Considered a Super Bowl contender after they swung the huge trade for Russell Wilson in March, the Broncos’ 2022 season has been a disaster in every sense of the word – and it hit a new low on Sunday afternoon.
After embattled first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett gave up play-calling duties (and decided to get more involved in the defense), the Broncos blew a late lead to the similarly miserable Raiders, who forced overtime before needing just three plays to score the game-winning touchdown on a blown coverage. The calls for Hackett’s firing appear to have reached a fever pitch in Denver following the 22-16 loss.
A column in the Denver Post published Sunday night appeared to aptly sum up the state of the franchise, with the headline: “Broncos need to end the madness. Fire Nathaniel Hackett. Make defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero the head coach.”
“The Broncos are on the road to nowhere, and coach Nathaniel Hackett is a slacker riding shotgun,” columnist Mark Kiszla wrote. “So please remind me: What exactly does Hackett do around here? And why is he still here?”
It’s a legitimate question as the Broncos dropped to 3-7 and last place in the AFC West with the home loss. Under Hackett, Denver is the lowest-scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 14.7 points per game. It gets even worse when you consider that they are also one of the best defenses in the league – only allowing 17.1 points per game. If they had scored just 18 points in regulation in every game this year, they would be 9-1.
Hackett giving up play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak, the former Vikings offensive coordinator and son of longtime NFL coach Gary Kubiak, did nothing to spark the offense. Denver managed just 16 points against the Raiders, who have the worst defense in the NFL, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic. It’s the first time this season that Las Vegas hasn’t allowed 20 points to the opposition, and they’ve faced middling offensive teams in the Texans, Colts, Saints and these same Broncos.
Mike Florio wrote Sunday in Pro Football Talk that it’s “fair to ask whether, three weeks from today, Hackett will still be the team’s head coach.” The Broncos came under new ownership after hiring Hackett, and new owner and Walmart heir Rob Walton certainly has the money to buy out the rest of his contract.
Denver travels to Carolina next weekend to face the moribund Panthers before tough matchups against the Ravens and Chiefs. Perhaps anything other than a positive result in that stretch will find Hackett on the unemployment line.