Nathaniel Hackett’s day-after explanation still misses the mark

Getty Images

On the surface, Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett did what he needed to do on Tuesday, acknowledging that he shouldn’t have tried a 64-yard field goal when, instead, he could have trusted his franchise quarterback to gain five yards in a gotta-have-it situation. At a deeper level, Hackett still doesn’t get it.

“Looking back at it, we definitely should have gone for it,” Hackett wisely said. In the exercise of true wisdom, he would have stopped right there.

“It’s one of those things where you look back at it and you say, ‘Of course we should go for it,’” Hackett added. “We missed the field goal. But in that situation, we had a plan. We knew that 46 was the mark. We were third-and-15, I think, third-and-13. I’m more upset about that play before, to lose yards. Getting that there would have definitely been better able to call that same play and get extra yards, but he dumps it out to [running back] Javonte [Williams]. Javonte makes a move, goes a lot farther than I think we had anticipated. We were expecting to go for it on fourth down and then you hit the mark. The mark that we had all set before we started. We said 46-yard line was where we wanted to be, and we got there so we had to make a decision. We wanted to give it to [kicker] Brandon [McManus], and we did. It didn’t work, it sucks but that’s a part of it.”

In other words, he regrets nothing.

So why and how was the 46-yard line the mark, when it meant McManus would be attempting a 64-yard field goal?

“It’s a combination of pregame and stuff that they’ve been doing during practice, all that stuff,” Hackett said. “How he was feeling, all those things, and that was the yard line that we set.”

Hackett was asked whether he had any doubts about relying on the 46-yard line as the right spot.

“I think that when you sit there and say, ‘We all know he has a big leg. He’s been kicking for a long time,'” Hackett said. “I wanted to give him that opportunity. I wanted to give him a chance to be able to win the game right there. He had the distance; it just went a little bit left. It’s just one of those things that’s unfortunate, but that was our plan going into it. Obviously, looking back at it, if you missed the field goal, you’re always going to wish you would have gone for it. If you would have gone for it and not gotten it, you wish you would have given him a chance. So that’s the crazy thing about this game.”

Obviously, it’s easy to regret the decision with the application of hindsight. But that overlooks the question of whether it was the right decision via the application of foresight. Usually, teams only try a field goal of 60 yards or longer when it’s the very end of a half or the game, and when the option is a low-percentage kick versus an even-lower-percentage Hail Mary throw. Why in the world was the 46-yard line viewed as the ideal spot under any and all circumstances, including if/when there was a chance to get closer by converting a fourth and five?

Hackett never addressed that specific question. Maybe he didn’t need to. He kept harping about his plan, his plan, his plan. But here’s the thing about plans. They’re not set in stone. They can change. Sometimes, they should change. And if the plan was, “Get to the 46 and kick it, no matter what,” that’s not the kind of plan that will impress the new owners who didn’t hire Hackett.

As previously mentioned, the new owners are titans of industry. They can spot bullshit in the flutter of a fruit fly’s wings.

Sometimes, the effort requires no special BS-spotting skills. For example, when Hackett was asked whether McManus completed a 64-yard field goal during pregame warmups, Hackett completely avoided the question.

“Before we get to that — he always tells what yard line he wants to get to and that’s what we had all agreed on,” Hackett said. Hackett never said “yes”; thus, the fair conclusion is that the answer is, “No.”

“It’s about listening to the players, finding out where they are at, and what they can do,” Hackett said. “That was something that we all agreed on. The fact that it was fourth down, and that was our one chance to decide that, and that’s why we did that.”

Listening to players only goes so far. Of course McManus will say he can make the kick. And Russell Wilson will say he can convert fourth and five. And any of the receivers will say they can make the catch of the pass Wilson would have been throwing. And any of the blockers will say they can buy Wilson enough time to do it.

Anyone’s subjective confidence must be balanced against objective facts. McManus previously had a 12.5-percent success rate at 60 yards or longer. Only two men have ever made kicks of 64 yards or longer. Hackett was asked whether anyone was feeding him the statistical realities as a counter to his kicker’s predictable self-confidence.

“It’s a combination of a lot of people,” Hackett said. “In the end, it lies on me. I made that decision, and that was our plan. That’s what we said, that’s the yard we had to get to. We knew it. That’s what we said in the huddle before we did it. We got there. We made that decision.”

But it was a bad decision. And Hackett still refuses to fully admit it. To properly own that the process was flawed. To acknowledge that he’ll need a far greater degree of flexibility to bend the outcome of enough games in his team’s direction.

He’s on a dangerous path. The new owners can’t be happy with the outcome, or the effort to explain it away. And they’ll likely be paying closer attention to everything he says and does from this point forward, with one overriding question — do we give him a second year, or do we use our unlimited financial resources to hire someone else for 2023 and beyond?

30 responses to “Nathaniel Hackett’s day-after explanation still misses the mark

  1. What’s more shocking is that nobody on the staff or RUSS had the intestinal fortitude to speak up to the coach and tell him what an idiotic thing he was doing.

  2. this hindsight is absurd

    his star billion dollar qb could not convert on critical much shorter plays all game long, I do not blame the coach for regretting not taking the points and going for the points at the end of the game.

  3. I think an interesting question, given his background would have been, had it been Aaron Rodgers instead of Russel Wilson, would you have still gone for the kick instead?

  4. Yes he should have gone for it but so what? They should have made the first down on the first 3 tries. Does he regret his playcalls on those? They tried the kick — it failed — let’s move on.

  5. Yes, the kicker is capable of making a 64 yard field goal, but no reasonable coach is ever going to make that the basis of their end-game plan.

