entice a star quarterback to Denver. If general manager George Paton gets a second chance, Quinn should be the overwhelming favorite to become Denver’s next head coach.

Dallas Cowboys defense by seasonsTotal YPG AllowedPPG AllowedDefensive DVOAYards per Play Allowed
2020386.4 (23rd)29.6 (28th)23rd (6%)5.9 (23rd)
2021351 (19th)21.1 (7th)2nd (-15.2%)5.5 (21st)
2022305.3 (6th)14.9 (2nd)2nd (-21.3%(4.7 (2nd)
Statistics via Pro Football Reference and Football Outsiders

Quinn doesn’t necessarily fix the Broncos’ problems on offense. However, this is a veteran coach who is beloved by players in the locker room and knows how to handle in-game situations. He would need to hire the right offensive coordinator, but the Broncos could help influence that. One thing is for certain, Quinn will be among the likely candidates to replace Hackett if a move comes.

Related: 5 Denver Broncos trade scenarios to recoup draft picks

Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has generated massive buzz around the NFL in the past two seasons. He received a few head-coaching interviews in 2021 and then became a mind multiple teams insisted on bringing into the interview room in 2022. Expect him to be among the NFL coaches hired in 2023.

He interviewed with Denver, but he didn’t become a finalist for the position. In the months since his return to Philadelphia, Gannon is coordinating one of the best defenses in football. The Eagles’ defense allowed the secon-fewest yards per play (4.7), the lowest scoring rate (23.8%), it ranks ninth in hurries (24) and allowed the lowest average QB rating (66.) through Week 7.

The 39-year-old defensive coordinator is connecting with a roster that has a balance of Pro Bowl veterans and young players with talent who needs excellent coaching. He draws up versatile defenses, creating game plans each week that adapt to different quarterbacks and keep opponents off balance. There’s also a possibility that if Eagles’ offensive coordinator Shane Steichen remains in Philadelphia, Gannon could get quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson to serve as his offensive coordinator and play-caller.

Ken Dorsey, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator

NFL: Buffalo Bills Training Camp
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the heavy investments made into the offense and the likelihood Russell Wilson would seek input on his next head coach, offensive minds will certainly be among the potential Denver Broncos coaching candidates.

Buffalo wasted little time naming Ken Dorsey as its offensive coordinator to replace Brian Daboll. After all, he played an influential role in the development of quarterback Josh Allen. The perennial NFL MVP candidate has praised Dorsey on multiple occasions and the Bills’ locker room gravitates toward their offensive coordinator because of his attitude.

This is also about more than Allen alone. Dorsey served as quarterback coach during Cam Newton’s MVP season in 2015 and Newton still credits him for that success.

“(Dorsey) is an extremely hard and efficient worker. He made my life as easy as possible. Not only is he a hard worker, but he has a vibrant killer instinct. He’s a known proven winner over the years.”

Cam Newton on former quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey (H/T Bills Wire)

This could be precisely the type of coach who Paton wants working with Wilson, building an offense around the veteran quarterback’s strengths and getting the most out of him despite his age. Plus, Dorsey will know plenty of bright minds on the defensive staff to make his defensive coordinator or he could retain Ejiro Evero.

Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Interviewed by the Denver Broncos in January, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy presents another intriguing option to potentially replace Nathaniel Hackett. In a season without Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s play-caller is still proving he is an integral part of the team’s success over the years.

Related: NFL QB rankings

Plenty of excuses have been made in recent years to explain why Bieniemy hasn’t been hired as a head coach. Some have pointed to his legal issues early as an adult, but off-field decisions years ago didn’t prevent Meyer or Mike Vrabel from being hired. Concern about him not being the primary play-caller in Kansas City is a problem that didn’t prevent the likes of Hackett, Nick Sirianni, Dan Campbell and Zac Taylor from becoming head coaches.

There’s a reason Bieniemy has a strong endorsement from Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes raves about him. Kansas City is averaging the most points (31.9 PPG), the second most total yards (403.3 ypg) and ranks second in third-down conversion rate (51.9%) this season. All of that would seem to make Bieniemy a much better option for the Broncos than Hackett.