Hackett’s Last Hope?

Hackett’s Last Hope?
Reading Time: 4 minutes.

In Week 7, the Broncos suffered a 16-9 defeat against the resurgent New York Jets and saw their record slip to 2-5. On Sunday, they will take part in the final NFL London game of 2022 at Wembley Stadium. The Denver Broncos will face the Jacksonville Jaguars in what could be a must win game for Denver and their head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The team travelled to London Monday afternoon and whilst they focus will be on winning, they will also have nearly a week to experience London. If Broncos lose, could Hackett be out of a job on his return to Denver?

The Precedence

Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Whilst coaching changes don’t often happen this early in the season, there is precedence. Let’s not forget that there has already been one firing this year, Matt Rhule was fired by the Carolina Panthers after a Week 5 loss which saw them drop to 1-4. Additionally, there have been other examples of coaches fired after losses in the London games. In 2014 the Raiders fired Dennis Allen head coach after a poor start to the season and then, in 2015, the Dolphins sacked coach Joe Philbin.

The Issues

Ultimately, the job of getting Denver ready to play falls on the head of head coach Hackett but a deeper examination is needed to really see the problems.

Poor Quarterback Play

The Broncos trade for Russell Wilson was the big move of the off-season, the one many expected to make them Super Bowl contenders. However, to this point that hasn’t been the case. Far from it. Wilson has looked off throwing the ball and has seemed reluctant to run and has thrown for 1,442 passing yards with only five touchdowns and three interceptions. In addition, he’s only completed 61.1 percent of his passes. Finally, to add to the misery felt by Broncos fans, Wilson has been nursing a shoulder injury and missed last week with a grade 2 hamstring strain.

With Wilson injured, Brett Rypien made his second start in Sunday’s loss to the Jets but it made little difference to the offence as he completed only 24 of 46 passes for 225 yards, throwing no touchdowns and one interception. Not only that, he managed just 4.9 yards per attempt.

Pre-Snap Penalties

In the NFL there’s little excuse for pre-snap penalties. These put their offence in a hole or extend opposition’s drives. The Broncos already have 25 pre-snap penalties ( 17 offense, 6 defence and 2 special teams)! It’s the head coach’s job to ensure his team is ready for games. Part of this is knowing when the ball is going to be snapped and when to explode off the line. Hackett is failing to do this but its not just pre-snap. The Broncos already have 58 penalties against them. They are killing themselves with penalties, especially on offense. Hackett can say

I’m sick of being up here saying the same thing over and over again,

but ultimately its his job to sort these issues, something he’s failed to do so far.

Dropped passes

Perhaps another reason for the team’s lack of success lies in the number of dropped passes. According to NBC Sports the Broncos have the eighth most dropped passes in the league with 12, coincidentally the Jaguars, their opponents on Sunday, have 13. Dropping passes, especially those that would have resulted in big gains can stall drive rapidly. In addition this affects Wilson’s quarterback numbers, showing as an incompletion.

Undear New Management

Working against Hackett is the fact that the current team’s owners, which include Formula 1 phenom Sir Lewis Hamilton, didn’t select Hackett to be the coach. Perhaps moving on from Hackett would yield better results. The team has highly thought of defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero in place. Why not let him have an extended interview for the remainder of the season? Especially with the team’s bye week after the London match.

Hope for Hackett?

So is there hope for Hackett and the Broncos? To some degree the answer is yes. In contrast to the offense, the Broncos’ defence is playing at a very high level. They are allowing the second least yards per game, an average of 286. They have 22 sacks, fourth most in the league. Perhaps the most telling stat is the fact that they are only allowing 16.4 points per game. The unit, led by Bradley Chubb and Patrick Surtain II has been showing up week in, week out.

Also, offering a silver lining is the fact Wilson had probably his best game of the season against the Raiders and was able to throw for 237 yards and two touchdowns whilst adding another score on the ground. With Wilson trending towards playing on Sunday, the outlook for Hackett and the Broncos is significantly brighter.

However, facing a Jaguars team that is better than its 2-5 record suggests, Hackett may be drinking at the last chance saloon.

For more great articles by Jonathan Cumbleton check here.


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