Silent night.

Holy cow!

If that wasn’t the best gift ever!

The only thing quieter than a church mouse on Christmas Eve was the Denver Broncos football team on Christmas Night.

But nothing was louder than the statement made by Greg Penner on Monday morning. The day after Christmas 2022, Penner played the role of both Santa Claus and the Grinch, but never was he Ebenezer Scrooge.

Monday morning, Penner – finally and mercifully – put an end to the Nathaniel Hackett experiment. As only the fifth coach in NFL history to get whacked before his inaugural season was finished, Hackett’s time in Denver can hardly be called an “era” – experiment feels more appropriate.

Penner may not fully understand the game of football, but as he’s demonstrated through his various, successful business ventures – including his role as chairman of Walmart – he understands the customer.

And the customer is always right. Especially in Broncos Country.

If anyone understands the product that is the Denver Broncos best, it is the proud and loyal citizens of Broncos Country. After an embarrassing 51-14 beatdown in Los Angeles on Christmas Day, the customers were anything but merry. Penner listened.

If there’s a single criticism of Hackett’s firing, it’s that it could have happened sooner. To some extent, though, that’s semantics. The point is Penner observed, listened and acted.

“Embarrassing game,” said Nathaniel Hackett from Los Angeles before getting pinkslipped the very next morning.

That would be like the greeters who wear blue telling the customer, “This place sucks, doesn’t it?” as they were walking out with a bag full of goods.

No boss can let that happen. Penner didn’t.

And it’s a good thing, because if he’d have let it slide – even for just two more games and then made the decision – the message would not have been as loud or as clear. In fact, the message to customers went instantly from one of confusion and frustration to one that’s suddenly very clear:

The standard remains.

Now, it’s probably premature to assume that the Walton-Penner Group has or will maintain the same standard (see: passion, devotion, commitment, involvement, love) as the late, great Pat Bowlen, but this firing was certainly a great start. Making an unprecedented type of move less than six months into the job wasn’t, to be sure, part of the new ownership’s plan. Make no mistake, no matter how much money or business acumen someone has, these types of actions are never easy. Say what you will about Nathaniel Hackett the coach, he’s still a person. Furthermore, firing a head coach isn’t a solution; it’s just the elimination of one (of potentially many) problems. From here, the solutions will be equally difficult.

The boldest of leaders understand where the rubber meets the road, or in this case, where the customer has reached his wit’s end. Getting royally embarrassed in front of the entire country on national TV (again) was the final straw. Had Penner not done something, the narrative would have assuredly turned toward him. Any casual football fan could easily identify that Hackett was in over his head. Those same observers, however, had no way of knowing just exactly how much Penner and his co-owners gave a damn.

Were they simply a jolly, wealthy family that had just unwrapped a new toy that didn’t work all that well? (No biggie, just go play with another one).

Or did they care enough to make the last week of the year anything but a vacation?

“We recognize and appreciate this organization’s championship history, and we understand we have not met that standard. Our fans deserve much better, and I can’t say enough about their loyalty during such a challenging stretch for our team,” Penner said in a statement release by the team’s media department. “Moving forward, we will carefully evaluate every aspect of our football operations and make whatever changes are necessary to restore this franchise’s winning tradition.

“I will lead our head coaching search with support from our ownership group and George, whom I have confidence in as our general manager. As we begin the process of selecting our next head coach, we remain focused on playing competitive football to finish the season on a positive note.”

How much of, or how fast, all of that is possible remains to be seen. But what Penner did and said was exactly what his customers needed to hear. It had to be done. And for good measure, special coordinator Dwayne Stukes and offensive line coach Butch Barry were shown the door later in the day.

Had the Nathaniel Hackett circus continued, one thing would have been all too clear: These are no longer Mr. B’s Broncos.