For some time, it’s been pretty clear that Nathaniel Hackett would not remain as the Denver’s head coach past the 2022 season. What was somewhat surprising, though, was that he didn’t even last a full season. Earlier this week, the Broncos brass decided to fire Hackett, who now joins Urban Meyer and Bobby Petrino among NFL head coaches who were fired during their first seasons on the job.
That’s not exactly elite company.
It’s tough to blame Denver — just as it was tough to blame the Jacksonville Jaguars a year ago, when they kicked Meyer to the curb in the midst of one of the most laughable coaching jobs the league has ever seen.
It hasn’t been that bad for Denver this season — but there’s no question it’s been an outright disaster for a team that had playoff hopes in 2022. Those dreams have long been dashed — and now the team hopes to make it to the finish line with a shred of dignity.
Now leading it is 67-year-old Jerry Rosburg, who has been a special teams coach for three different NFL teams. Denver hired him in September as a senior assistant to Hackett, charged with assisting the head coach with game-management decisions. Rosburg wasn’t the team’s first choice to become the interim head coach. It was reported that defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero declined the job because he wants to remain with the defense — but his close relationship to Hackett might also have been a factor.
So how will this 4-11 squad play the Chiefs on Sunday? The answer — according to Kansas City head coach Andy Reid — is to expect anything.
“With the coaching changes,” Reid explained to the media on Wednesday, “I mentioned to the team that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to see, so you’ve got to be ready for anything and everything — and make sure you bring the energy that you need to take care of business.”
It seems unlikely that a new head coach will change much. So Reid is (mostly) choosing to prepare his team in the normal way.
“You hit the things — the primary things — that they’ve been doing,” he said. “But you’ve got to keep your eyes open — and you’ve just got to be aware of any adjustments. There might be a couple more sideline adjustments you have to make — or in-game adjustments that a guy might have to put on — so we’ll see how it goes.”
The future doesn’t look very bright in Denver. For the foreseeable future, the franchise is likely to be hamstrung by quarterback Russell Wilson’s contract. It may be difficult for the team to attract candidates like Sean Payton or Jim Harbaugh.
Yet it is still an elite opportunity — one of just 32 NFL head coaching jobs. Inevitably, there will be a line of interested candidates. One of them could be Eric Bieniemy, who’s interviewed with Denver in the past — and has made it quite clear that he wants to be a head coach.
“I know what he can do,” said Reid of his offensive coordinator. “I’ve said it 100 times. I haven’t changed my opinion on that. So I hope he gets an opportunity.
“I’d rather not have it [be] at Denver, but I hope he gets an opportunity.”