  6. The new owners can’t be happy with the outcome, or the effort to explain it away. And they’ll likely be paying closer attention to everything he says and does from this point forward…

    The new owners do not care about the outcome or the explanation, and they certainly will not be paying any attention to what Hackett says going forward. The new owners, as pointed out above, are titans of industry. Now that they have completed the Broncos purchase, Walton and Penner are on to their next conquest.

    The only way that the new owners care anything about Hackett is if the situation becomes so bad that the Broncos start not selling out their games. Otherwise, Walton and Penner probably don’t know who Hackett is.

  7. The sensible thing to do would have been to call TO immediately after 3rd down, get everyone together and evaluate the options. The way it went down looked like a total cluster.

  8. No fan base should ever accept “because of stuff” as a reason why a coach blew a game on the last call.

  9. You paid a hella ton of money to Wilson and you want the kicker to make the 2nd longest fg in history on the road in a hostile environment instead of getting 5 yards with two timeouts left? This coach is one of the biggest idiots I’ve seen in a long time. Cost me some coin with his decisions Monday night.

  10. The making of the kick isnt the point he’s still trying to justify his mistake. Taking the timeouts AFTER was a big red flag that he’s in way over his head. Im not a coach but I agree with Payton who was screaming on his show take a time out coach NOW, Eli was freaking out too. Pretty funny stuff to see it after the game.

  11. Given his response, this guy is not HC material. Why waste a year of Russel Wilson’s very expensive contract only to bring in a new HC next year and probably waste another year of Wilson’s contract?

  12. The Lafluer coaching tree is not much better than Lafluer.
    Literally set a record for most wins in first 3 seasons but ok.

  13. I was four IPAs deep watching the game on my buddy’s couch and I immediately knew kicking it was a terrible decision. This guy will be one and done in Denver.

  14. Isn’t this the reason analytics is such a focus? I can’t imagine the percentages would be even close between a 64 yard kick and 4th and 5. He’s talking about his kicker as though it’s a 56 yard attempt, which is much more doable..: does he know 64 yard fields are not xommonly successful?

  15. Maybe he should have gone with the “hot hand” in Javonte. This timeshare garbage cuts into the rhythm of the game and the players.

  16. I don’t think this was even his worst or second worst call of the game. They fumbled twice on the 1 yard line with handoffs. Wilson is a mobile QB. Handing off takes extra time and lets the defense ignore the risk of a pass. The Saints with Brees in his late 30’s would typically just snap the ball and Brees would jump into the pile outstretched for those TDs. With a mobile QB you can roll out and have the option to run it in or pass. But instead Hackett wanted to put the game in the hands of his mediocre running back committee. The kick was actually the 3rd and least egregious time that Hackett needlessly took the ball out of his franchise QBs hands.

  17. The decision was more like: Do we have the OPPORTUNITY to score on this play or not. The kick was a scoring opportunity ON THAT play. Converting fourth down kicks the can down the road.

    Hackett made a bad call in a pressure-packed situation in his first regular season game. He had the courage to accept the criticism and stand before the press and say he chose poorly and he’s learned from this mistake. Additional criticism at this point is unwarranted unless he repeats the mistake.

  18. This just in, being a head coach is hard and much different then being a coordinator for the back to back MVP of the league.

  19. It was a horrible call. It’s one thing to make a bad call, but to then defend that horrible decision? SMH

    Hackett is showing everyone that he should not be a head coach

  20. Two points here. First, I have no issue with hubris in a head coach. Most might says it’s a required trait. But stupidity is another story.

    Secondly, and directly related; is anyone else thinking the 46 yard line was supposed to be the target for the spot to kick from and NOT the line of scrimmage? If so, that is a new level of incompetence at an HC level.

  21. Hackett seems as skilled on the microphone as he is in critical play calling situations. The AFC West is presumably the toughest division in football this season. The Broncos can’t afford to give games away and it’s up to the coach to at least give his team on the field a chance to win.

  22. I do understand the time scenario. But they weren’t tied. There was ZERO need to run down the clock. 5 yards with one of the best QBs in the league…who can also run. Or a 64 yard FG. I would be extremely nervous having this guy as coach after that decision. The follow up is even more embarrassing….

  23. The odds of converting a 4th and 5 are sooooo much better than kicking a 64 yarder. Even 60 might be a decision, but 64 there is no way. Terrible decision.

  24. Coaches need coaching too, especially new ones. Denver needs to hire a PR person to help Hackett manage his media sessions.

  25. Sometimes it takes many games before you understand if a new coach is going to work out. They reveal things in pieces as the weeks progress, in press conferences, play calls, handling critical situations, and handling players.

    The unique thing about Hackett is that he revealed a lot, too much, about who he is and how he thinks in this one game. I think of Bill Parcells or Belichick and how they are brutally honest, even if they did something dumb. Hackett continued to defend his outrageously stupid decision regardless if the entire football world said “No stupid, that was a bad decision.

    Hackett from his statements reminds me of two recent coaches mixed togetger no longer in the league. Hackett has the lunacy of Chip Kelly, where stupid things only make sense to him. The other characteristic Hackett portrays is the arrogance and false confidence of Adam Gase. Recall Gase went through two head coaching jobs in two years. He was touted as a great young mind who had coached Peyton Manning. However, in Miami he was terrible and in NY (Jets) he was terrible. He posted losses each week and pissed off the players. Eventually, Gase ended up out of the league, even desperate teams realized he wasn’t the right stuff.

    I’ve been an avid fan of football for 5 decades. I can tell without a doubt that Hackett is not head coaching material. He’s amazingly stupid, combined with a mix of arrogance in not admitting when he is wrong. The players may like him now, early, but by the end of the season he’ll start throwing them under the bus. He just seems like he has that personality, which is being revealed quickly.. inability to accept blame for a poor decision is not a good trait for a head coach.. it means he is not introspective nor humbled about his mistakes.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.