Questionable late-game decisions plague Nathaniel Hackett, again

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Bronco coach Nathaniel Hackett is having a rough first year. At this rate, he won’t get a second.

After adding yet another member of the coaching staff to help Hackett make better decisions in key moments, Hackett made a couple of questionable decisions in two key moments during the 12-9 overtime loss to the Colts.

Let’s start at the end of regulation. The Colts were out of timeouts. There was 2:19 to play. The Broncos led by three. They faced third and four from the Indianapolis 13.

“We wanted to be sure that we were able to get a first down,” Hackett said after the game.

That’s fine. But they didn’t ultimately try to get the first down. Quarterback Russell Wilson went for the knockout, throwing the ball to the end zone, where the ball was intercepted.

If they had simply failed to get the first down, the Bronco could have kicked a field goal, forcing the Colts to do something neither team did all night long — score a touchdown.

The Colts instead drove down the field for a game-tying field goal. In overtime, the Colts took the lead with another field goal.

And then the Broncos, who continue to hit a brick wall in the red zone, faced fourth and one from the Indianapolis five. At one point, the Broncos lined up with Wilson under center. After a pair of timeouts, they opted for shotgun formation — signaling to the defense that a pass play was more likely.

It wasn’t fourth and goal. It was fourth and one. It was a perfect spot for a Melvin Gordon run for a possible first and goal, or maybe a creative play-action design that could have resulted in a walk-off game-winning score.

Instead, the Broncos basically told the Colts a throw was coming. So the Colts defended it. And the Indianapolis defense came through.

“We wanted to have a good pass call,” Hackett told reporters. “We wanted to put it in [Wilson’s] hands to win the game.”

That’s fine, if it works. But it didn’t work. There was reason to think it may not work. Wilson was off, all night long. Whether it was the shoulder injury or something else, there was no reason to believe with a high degree of certainty that Wilson would deliver a touchdown in an all-or-nothing setting like that.

There’s another question to be asked about the final play of the game. Why not kick the field goal, play defense, and try to get the ball back? Even if the game had ended in a tie, a 2-2-1 record would be better than 2-3.

In explaining the decision-making process with the game on the line, Hackett made an interesting — and perhaps telling — comment in his post-game press conference. He said he “got the go to go for it.”

From whom? Isn’t that the head coach’s decision? Whoever gave the head coach the go to go for it is the guy who should apparently should be the head coach, because that person made a decision that is always reserved for the head coach.

What it Jerry Rosburg, who was specifically hired to help Hackett make better decisions in those spots? Was it an analytics person who apparently has final say over whatever Hackett chooses to do?

At the highest levels of any industry, perception is reality. And the perception through five games is that the game is too big for Hackett. Even with another assistant coach added on the fly, he’s not making good decisions in key moments.

That won’t bode well when new ownership decides whether to bring back for a second year a coach they didn’t hire in the first place. The buyout is negligible, relative to the extreme wealth of the Walton-Penner Wal-Mart group. Frankly, if they were making the decision right now, it wouldn’t be a difficult one.

Over the next 12 games, Hackett’s primary challenge will be to change their minds. He has his work cut out for him.

71 responses to “Questionable late-game decisions plague Nathaniel Hackett, again

  1. The only reason he has not been fired yet is because the organization needs to save face.

  2. That game was painful to watch. Both offenses and quarterbacks were some of the worst football I have seen.It probably should have ended in a tie except one coach is a complete moron and other is slightly less so.

  3. ““We wanted to have a good pass call,” Hackett told reporters. “We wanted to put it in [Wilson’s] hands to win the game.”

    That’s fine, if it works. But it didn’t work.”

    Didn’t you criticize Hackett for not putting the ball in Wilson’s hand at the end of a previous game? Can’t have it both ways.

  4. I’m 90% sure Wilson is washed and 100% sure Hackett is the worst coach that I have ever seen.

  5. This loss is on Wilson not Hackett. Wilson can’t seem to see tye field. He had an open receiver on the last play.
    Wilson is washed up.

  6. All I know is that Broncos owners didn’t hire any of these guys, and it’s safe to assume that both the GM and HC should be gone. Denver should just do a fire sale on the team, including Wilson, and accept the dead cap.

  7. Denver has a much bigger problem than Nathaniel Hackett. We’re not married to him for seven years and $300 million like Russ.

  8. His head coaching tenure is going to be a short one. However, I would sat he made the right call to go for the win vs a tie. There wasn’t enough time to say the Broncos could get the ball back. He did exactly what he should have and put the ball in Wilson’s hands. That’s why they got.him, right?

