The bad news was Sunday when the Denver Broncos couldn’t seem to buy a third-down conversion or run a play series without a multitude of yellow flags littering the field.
The worse news came Monday when head coach Hackett said he had no intention of making any changes to his play calling and game management responsibilities - and seemed oblivious to his part in that in-game chaos.
“I think I’ll continue the play calling,” he said. “I think that’s been pretty efficient up to this point. We’ve done a good job moving the ball. We’ve had a good plan from that standpoint. We just have to finish those drives.”
But the good news came mid-week when head coach Nathaniel Hackett acknowledged his shortcomings on the game management front and sought some experienced advisors to help him figure it out.
And suddenly the accountability that had been missing - the part where Hackett would just say he was not prepared for all these duties as a head coach rather than trying to blame the process or the people getting him information - was back, and he finally noted that the proverbial buck stops with him.
“That’s something that we really jumped into and wanted to make sure that we can get better at that,” he said. “That starts with me, and I’m doing every single thing I can to try to put myself in a position to be able to make quicker, faster [and] more efficient decisions.”
And part of “doing everything” meant calling on General Manager George Paton and assistant GM Darren ‘Moug’ Mougey to review the “process” with him.
“Because that is something that is new for me,” Hackett added. “I think we’re going to have some good answers as we move forward.”
Nathaniel Hackett's tried to talk with everybody on about how to improve gameday operations, including George Paton, Darren Mougey and Dom Capers.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) September 22, 2022
"Find out any way that you can do it better."
The coach elaborated on Thursday that he talked to “everybody” who could bring some value to those discussions.
“We want to try to gain as much information as possible so that we can be efficient,” he said.
Leading up to his first regular season games as the head coach, Hackett had been asked multiple times about his nerves, about his prep, about being a first-time head coach.
And he always disregarded the questions, pointing out that he’s been on the sidelines calling plays for a long time.
Well, that bravado caught up to him the past two weeks as the first-time head coach has learned in front of the entire NFL that there is a learning curve moving to head coach.
Both Kyle Shanahan, Hackett’s opposing game schemer this week, and Matt LaFleur, Hackett’s former boss at the Packers, came to Hackett’s defense this week but pointed out the transition is not easy.
“It’s not always about getting the play in. You need receiver substitutions, you need the quarterback getting to the line. There’s so many things that go into it,” Shanahan told 9News’ Mike Klis on Wednesday. “You’re always responsible for it but it takes a whole team to do that the right way and early on it is a little bit harder especially when you’re playing with a bunch of new players. So it takes time to do.”
Shanahan also recalled his first game and the struggles he had.
“I mean I remember my first game, I went for it four times. And they were ones I should not have gone for and I’d never done that before. And that’s when I realized, you can’t think like the coordinators.”
Ultimately Shanahan reminded Broncos Country that we are going to be OK with Hackett.
“He’s done this for a while and you guys have a good coach there and very good offensive play caller,” he said.
LaFleur was a little more blunt.
“He’ll figure it out, no doubt about it,” the Packers coach said, according to beat reporter Ryan Wood. “So everybody needs to stop hitting that panic button down there.”
The panic button is on standby.
Hackett, the son of former NFL head coach Paul Hackett and a position coach or coordinator in the league since 2009, seems to be grasping the reality himself.
“Yeah, it definitely has been a transition,” he said, acknowledging that he has to think differently as a coach from being a coordinator. “...from the standpoint that you want to score touchdowns [and] that’s always your initial gut reaction. As I am learning more, you have to remove that emotion as an offensive play caller. You have to look at it from a head coach standpoint [and] what is best for the team at that time.”
Hackett has no doubt been hearing the criticism from across the NFL as well as Broncos Country. Perhaps watching the film with the crowd counting the play clock was a stark enough reminder.
“I think as I continually reflect on what has happened and continually learn from it, that will make me more efficient and utilizing as many people as I can so that it’s not about just trying to be aggressive all the time, but be aggressive in the right situation,” he said.