The son of coach Paul Hackett, Nathaniel Hackett followed in his dad’s footsteps starting off as a coach for UC Davis. There, Hackett worked as an assistant linebackers coach for the Aggies. Hackett pivoted that job into a job as an assistant coach at Stanford under Buddy Teevens for 2003 and 2004. He was promoted to working as the specialists coach and recruiting coordinator in 2005 for the Cardinal. Jon Gruden, who worked with Paul Hackett at Pitt, hired both Paul and Nathaniel Hackett to be his quarterbacks coach and Offensive Quality Control coach respectively.
Hackett then took a similar job with the Buffalo Bills under Head Coach Dick Jauron from 2008 to 2009. In 2010, Doug Marrone hired Hackett to be his Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach/Tight Ends coach. The following year, Marrone promoted Hackett to Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach/Tight Ends coach. Reportedly, Hackett grew so frustrated with how his first offense looked over the summer that he scrapped it all and improvised, shifting to a Jim Kelly-esque K-Gun offense with two weeks before the start of the season.
It worked like a charm. Ryan Nassib, the quarterback at the time, set school records for completions and yards, and tied the school record for touchdowns in a season. Nassib finished fourth all-time in Big East passing yardage. Syracuse featured a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver in 2012 for the first time in school history.
Hackett followed Marrone to the Bills in 2013 in the same capacity. Working with the likes of EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton, Hackett managed to improve the struggling Bills’ offense into a unit that helped the team finish 9-7 in 2014. The team finished 2nd in the NFL in rushing that year.
Hackett stuck with Marrone after Marrone opted out of his contract with Buffalo and followed him down to Jacksonville. Hackett was named quarterbacks coach under Gus Bradley, with Greg Olson calling plays as offensive coordinator. Hackett was tasked with trying to develop Blake Bortles into a viable passer. Easier said than done. Hackett was promoted to offensive coordinator of the Jaguars in 2017, and the offense woke up.
Bortles’s best season in the NFL came with Hackett at the helm. Hackett did an excellent job of making things particularly easy on him and setting up his shots. What stands out to me when talking to folks in Jacksonville was that Hackett frequently adjusted his scheme in Jacksonville and tailored it to his players rather than try and force players to be something they aren’t. The Jaguars made the playoffs that year and were a late Brady touchdown pass away from making the Super Bowl.
The 2018 offense failed to replicate that success, falling from 16th in DVOA to 30th. The staff was fired at the end of the year, and Hackett found a new shot working under Matt LaFleur in Green Bay. Hackett was named LaFleur’s offensive coordinator, working with LaFleur in game-planning. LaFleur also is in charge of Green Bay’s red-zone offense and planning. The Packers offense has finished top-10 in Red Zone DVOA every year under Hackett, including a first-place finish in 2020.
One of the hottest names on the coaching market, Hackett has become one of the more respected coaches in circles that I talk to for his energy and ability to connect to his players. Every person raves about his ability to motivate and how fun and charismatic he is. He sounds like he has the right temperament to be a really good CEO-style of coach.
It’s notable that he has a widespread connection to many coaches in the league, through himself and through his dad. Reportedly, he’s close to McVay and LaFleur, who have both worked out pretty well in the NFL I’d say. LaFleur also worked with Denver’s Defensive Backs coach Christian Parker in Green Bay and Denver’s Defensive Line coach Bill Kollar in Buffalo, so he’s familiar with members of the staff already. Matt Sheldon, who is a Senior Analyst for the Broncos, was also on staff with Hackett in Buffalo.
Most importantly, Hackett is close with Aaron Rodgers, and if they were trying to entice Rodgers to come to Denver, he’d make a ton of sense.
Hackett would be at the very top of my shortlist for Denver.
Potential Offensive Coordinator hires: Alex van Pelt, Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator; Luke Getsy, Green Bay Packers Quarterbacks coach/Passing Game Coordinator; Kevin O’Connell, Los Angeles Rams Offensive Coordinator
Potential Defensive Coordinator hires: Ejiro Evero, Los Angeles Rams Secondary coach/Passing Game Coordinator; Christian Parker, Denver Broncos Defensive Backs coach; Marion Hobby, Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Line coach
Would you like it if the Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett as their next head coach?
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