It seems the writing was on the wall when Nathaniel Hackett’s interview went nearly nine hours on Monday night.
According to many reports this morning — including Adam Schefter — the Denver Broncos will be hiring the former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator as their 18th head coach. Hackett was scheduled to meet with the Jacksonville Jaguars — where he has coaching ties — later today, but GM George Paton jumped in and snagged him first.
And here’s more from NFL Network:
More from @gmfb on Nathaniel Hackett as new #Broncos head coach and, per me and @RapSheet, a leading candidate for defensive coordinator in Denver: #Rams assistant Ejiro Evero. pic.twitter.com/qWUy0jEGYH
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 27, 2022
Hackett is a 42-year old up-and-coming offensive coordinator who’s worked extensively with Aaron Rodgers since 2019. Notably, Rodgers enjoyed a resurgence in his long career, earning back-to-back First-Team All-Pro nods as well as the 2020 NFL MVP award.
Speaking of Rodgers, who could continue playing or may consider retirement after the Packers’ loss in the NFL Divisional Round last weekend, he said he could end up following Hackett if he ever left Green Bay:
Aaron Rodgers with a magnificent answer to my Nathaniel Hackett question for a Friday story for the @WiStateJournal. Says "nobody in the building brings me more joy or is more fun.” The #Packers QB ends it with this: "I hope he doesn't go anywhere … [Pause] … Unless I do."
— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) November 11, 2020
Of course, hiring Hackett was much more about what Paton thinks he can provide the team, with or without Rodgers. That’s because, even if the star quarterback wants to follow Hackett to the Mile High City, nothing is set in stone on that end and Rodgers would have to be traded since he has two more years on the end of his deal.
Back to Hackett, the Broncos next head coach.
He’s been in the NFL since 2006, working as an offensive quality control assistant, and after a short stint at the college ranks, was an offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, the aforementioned Jaguars and most recently the Green Bay Packers.
In his three years as the man in charge of the Packers’ offense, Green Bay was 15th, 1st and 10th in scoring respectively. Of course, any of those rankings are much better than where the Broncos have been sitting, down in the bottom third of the league for years.
And that 2020 team, which averaged 31.8 points per game, was something special. They led the league in giveaways (11), passing touchdowns (48), interceptions (5) and percentage of drives which ended in a score (49.7!). Last year, the offense regressed to the mean a bit: They scored 26.5 points per game, but still led the league in giveaways (13) and still scored on 44.5% of their drives (7th-best). Also of note: The Packers average drive time (3:14) was the best in the NFL last year.
Simply, the Packers have been one of the most formidable forces offensively for the last three years, and Hackett is a big reason why.
He was able to help Davante Adams elevate to a new level the superstar receiver had never been to before, similarly earning back-to-back First-team All-Pro nods the last two years while he became arguably the best wideout in the game.
In 2020, Adams’ 18 touchdowns and 98.1 receiving yards per game each led the NFL for all receivers, and last year his 1,553 yards were third-most while his 11 touchdowns were fourth-most among the receiver position. And on Tuesday night, a report surfaced saying Rodgers and Adams would “love to team up with the Broncos” and Hackett.
Sources: Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams would love to team up with the #Broncos.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) January 26, 2022
Besides the explosiveness of the Rodgers-to-Adams duo, Hackett’s offense has been deft in getting multiple running backs going as well as spreading the love to multiple, seemingly no-name tight ends.
This year, AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones each nearly ran for 800 yards and combined for 9 touchdowns on the ground, with another 700 yards and 6 TDs through the air. And when Robert Tonyan went down mid-way through the season, Josiah Deguara and Marcedes Lewis were able to step into the role and make sure it stayed productive.
For the Broncos, the hire is a complete change in philosophy from Vic Fangio, who was fired earlier this month. Fangio and his predecessor Vance Joseph were defensive head coaches while Hackett is now the first offensive-oriented coach for the team since Gary Kubiak retired in 2016.
Also of note, while there are a ton of moving pieces, the Broncos defense is loaded with talent. Last year, the Packers were arguably the best team in the league and few thought they would be upset in the Divisional Round, even with the 13th-best defense. A slightly better defense could mean an even deeper playoff run starting in 2022 if things go right.
As far as other coaches are concerned, expect Hackett to try and keep offensive line coach Mike Munchack around. No word on others.
The Broncos have not had a winning season since Kubiak left in 2016, and they’ve missed the playoffs the last six years straight. So, Hackett will be looking to right the ship there, for one of the most successful franchises in the league.
Meanwhile, Denver’s team is about to be sold to a new owner this offseason, too.