From 1960 through 1972, the Denver Broncos were not very good. Losing seasons, lackluster management, unimpressive quarterbacks, and underperformance were hallmarks of Broncos football in those early years.
Fast forward to the end of the 2021 season, suspect management, a slew of unsuccessful coaches, awful quarterbacks, and losing season after losing season have put the Denver Broncos right back where they started in 1960.
In 1972, the Denver Broncos were able to break the spell when they hired an unconventional optimist at head coach, John Ralston. After winning back-to-back Rose Bowls with Stanford in 1970 and 1971, Ralston was just want the Denver Broncos needed.
Everything you read about Coach Ralston will reference his Dale Carnegie training in the power of positive thinking. While it’s true that he was a firm believer in those teachings, such talk seems to overshadow the unconventional approach he took to the game and his players.
Long before the “too many men in the huddle” penalty, you would find Ralston right there with locked arms around his offense. In old films, you can see him interacting with each player on a personal level. It’s evident, even all these years later, that he truly believed in his players, their mission, and what they were trying to do.
50-years later the game, players, and the world have changed, but the game of football has remained largely the same. The losing culture of the 1960’s has found it’s way back into the Denver Broncos. The time was ripe for a return to what worked.
Enter Nathaniel Hackett.
Looking at videos of him interacting with players is absolutely reminiscent of those grainy films of Ralston slapping butts inside the huddle.
Hackett represents so much more than new blood on the sideline. His is the type of energy that turned the Denver Broncos around once, and I believe that energy can do it again. While he doesn’t have the Dale Carnegie training that Ralston did, he has the same drive to apply what he learned elsewhere to how he interacts with players and the world. As this SI article states:
Nathaniel was also an avid hip-hop dancer, teaching classes throughout college and continuing to take lessons into his late 20s. To this day, he coaches his daughter, also a prospective dancer who has already appeared in music videos, proudly donning his “Dance Dad” shirt at every showcase and competition. But, more than anything, he loved to laugh. And he loved to walk into a room and light the place up.
According to my Green Bay Packers blogger friend, Hackett is able to connect with players on a whole other level because of his love of music, movement, and people in general. It’s his positive outlook on life and genuine appreciation for his players that make him successful. Simply put, players will listen to him because he treats them like important people in his life. We should all be so lucky.
I’ve said in previous articles that the Denver Broncos needed a John Ralston-type Messiah to come deliver them from the desert of losing and anguish. If ever there was such a man to fill those shoes, it’s Nathaniel Hackett. Not because he might be the link between the Broncos and Aaron Rodgers, but because he truly believes in his people and the team. The power of positive thinking got the Broncos out of the basement once. I believe it can happen again.
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