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Denver Broncos fire head coach Nathaniel Hackett 10 months after hiring him

Denver Broncos, Nathaniel Hackett
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos have fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett, parting ways with the 42-year-old less than 11 months after hiring him to replace Vic Fangio.

Denver’s decision comes after weeks of speculation regarding Hackett’s future and multiple changes the organization made to try and spark the offense. However, one of the most expensive offenses in the NFL finished December as one of the worst offenses in football.

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Coming out of November with a 3-8 record, Denver’s offense averaged just 14.3 points per game (32nd in the NFL) and it ranked 26th in total yards per game (319.1). It all came just months after the Broncos’ front office invested significant draft capital and cap space into the unit. While beating the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15 kept him in place, that call came to an end on Monday.

  • Nathaniel Hackett record: 4-11

Following Sunday’s 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Day, Denver fired its head coach after 15 games.

Hackett, who previously served as the Green Bay Packers’ offensive coordinator (2019-’21), was viewed as a risky hire at the time. The California native had limited play-calling experience and a majority of his success with offenses came as an assistant coach.

Denver’s coaching search last season came down to Hackett, Kevin O’Connell and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. When general manager George Paton picked Hackett, in part hoping it would compel Aaron Rodgers to demand a trade to Denver, the Minnesota Vikings hired O’Connell three weeks later.

While the Broncos’ front office chose Hackett, a sale of the franchise didn’t go through until June. As a result, the Walton-Penner ownership group had no ties to the head coach.

NFL coaches fired after one season

Hackett becomes the 18th coach to be fired after one season or less in NFL history. It’s become a more recent trend, with the Houston Texans firing David Culley after a 4-13 season in 2021. The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer after just 13 games (2-11 record), but he was also dismissed for cause.

Timeline of Nathaniel Hackett’s tenure

NFL: International Series-Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Officially hired by the Broncos in late January, there were very few signs of trouble before the regular season. While Hackett raised some eyebrows by surrounding himself with a coaching staff that lacked head-coaching experience he could lean on, many of those he picked are well-regarded around the NFL.

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However, Hackett’s inexperience showed immediately in Week 1 and it never got better for him or the Broncos.

  • Monday Night Football, Week 1 – Facing the Seattle Seahawks in the season opener, Denver trailed 17-16 at its 46-yard line with 1:11 remaining. Javonte Williams took a screen pass to the Seahawks’ 46-yard line. With three timeouts, Denver allowed. the clock to tick down from 1:02 to 21 seconds before finally taking a timeout. With 20 seconds left, Hackett kept Wilson on the sideline and sent Brandon McManus out for a 64-yard field goal. McManus missed and Hackett later admitted he mismanaged the clock and made a bad decision.
  • NFL Week 2A week after showing poor clock management, Hackett repeated his mistakes. A poorly-designed play on third-and-1 failed to reach the first-down marker. On fourth-and-1 from the Houston Texans’ 36-yard line, Hackett kept the offense on the field and then rushed McManus and the field-goal unit out. Denver couldn’t snap it in time, received a delay of game and then punted.
  • September 24 – Recognizing that the head coach was struggling to manage play-calling and game management, Denver hired Jerry Rosburg to direct game management.
  • October 23 – After starting the season with a 2-1 record, the Broncos lose four consecutive games. During that four-game skid, the Broncos’ offense posts a 25% third-down conversion rate and averages 14.2 points per game.
  • October 27 – Amid reports that Hackett could be fired if the team loses in Week 8, Paton provides a vote of confidence in his head coach.
  • November 1 – Denver keeps wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler at the NFL trade deadline, believing the offense will turn around with both receivers playing a key role.
  • November 20Hackett hands play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak. The Broncos’ offense scores 16 points with 320 total yards and a 25% third-down conversion rate in a home loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
  • November 27 – Denver scores just 10 points with 246 total yards in a 23-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The Broncos finish November averaging just 12 points per game.
  • December 4 – Ravens’ quarterback Tyler Huntley finishes with a higher QBR (74.3) than Russell Wilson (65.1), with Denver’s offense scoring just three points in the second half of a 10-9 loss.
  • December 25 – Denver loses 51-14 to Los Angeles Rams, finishing with just 323 total yards and a 30% third-down conversion rate

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Considering everything that happened, this will likely be Hackett’s first and last opportunity to be a head coach. He is a strong candidate to rejoin the Packers’ coaching staff in 2023.