The Denver Broncos sit at 3-7 on the season, have the worst offense in the NFL, have lost to the Josh McDaniels-led Las Vegas Raiders TWICE, are statistically just about 100% out of playoff contention, and as a result, first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett will almost certainly be let go.
It’s rare that an NFL head coach gets fired after just one season, but this situation is not like most.
Hackett inherited a talented skill group of receivers featuring Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and KJ Hamler, as well as a young running back expected to make a major leap in his second year in Javonte Williams.
Along with the offensive skill players and an offensive line that had been respectable under Mike Munchak in previous years, Hackett also had the luxury of having a top-tier defensive roster. Add in a franchise QB in Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson, and the ingredients were all there to start a franchise turnaround. All that was needed was just an adequate chef.
As it turns out, the chef stirring the ingredients has looked as if he has never turned on a stove in his life and burns water on the regular.
Hackett took a mediocre team under former coach Vic Fangio, added a supposed game-changing QB only to make him look like Case Keenum on an average day, and turned mediocre into one of the five worst teams in the league. Yeah, that ineptitude doesn’t warrant a second season.
So the question of “if” he should be fired has been met with an almost unanimous “yes.” The question has since moved to “when” he should be fired and if moving on from him now, with seven games left in the season (six after Carolina), is in any way beneficial or if the team should just ride it out the rest of the season and start work on a new staff in January.
One argument against firing him midseason with some validity to it is that it puts the team in an awkward spot regarding how to handle the interim position as well as how it affects defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.
Evero has led the Broncos’ D to becoming one of the league’s elite defenses this season and he has been the bright spot on the staff.
And according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the team does have interest in looking at him as a candidate for head coach.
On the assistant front, Denver defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is a candidate of interest to multiple teams — including, potentially, Denver, if it moves on from Hackett and doesn’t turn to someone like Dan Quinn, Graziano said.
As Broncos insider Benjamin Allbright notes, Evero’s situation could complicate things, making an interim situation potentially messy.
If they fire Hackett in season, the key will who is promoted to interim HC. If they promote Evero they'll either need to make him full time HC in off season or lose him.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) November 23, 2022
If they make Capers interim HC & keep Evero as DC they can interview Evero for HC but keep him as DC in 2023. https://t.co/vkfaoZPlVC
Does George Paton allow Evero an audition, as we’ve discussed here before, thus potentially losing him as both DC and head coach after the season if he doesn’t create signs of progress (or, he does, and pursues another franchise’s opening)? Or does he go with the more experienced Capers, which could keep Evero under contract, but also keep the team looking like...they currently do?
The Capers scenario would seem like the best route to go, but that’s only if the front office and ownership is going to look outside the organization for its next head coach. If they truly do view Evero as a head coaching candidate, it would be very risky to move on from one long-time assistant who had never been a head coach to another on the same staff.
And yes, the defense has been stout, but remember, this team has yet to face any true offensive firepower outside of maybe the Los Angeles Chargers. To go with a guy like Evero without seeing what he is capable of seems too risky of a move for the team to make.
The other argument against a mid-season change, as made by Allbright, is that there is no real benefit.
It doesn't benefit anything.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) November 21, 2022
It's not college ball, you don't get a jump on recruiting.
But once you're eliminated from playoffs... https://t.co/eNPQxvCtAz
This is where the issue becomes more debatable.
First off, the “they don’t get a jump on recruiting” comment doesn’t really register. When a college coach is fired mid-season, the new hire won’t be hired until after the season, so is this to say the program will be able to get a jump on the recruiting front with an interim? That would just put them further behind.
Regardless if there is any point to doing so, though, there is a method behind the madness if the Broncos do choose to go this route.
First, it will be a message sent by ownership that this kind of ineptitude is not tolerated and that a change will be made without any room to doubt. It will tell disgruntled fans and potential ticket and merchandise buyers that change is coming for the better. The longer the move is delayed, the longer fans will wonder if it actually will take place.
The other reason? Pride. The season cannot get any worse under Hackett, and it almost certainly won’t get any better. Removing him and elevating an assistant, be it Capers or Evero, could produce better results and therefore more optimism that the offense is fixable, making the Russell Wilson trade seem like less of a failure. Keeping him on while the franchise watches in real time as they gift the Seattle Seahawks a top-5 draft pick does nothing but provide further embarrassment.
Fortunately for Broncos Country, it seems without almost any semblance of doubt that a move is going to be made, and arguing over “when” and not “if” means both sides of the argument will come out on top, as a new era (again) of Broncos football will soon take place.
Hopefully the next one sticks.
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