Time flies. Or does it?

Nathaniel Hackett was hired by George Paton to be the Denver Broncos head coach on Jan. 27, 2022. Almost 11 months to the day, and Hackett was fired on Monday.

But for Broncos fans, the 16 weeks of NFL games with him at the helm seemed like an eternity.

In Week 1, down four points to the Seahawks, Hackett elected to kick a field goal from Seattle’s 8 yard line. Denver lost 17-16 in one of Russell Wilson’s best performances of the year.

In Week 2, Hackett committed the 7 deadly sins in a win over Houston. At least, he committed 7 coaching mistakes; like getting a delay of game at the Houston 1 yard line, forcing Denver to kick a field goal.

And on and on it went. The Broncos found ways to lose in overtime to the Colts thanks to terrible coaching, as well as poor play. Up 9-6, Hackett had Wilson throw the ball on third and 4 from Indianapolis’ 13 yard line. Wilson was picked off and the Colts drove down to tie the game and eventually win.

There were also times of mismanagement of the game clock, timeouts as well as challenges. When it came to in-game coaching, it was clear very early on he was in over his head.

It wasn’t just the in-game things in which Hackett lacked skill, but in overall leadership, too.

Albert Okwuegbunam was supposed to be Denver’s tight end of the future. Instead, he was benched — without explanation — by the Broncos coach five weeks into the season. Luckily for Hackett, rookie tight end Greg Dulcich emerged as one of the bright spots of the season, so benching Albert O. out of nowhere faded away.

But the coach’s flip-flopping with players continued with Melvin Gordon. Fans called for the running back to be benched due to his many fumbles, and in the middle of the loss to the Chargers, Gordon was in fact benched, later than he should have been. But the running back said Hackett never told him why.

Beyond that lack of communication, Hackett then put him back in the starting lineup the very next week.

Look, Hackett was hired as a polar opposite of Vic Fangio. Not only was he an offensive-minded head coach — compared to Fangio’s defensive background — but the new coach was young and fun. He was a “player’s coach.”

But no matter a guy’s style, lack of consistency left players in the locker room to question him as head coach.

And then there were the penalties.

Hackett’s Broncos lead the league with 107 penalties this year, with an NFL-high 917 yards against. 44 of those — also an NFL-high — were pre-snap penalties. Delay of game, illegal shift and/or too many men on the field.

Those kind of penalties are inexcusable, and they’re a reflection of the poor coaching from the top-down in Denver. One may argue a delay of game on a kickoff isn’t Hackett’s fault, it’s Dwayne Stukes’ as special teams coordinator. But Hackett has to step in, have a talk with him and get his unit in line as the head coach. He didn’t. And Stukes was also let go by the Broncos on Monday.

As for Hackett’s staff, none of them had experience in their current positions. They were simply too green, especially when considering Hackett was also in over his head.

Back to the pathetic offense, which wasted Denver’s dominant defense.

Many argued it was Wilson who was the biggest issue with Denver’s offense, but it was Hackett’s team. His staff. His plays. His lack of leadership. Hackett was more responsible for the awful offense than Wilson.

That was even more clear when he gave up play-calling duties to Klint Kubiak and Wilson played more efficiently.

Simply, it’s the play-caller’s duty to build an offense to fit his players and coach to their strengths. Wildly, Hackett admitted mid-season he “has to learn how to call plays for Russ.”

How did he not do just that over the offseason and into the early part of the regular season?

Look, no one expected Wilson to suffer such a dramatic drop-off this year, but a good coach will evaluate film, discuss with his staff and the player the best way to mold the offense to his strengths. That’s what Kubiak has done, and that’s what the next coach will have to do as Wilson will be with the Broncos at least in the 2023 season, and likely for much longer.

This season, Broncos Country went from calling for Hackett’s job in the first month of the season, to calling for Wilson to be cut and then even calling for Paton’s job as GM.

Now Hackett is out, and Paton is safe. He will be choosing the Broncos next head coach, and for Paton, this will be a make-or-break hire. He already whiffed on Hackett and can’t afford to do so again.

He also must hire a head coach who is either an offensive guy or someone who will hire an offensive coordinator who can work closely with Wilson to help him get his groove back.

The Wilson trade and hiring Hackett were the biggest gaffes Paton has made, and he can make up for them both by simply hiring the right guy as Denver’s next head coach.

For now, Broncos Country has to wait and see who comes next.

The season can’t come to a close quickly enough, with Denver missing the playoffs for a seventh straight year, an NFL record for a playoff drought by a Super Bowl winner.

For Broncos fans — even the ones who wanted Paton fired — they have to hope Denver’s GM can right the ship this offseason.