Following the Denver Broncos fourth straight loss of the season Sunday afternoon to the New York Jets, onlookers who have witnessed offensive ineptitude the likes of which most have never seen finally got an answer as to who is at fault.
It’s not Russell Wilson, it’s Nathaniel Hackett.
Wilson, sitting out due to a partially torn hamstring, has been taking arguably as much heat as Hackett for the 2022 Broncos historically poor offensive performances this season, but with him out and backup Brett Rypien taking the reins for (at least) a game, fans saw more of the same.
It’s not that Rypien was expected to come in and replace Wilson like Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe, but given all the hate directed towards Wilson for the lack of offensive production, this was Hackett’s chance to prove himself worthy of the head coaching job awarded to him by general manager George Paton.
Instead, what Broncos Country was forced to sit through (thankfully it was mostly just Broncos Country, as this game was not nationally televised) was more of the same. It was more of the same head-scratching, free-of-logic play calling that has plagued the team since week 1.
Broncos need 1, Hackett calls a pass play— Sayre Bedinger (@SayreBedinger) October 23, 2022
Broncos need 3, Hackett calls a shot play
Broncos need 10, hail mary??
17 or less points in all but one game. Offense is a league-wide embarrassment.
How many more times Hackett can take the snap out of the shotgun on 3rd and 1 or call a bomb downfield on any short-yardage situation no one can truly know. He has shown no signs that he is going to change things up, though, despite how much he “owns it” after each loss.
Taking blame for the loss in week 1 was admirable, especially since it was a far cry from Vic Fangio, who seemed to want to defer blame at all costs. But after 6 weeks, those crocodile tears are fooling no one, especially when the offensive strategy remains the same.
Yet, here he was again, after Sunday’s 16-9 loss, displaying frustration and anger, as if he’s a coach who isn’t doing the same things over and over. He said he was “sick being up here saying the same things.” Guess what? Fans are sick of you being on the sideline doing the same things.
Hackett: “I’m sick being up here and saying the same things. … We got to get it in. It’s the NFL, it’s supposed to be hard.” #9sports— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) October 23, 2022
Hackett was reportedly “fiery” in his press conference. Oooohhh...scary. That’ll definitely ruffle some feathers.
Surely the defense, who has been carrying the team in a way that makes the boulder Atlas is lugging around for eternity seem like an empty fanny pack, appreciates those words...
And that leads into this: what is happening to the Broncos defense is borderline criminal. This is a unit that is one of the best in the NFL, if not the best, and yet their punishment of 2-5 is no less severe.
The Broncos defense has surrendered 17, 9, 10, 32, 12, 19, and 16 points this season. Yes, that means they have surrendered 20 or more points ONCE. And if the 32-point performance by the Raiders in week 4 can be considered an outlier, that means the defense is allowing an average fewer than 14 points a game in those contests. One would think a team with a defense like that could muster more than 2 wins to this point, right?
Quarterback Brett Rypien, who did what he could in Wilson’s absence, including connecting with wide receiver Jerry Jeudy for multiple big plays, wasted no words expressing thanks to the defense for doing all they can to win games.
Brett Rypien after the Broncos' 16-9 loss to the Jets:— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) October 24, 2022
"When your defense is playing as well as our defense is, you shouldn’t be losing games. That’s just point-blank, period, a fact."
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton echoed Rypien’s words, saying the defense “played their butts off” and is motivated to get things right for the unit doing the heavy lifting.
Hackett mentioned that the offense has had opportunities to put up points and continues to have those same opportunities, but at some point, they have to take advantage of them.
“There’s no excuses,” he said Sunday after the loss.
Yet, it seems as the ineptitude of the offense may have one glaringly obvious excuse as to why the offense continues to lack production and points as they go forward with the same, destined-to-fail game plan week after week...
There is not one example, one shred of evidence Nathaniel Hackett has any idea what he’s doing.— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) October 23, 2022
What that valid excuse may be will just have to continue to be a mystery, it seems...
If nothing else following the latest embarrassing loss in a string of embarrassing losses, it’s that Russell Wilson can sleep at least a little easier knowing that he wasn’t the patient zero of the anemic offense plague that has infected the Broncos.
The Broncos, now sitting at 2-5, may as well go ahead and chalk this season up as lost. It may be time to just accept that the offseason hype was a bust and that now it may be best to see what kind of value the team can get for some valuable assets like Jerry Jeudy and Bradley Chubb.
It may also be time for the Walton-Penner ownership group and general manager George Paton to cut some dead weight as well.
For while this head coach may be “sick” of coming up week after week saying the same thing, he continues to coach each game week after week doing the same thing. If change is to come, it won’t come from the head coach. Maybe it’s time it comes from someone a little bit higher up.