This mean-and-ornery Broncos defense would be a terrible thing for coach Nathaniel Hackett to waste. He can’t hack it as an NFL coach. With all their billions in the bank, could the crazy-rich Waltons please lure Sean Payton to the Darkside and end our embarrassment in Denver?
Five games as the coach in Denver, and Hackett is on the hot seat. And that’s not a hot take. The Broncos lost 12-9 Thursday in overtime to a bad Indianapolis team that won a game without a touchdown, the margin of victory provided by a 48-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin.
We know horrendous coaching in Broncos Country. Hackett is not only bringing back all those bad vibes of Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio, he clearly is more overmatched than two coaches whose names are mud around here. Despite a defense living up to its “Darkside” nickname, the Broncos are stuck with a 2-3 record.
“All teams are tested by adversity,” Hackett said. In defeat, he repeatedly cited a need to look at the videotape to figure out why his team is its own worst enemy.
Well, I don’t need further video review to know Rob Walton and his family didn’t pay a record $4.65 billion for the Broncos to be embarrassed in prime time by a coach who chokes under pressure in one moment after another that seems too big for Hackett.
Call Payton out of retirement. At age 58, he owns a Super Bowl ring and has won 161 regular season and playoff games in the NFL. He helped make Drew Brees the quarterback Russell Wilson wants to be during the second half of his career. Yes, the price tag for Payton might be steep. Maybe $10 million per year. But that’s chump change to the crazy-rich Waltons and this new ownership group.
Somebody needs to invent a drinking game for the rare times when the Broncos stumble into the red zone. Otherwise, this offense is nearly unwatchable inside the 20-yard line.
The loss ended in inexplicable fashion, with Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson throwing an incomplete pass on a slow-developing route by Courtland Sutton in the end zone on 4th-and-1 from the five-yard line.
When a QB sneak was in order, the Broncos came out in shotgun. Overthinking, Hackett gave a declaration of no confidence in his offensive line and shot himself in the foot.
“We wanted to win the game,” Hackett said.
The biggest impediment to Denver victory is its coach. When Hackett designs a game plan where is the nuance or creativity? Too often it appears the only plan if Wilson doesn’t chuck the ball deep is 1-2-3 kick.
He has turned the Walton’s $245 million investment in Wilson into a quarterback who appears to lack trust in both the voices in his helmet and teammates in the offensive huddle. Against Indianapolis, Wilson completed 21 of 39 passes for 274 yards, but his misses were horrendous, including two interceptions that reduced his QB rating to 54.9, a failing grade we thought had left town with Drew Lock.
What happened in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, with the Broncos clinging to a 9-6 lead, was such a display of incompetence to be considered a fireable offense.
With 2 minutes, 13 seconds, showing on the scoreboard clock, Wilson had the Colts right where he wanted them, after Denver had played smashmouth football to perfection, ramming the football into the teeth of the Indy defense with a 10-play drive until it was third down on the 13-yard line, with the football four yards short of the sticks.
Any kid with Madden video game experience would know what to do next: Run the rock into the line. Trot out Broncos kicker Brandon McManus for a field goal from gimme distance for a six-point advantage if you don’t make the first down. And dare the Colts to drive the length of the field for a TD, without a timeout — a feat that seemed about as likely as 37-year-old Indy quarterback Matt Ryan becoming a Chippendale dancer.
But what happened instead? The Broncos threw the football and Wilson threw an interception nabbed by Indy cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the end zone.
“I let the team down tonight,” Wilson said.
The brain-dead turnover gave the Colts a stay of execution, which allowed Ryan to demonstrate his wise, old head savvy, leading Indy on a 10-play drive in the two-minute drill, which ended with a 31-yard field goal that sent the game to overtime.
Back on Tuesday, maybe these teams should’ve ordered a touchdown on Amazon Prime for two-day delivery.
It was almost as if the Broncos and Colts didn’t practice for this game. Wait … what? Thursday Night Football might not be the worst idea in NFL history. But it’s definitely in the top 10.
Circumstances conspired for a display of bad football. But here’s the thing: A short week of preparation can reveal a coach’s acumen for crisis management or his inability to handle a difficult task under extreme deadline pressure.
The evidence suggests Hackett can’t hack it as an NFL coach.
Is it too early for Broncos general manager George Paton to fire Hackett? Yes.
But it’s not too early to call Payton’s people and see what it would take to lure a competent NFL coach out of retirement.
This content was originally published here.