Nathaniel Hackett is now the 18th head coach of the Denver Broncos and represents one of the most important moves of general manager George Paton’s young career.

What can we learn about Hackett, his personality, and his coaching style from his introductory press conference? Let’s take a look.

Hackett wowed during interviews, which were especially lengthy

Hackett did not enter the Broncos’ head coaching search as the favorite to win the job, and yet, he’s now the Broncos head coach. That somewhat surprising result was largely due to his ability to wow Denver’s front office and George Paton during the interview process, which was long.

According to his press conference, Hackett met with the Broncos on three separate occasions — the third of which remained a secret until this presser — totaling 16-17 hours by Paton’s estimation.

“From the start of the interview process, Nathaniel [Hackett] impressed us with his intelligence, his innovation, and his strong leadership qualities,” Paton said during his introductory statement. “We met with Nathaniel—the initial interview was in Green Bay—and he blew us away. It was four and a half hours about everything, and when he walks in the room, he lights it up. We followed that up with a second interview. We brought him to Denver on Monday and visited for nine to 10 hours, and then I followed that up the next day with a one-on-one Zoom session with Nathaniel for probably two and a half hours. I think he’s probably sick of talking to me and he’s sick of the process, but at least he got to have a great meal at Los Dos Potrillos, which really kind of sealed the deal.”

The reason for the lengthy interview process was because the more the Broncos talked with Hackett, the more and more infatuated with him they became.

“From the start, the more we talked with Nathaniel, the more we realized that he was the right leader for the Denver Broncos and really the perfect choice to reboot this organization. As you’ll see here in a few moments, his enthusiasm is infectious. His knowledge of the game is really remarkable. This guy—he’s going to bring a lot of juice [and] he’s going to bring a lot of energy to our building. We do a lot of background on all the candidates and the word that kind of resonated—other than his football acumen—was [the importance of] connection.”

That key aspect of his philosophy was a theme present throughout his introductory press conference.

The importance of family is is a major aspect of Hackett’s coaching philosophy

The Broncos’ newest football czar exuded warmth and energy from the moment he stepped up to the podium. He emphasized how important connecting to people was to him, and the theme of family was consistently brought up.

From the very start, some of the first words out of his mouth were thanking his family.

“There are so many [people to thank] for the person that you see standing up here right now. You look at my wife, Harrison, Briar, Everly, London—I love you guys,” Hackett said to his wife and kids, who were in attendance. “My mom and dad—my dad is a football coach, and being a football coach’s kid, it’s not cool sometimes. To be able to stick together, be a family and everything that he’s done for me to show me how to be a dad and how to be a husband—I can never thank him enough, let alone all the football stuff. He’s been so integral in my life. My mom—both of them. It’s a crazy profession and we all know that, but when you’ve got a strong family, beautiful things can happen.”

Hackett also talked about the importance of the players, and those relationships with the players, highlighting multiple players he’s worked with throughout his career and the continued bonds he has with them.

“I keep mentioning the players, and for me, that’s what this game is about,” Hackett said. “Growing up in a locker room with my father and all those guys coaching, it’s about the relationships. It’s about watching those guys go out there and excel [while] showing something special and making Broncos Country proud. That’s what we want to do, and that’s what I’m going to bring to the table. I want to create this environment where people want to come in this building and work and have fun doing it. Let’s make no mistake—it’s only fun when you win football games. We’ve got to win and that’s what we want to do. I’m so excited to work with this organization [and] with these players [while] meeting with each one of them [and] getting to know them. This is a young, hungry football team, and we’ve got to get over the hump. We’ve got to be excited about it and we all have to do this.

“I’m excited to meet every one of you guys all around—every person here,” Hackett continued, as he gestured towards the media in attendance. “Every man and woman, and just get to know every one of you guys because that’s what his is about. It’s about people. It’s about communication. It’s about talking with one another. It’s about all of us coming together and making something special here and really making Broncos Country proud because that’s what it’s all about”

That belief in the power of family stems from Hackett’s time at UC Davis when Hackett decided to be a head coach. He discussed how the close bonds there helped make him decide he wanted to be a coach.

Hackett also discussed the influence his father — the legendary Paul Hackett, who spent many years coaching offense alongside Hall-of-Famer Bill Walsh — had on him.

