The Concept Of Time Has Nathaniel Hackett In A Headlock
9:59 AM EDT on September 19, 2022
One day after the Broncos' Week 1 loss to the Seahawks, head coach Nathaniel Hackett said that in retrospect he wouldn't have called for a 64-yard field goal attempt instead of giving Russell Wilson a chance to convert a fourth-and-5, making him the last person on Earth to realize that. Hours before the team's second game, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that Hackett had been "re-evaluating the information he receives on his headset and for late-game and key sequences, sources say." Either those sources are lying or Hackett is, because the decision-making was just as baffling in Week 2.
The Broncos did beat the Texans on Sunday, 16-9, giving Hackett his first victory as a head coach. He received a game ball afterward, as did the Walton-Penner family and Condoleezza Rice, and told his team to focus on the bigger picture. "Guys, we got so much to clean up," Hackett said in the locker room. "We get a win, but there’s so much we’ve got to clean up." He's correct about that—his team committed 13 total penalties in the game—but most of the cleaning up should be on him.
The Broncos are 0-for-6 in scoring a touchdown in the red zone through two games. In the first quarter, the offense had a first-and-goal situation at Houston's two-yard line. Russell Wilson threw three straight incomplete passes and Denver settled for a field goal. (The Denver Post reported that "one player" said Hackett called a run play on second down, but Wilson changed it to a pass. Hopefully that doesn't become a pattern!) The team scored the first points of the game and took a 3-0 lead. Fine.
Right before halftime, the Broncos had another first-and-goal chance at Houston's five-yard line. Running back Javonte Williams gained four yards on second down to put his team one yard away from a TD. Here's what happened next:
3rd & 1 at HOU 1 (0:29 - 2nd) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete short right.
4th & Goal at HOU 1 (0:23 - 2nd) (Field Goal formation) PENALTY on DEN, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at HST 1 - No Play.
4th & Goal at HOU 6 (0:20 - 2nd) B.McManus 24 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-J.Bobenmoyer, Holder-C.Waitman.
Wilson scrambled for a bit, then threw the pass away. Why not give the ball to Williams again, especially when the team still had three timeouts? If Condi were coaching, she'd probably call a run play there. That the team committed a delay-of-game penalty on the field goal attempt is somewhat concerning, but not a big deal in this context, since Brandon McManus can make a 24-yarder with ease. As everyone learned last week, Hackett believes his kicker can make it from basically anywhere, even from 64 yards, except when he can't.
This wasn't even Hackett's worst sequence of the game. No, these two red-zone failures were only an appetizer. What he did late in the third quarter was so appalling that it'd be well within the rights of the NFL to open an investigation and see if someone paid Hackett to try and throw this game. Down by a field goal with a third-and-1 situation, the Broncos ran an option play in which fullback/tight end Andrew Beck lost one yard. Hackett wasted play clock as he tried to figure out what to do on fourth down before he sent out the field goal unit, which lined up for a 54-yard attempt but committed a delay-of-game penalty before they could kick it. Instead of a 59-yard attempt, Hackett chose to punt. This Jim Norton-looking dipshit still has to play the Chiefs and Chargers twice each.
Hackett really tested the limits of how ugly an ugly win can be. Are the ends justifying the means here? Should any respectable team play the Houston Texans that closely? How does a field goal unit commit two delay-of-game penalties in one game? Isn't it embarrassing for a coach to have his own fans loudly count down the play clock when his offense is on the field?
To be fair, Hackett's Week 1 autopsy did change one of his tendencies. In the loss to the Seahawks, he held onto his timeouts until they were useless. Against the Texans, he burned his final second-half TO with 7:38 remaining in the fourth quarter. One of those timeouts was called when the Broncos couldn't figure out who was going to return a punt. Whatever reevaluation Hackett conducted needs to be re-reevaluated.