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The Broncos Can't Afford to Let Nathaniel Hackett Figure It Out For Much Longer

Liam McKeone
Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson
Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson / Steph Chambers/GettyImages
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The Denver Broncos are in trouble. Not just "might not make the playoffs and definitely aren't real contenders" trouble. They're barreling towards an existential crisis. Years of basement-dwelling with no escape route. All because they traded a motherload of picks to the Seattle Seahawks for Russell Wilson and then-- in what is looking like the worst move of them all-- signed the QB to an absolutely gigantic extension that they have no hope of getting out of until 2026, when they can ditch Wilson for "only" the price of a $31 million dead cap hit.

Wilson, to be sure, has looked terrible and done his team no favors. He can't pull deep touchdowns out of his hat like a white rabbit anymore and his redzone decision-making has been heinous. But the real problem is Nathaniel Hackett. The first-year head coach looks like he has no damn clue what he's doing out there. I've never stood on an NFL sideline and couldn't hope to do most of the things a head coach can do but Hackett kicked off the season with a mind-bending, game-losing mistake against the Seahawks that casual Madden players would've been able to avoid. Somehow, things have gotten worse since then.

The Broncos, through what I assume is divine providence, are somehow only 2-4. They could and probably should be 0-6. They absolutely stink and the entire country knows it because the NFL schedule-makers were rather optimistic Denver would be quality primetime fodder, so we've all been forced to watch the disaster blossom over consecutive weeks.

However!

The problems plaguing this team can more or less be connected directly to Hackett's incompetence. Wilson isn't the guy who was an MVP candidate for a few years last decade but we've seen him make good throws. He isn't completely broken. The talent of the team is not in question, either. The defense is really good when everything clicks and nobody could stop talking about the receiving room Wilson had to work with heading into the year. Javonte Williams going down for the year sucks and the offensive line needs reinforcement, but it is not like Hackett was handed a barren roster with a declining quarterback and told to make it work.

That is why the Broncos can't afford to give Hackett the time to figure it out that other rookie head coaches are usually allotted. Dan Campbell's Lions team, for example, is just as bad as Denver yet he's still expected to keep his job for at least another full year because the roster is clearly a work in progress and there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of draft picks and cap space. The Broncos are the opposite. They gave up most of their picks next year and cap space is in short supply until Wilson is gone.

In short, there are no reinforcements coming. This roster is what the Broncos will have for the foreseeable future. And if Hackett can't hack it, Denver can't afford to wait very long. He's not on the "hot seat" as we understand it right now. But a big-picture look, understanding the Broncos have pushed all their chips in on this team, indicates patience is not a luxury they can afford.

The Broncos stink right now. Hackett has a chance to turn that around over the next month or so. But if he can't do it, Denver will need to move on quickly. It's their only hope. The alternative is staring down the barrel of several awful seasons with an aging, extremely expensive, and probably sad quarterback.

It is often unreasonable to expect immediate results in the NFL, especially from brand-new head coaches. The Broncos have forced themselves into a position where they not only expect but need immediate results. Otherwise a lot more people will lose jobs than merely Hackett.

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