  9. This was on Wilson. He’s a shell of the qb he was. Why would he stand in the pocket and wait for Sutton, when he could’ve run for the 1st down or hit Hamler for an easy TD?
    Horrible decisions tonight.
    And they’re stuck with him for 5yrs? He looks completely lost out there. Like a rookie.

  10. Russell Wilson is single-handedly scaring every other owner ever thinking about long term guaranteed dollars in QB contracts.

  11. I’d be surprised if we didn’t get an announcement tomorrow morning about him being relieved of duties.

  12. The call in regulation was brutal. If the call is a pass, it has to be a high percentage pass that will not get picked. The exact opposite of the route the Broncos ran on the INT.
    Second, I’m ok with going for it on 4th and 1. But you have to put a RB in the backfield to give the appearance you might run. Going empty backfield in that spot is beyond stupid. Hackett only has so many lives. He’s running out of them

  13. Hackett has previously been criticized for failing to put the game in the hands of his franchise QB. Now he’s criticized for putting the game in the hands of his franchise QB. I guess basically he’ll be criticized for any decision that doesn’t work by those with the luxury of hindsight.

  14. Agreed, they should’ve run on 4th and 1, but not going for a tie in OT was absolutely the right call. Hackett (or his coach) made the decision to win or lose, because kicking a FG would almost guarantee a tie with only like 2 mins left. And shooting for a tie would’ve just been further proof to the media, and his team and staff, that he’s not making good decisions. Tying is not what good coaches aspire to. He made the right choice in OT by relying on Russ, and whoever was calling plays, possibly Hackett, schemed at least one WR open. Cut the man the slack he deserves, so we can focus on the criticism he actually deserves.

  15. Lol…. Hacket gets crucified for not putting the game in Russell’s hands at Seattle then tonight he gets crucified for putting the game in Russell’s hands….. hindsight is such a wonderful thing, wouldn’t you agree??

  16. Too much confusion on the sidelines; too much time is wasted in getting the ball snapped. On 4th and 1 they looked like they were going to quick snap, but then let the Colts regroup and call a time out. Then Denver calls a time out. And even after two time outs Wilson is walking back to the huddle still communicating with the sidelines. It looks like too many people with different ideas have Input on the final decision. Denver looks ridiculous.

  17. When your team is averaging 15 points a game, the late game decisions aren’t the only ones that are questionable

  18. Dang Florio, this is one scathing piece you wrote here… and you’re 100% correct

  19. I imagine if they would’ve ran the ball on both occasions and fumbled/came up short, you’d have wrote the same article blaming the coach for not trusting his overpaid qb.

  20. Everything you say falls on Wilson. It’s not the coach’s fault that me first Wilson tried to be the hero and threw an INT when a field goal likely seals the game. And he put the game in the hands of me first Wilson in OT. You paid $245m and spent most of 2 years of draft picks for him. If he’s that great he picks up the yard, you don’t give it to fumble prone Melvin. If you hand it off to Melvin snd he fails or fumbles, this article is about how awful Hackett is for not keeping it in Wilson’s hands. Hackett may suck but it’s time to start writing about how inept Wilson is.

  21. Last year it appeared that Russell Wilson lost a step, and with that some of his ability to extend plays and avoid the sack. Denver was not getting a top-tier, elite QB, but rather someone who was middle of the pack. Yet, management doubled down and gave him an extension he didn’t earn, so even though the current owners inherited Wilson, he’s their problem now,

    Of course they can, and probably will, blame the head coach, who appears to be in over his head. Long story short, Hackett should not purchase a house in Denver,

  22. Russ likely changed the play on his own. He wants the glory. For him. And only him. Always. See Pats-‘Hawks Superbowl.

  23. Both the coach and QB look like trainwrecks this year. If this was Fangio and Drew Lock they would both be fired. Fangio and Drew lock would’ve won tonight.

  24. I said it before and it is still true.

    Bring back Vic Fangio, demote Hackett and put him back in the booth.

  25. Does the result of any of this, the failure to score, not seeing a wide open receiver, etc. make you want to review the furious outrage at the end of the Seahawks game?

  26. Sports Illustrated has begun to ask the right question: Is it time to apportion part of the blame to Russell Wilson?
    You can shift the blame in the opposite direction as much as possible. The media want to perpetuate the narrative of “Let Russ cook”. Boy, is he burning the steak.

  27. The only solace the Bronco’s brass can take is that he’s been such a bad game situational manager as a coach that is overshadowing how bad Rusty Wilson looks playing QB.