“My dad is one of the best men I’ve ever met,” Hackett said. “I loved my dad and what he was doing; I loved his work ethic. It was always great when dad came home. It was about being with dad. He’s the best. Just seeing the ups and downs of this profession was something that was valuable for me [and] for my kids and for us to stay strong and be together with my wife and my kids. He taught me [that] there is going to be adversity, and just like we talk about adversity with the team and how we try and how we triumph over that, [you have to] do that with your own family. It’s almost like the training started super early when there was some adversity stuff throughout his career. He’s definitely affected me as a coach. I remember I brought him in when I was at Buffalo, and I asked him to just watch me, critique me and tell me how I can be better and how I can be a better coach from a developmental standpoint. It was a good idea at first and then it got really bad when he came to dinner with 20 pages of notes. I was feeling really good about my coaching style until he started giving me all of the advice. It was one of the best things that happened to me. It changed a lot of the things that I did. He was in everything from how I presented meetings, on the field—it was great. I think that’s also why I want to do things here to be able to help coaches get that and [help them find out] how they can develop and how they can learn how to teach better. He’s done so much for me.”

Those tight bonds and close connections didn’t exactly exist during the Vic Fangio era, and that culture overhaul should be dividends on the field.

Hackett is going to be a welcome change from Fangio’s gruffness

It’s been well-reported now that the Broncos players, coaches, and other members of the organization, didn’t quite get along with Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur, and that the culture at times bordered on toxic.

In one of the latest episodes of the What’s On Draft Podcast, Mario Vetanze, a chiropractic doctor who works with several of the Broncos players both past and present, that the relationship between Fangio and the players was nearly untenable at times last season.

Fangio’s coaching style was tough. He believed players needed to take a beating during the offseason to ‘build-up callouses’ for the upcoming season. That gruffness eventually wore the players down, and while Hackett isn’t going to be a substitute teacher in terms of authority, his brand of coaching should come as a welcome change to the players.

During his presser, he jokingly referred to his wife as Princess Leia and discussed how he wants music at practice — something that was infamously absent at Fangio’s practices.

“I love practice. I absolutely love practice,” Hackett said with his trademark jolt of energy. “There’s no substitute for guys going out there and playing football. There’s just no substitute for it. Again, there are the drills—there’s so many different things you need to do to prepare yourself for practice [and] for the game but I just think it’s the best thing for those guys. When it comes to that energy, of course you know music is going to be out there and it’s going to be the guys’ music because that’s what it’s about. It’s about feeling that rhythm and having fun. It’s the demeanor of the coaches. It’s the demeanor of how we handle it. If somebody makes a big play you want to be excited. You want to be excited for the defense, the offense, the special teams—for everybody. That’s kind of the atmosphere you want to create so it’s not about just going out there to practice. You’re going out there to compete, play football, and have fun.”

Good luck finding the word “fun” come up in the transcripts in a single Shurmur or Fangio presser from the last two seasons.

That fun style was brought up again when it came to how Hackett enjoys giving his plays unique names, which have often been related to Star Wars or Justin Timberlake.

“The sky is the limit on the words now,” Hackett said as he joked about how there’s no head coach to tell him what code names are ‘too far out there.’ “I mean, who knows what’s going to happen—but it has to be a mutual thing. As a coach, you deliver a system, and you teach a system to the players. My favorite thing is when the players become the system and the players own the system and it’s there’s. As they develop their own words, I’m always going to hope that they’re Star Wars words or Justin Timberlake words, I don’t know. Those are the things—that is when they own it and that’s when they become the system. It’s about all of us just working together and getting those things. During that time, it just happened we got to utilize a couple of those terms. To be able to be in this position, there has been so many places and great people that I’ve learned like I talked about earlier that have developed the person that you see here. I think for me, throughout all of those years there’s been so many good [things], some bad things. You want to take and learn from all of those things so when you have this opportunity, [you] hope that you’ve learned so much from your past that you can be the best for this team—for the Denver Broncos. That’s what it’s going to be. We’re going to do all kinds of fun stuff hopefully and it really starts with just winning ball games.”

The change to Hackett is certainly gonna be a big one. Hopefully, it pays off in a big way.