The Denver Broncos’ first two games of the season provided plenty of evidence that first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett is overmatched—not just by the high-pressure situations that require quick thinking and multitasking on the sideline, but by the very concept of time itself. But there was some reason for optimism heading into a Week 3 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Hackett, perhaps more willing than most NFL coaches to acknowledge his flaws, hired Jerry Rosburg out of retirement to essentially be a game-management coach. With Rosburg sitting in the booth and paying close attention to things like “how the flow of time progresses” and “how many timeouts we have,” ideally Hackett could get back to focusing on his duties. So how’d that work out for the Broncos?
Not so great, unless you consider their participation in one of the worst football games to ever air on primetime television as a positive step forward. The Broncos won, by a hilarious score of 11-10, and they are somehow 2-1, but there were no real signs of improvement to be found in Sunday night’s performance. In fact, the offense looked worse with Hackett’s increased focus on calling plays, which is not something you want when the head coach made his name as an offensive coordinator.
The Broncos had eight first downs, gained 261 total yards of offense, and averaged 3.7 yards per play. Ten of their 14 drives ended in punts, and Jimmy Garoppolo running out of the back of his own end zone is the only reason they came away with the one-point win.
The Broncos’ first three drives of the game totaled 16 yards and all ended with punts. Later in the game they had three consecutive drives, all ending in punts, that gained a total of minus-four yards.
Hackett spent much of his postgame press conference talking about what a good defense the 49ers have, and how much his team had to battle in order to score 11 points. Hackett was asked if he’s concerned that his team has scored only three total touchdowns across three games, to which he replied, “I mean, it’s something that we gotta correct.”
Hackett didn’t do a great job on Sunday night, but what about Rosburg? Surely putting a Good-Decision-Making coach in the coordinators’ box would all but guarantee that the Broncos would improve in terms of situational awareness. Rosburg didn’t do anything as embarrassing as calling for a 64-yard field goal, but he didn’t prevent the Broncos from going 0-for-2 on challenges and punting on a fourth-and-inches while down by five in the fourth quarter, either.
The Broncos still have a lot more that they gotta correct.