  28. Maybe the problem is Russell Wilson and not Nathaniel Hackett, Florio. Russ looks completely cooked.

    We all have seen how much “smarter” Mike McCarthy looks with Cooper Rush out there instead od Dak. Maybe see if the same thing can also be true with Rypien.

  29. Coaches throughout the league right now seem to be told from someone in the booth on what plays to call based on analytics. It happened in Baltimore, Cleveland and who knows wherever else last weekend. Now it’s the Broncos. All those decisions cost the teams the game. Lombardi, Paul Brown, Halas, must be shaking their heads, wherever they are.

  30. Wilson is playing awful. Hackett may not be the next great coach, but Wilson deserves blame for not making plays that are there. If this were Allen or Lamar, the QBs would be getting crushed. When people complain that Wilson has never received an MVP vote, I say it’s easy to understand. He’s never been the best qb in the league. Tb12, Peyton, Ben, and brees. As they declined, he was passed by mahomes, Lamar, Allen—now Herbert and burrow. Wilson needs to shoulder the bulk of the blame for his awful play.

  31. I’m not necessarily a fan of Nathaniel Hackett, but we need to start having fair analysis of coaching decisions. When Andy Reid goes for it on fourth and inches in the AFC championship game a few years ago, and they throw the ball with the back up quarterback, and it ie successful, he is lauded as a genius, he trusts his players, he’s aggressive, that’s why he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. When Nathaniel Hackett throws the ball, is aggressive, trusts his players, and it’s not successful, he deserves to be fired. There’s clearly two standards at play, or one standard, if your decision works it is genius, and if your decision doesn’t work you deserve to be fired. The same people who were lauding Andy Reid‘s aggressiveness a few years ago, are telling Nathaniel Hackett to run the ball up the middle and play for a field goal. What would they be saying right now if he had done that and the Colts drove down, and scored the game-winning touchdown? The same people who are criticizing the pass would be saying that Hackett needed to be more aggressive, he should have gone for the throat, you can’t just rely on kicking field goals to win games, yada, yada, yada, yada.

  32. I wouldnt blame Hackett for the playcall that lead to the 4th quarter INT. That was all on Russ. If no one was open, he could have just ran around and taken the sack… they would still be in FG range. What is Wilson doing, he is so terrible this season.

  33. I think Russell Wilson throwing it to the wrong team is what plagued Nathaniel Hackett.

  34. Hackett is clearly in over his head as a head coach… What the Walton groups financial status has to do with whether or not they fire him is beyond me, but, I feel its suffice to say, if you buy an NFL team, you dang sure better be able to afford to fire the coach.

  35. Outside of Stefon Gilmour, that may have been one of the worst football performances at the NFL level I have seen in years. Just bad football all the way around.

    Nathaniel Hackettt needs to go. The head coach’s number one task is the game management decisions and I can’t remember anytime in the history of the game where a team had to hire an assistant mid-season to help the head coach with in game decisions.

    This is the NFL and there are tons of great football coaches who aren’t apart of the NFL boys club that could do a better job. My high school coach would be an upgrade

  36. Russ likely changed the play on his own. He wants the glory. For him. And only him. Always. See Pats-‘Hawks Superbowl.

    Pete called the play. Russ didn’t audible at the line.

    The Patriots knew it was coming, and absolutely blew it up.

  37. Are we sure the Walmarts know what they are doing? Their first act was shelling out for Russell Wilson. We’ve seen how that’s going. Big money doesn’t equal success, and the Broncos look like they are far from a complete team. This isn’t a quick fix.

  38. It wasn’t just the late game call. When the offense is going run, run, short pass for a 3 and out most of the game it’s ALL of the calls.

  39. On top over everything else in the postgame Hackett said he “got approval” for the 4th down play so it’s not even clear the head coach is totally in charge. There’s just an overall feeling of dysfunction around him that going to lose him the locker room really fast.

  40. I’m enjoying the Denver meltdown so much…. Seriously, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving team….
    Patriots broke Wilson just like the Broncos broke Newton…. Problem is, Denver just locked up Wilson for what, 4 years??!! LOL

  41. mikecrabtreeschain says:

    100% sure Hackett is the worst coach that I have ever seen.

    I think you need to watch a few Matt Rhule coached Panther games, I’m 100% sure you’ll change your mind.

  42. I think it must have been the kicker that told him to go for it. That’s who told him to kick the 64-yard field goal in Week 1.

  43. Football is NOT that hard! U run down the clock, take a delay of game penalty & kick a chip shot fg toward the end of regulation & u have 93.4% chance of winning. Like R. Sherman said “learn from ur mistakes”.

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