It was the second question asked of Nathaniel Hackett during his Jan. 28 introductory news conference: Will the Broncos’ new coach also be the Broncos’ new offensive play-caller?
Hackett said he would return to the role for the first time since mid-season 2018, making him the first Broncos coach to call offensive plays since Gary Kubiak in 2016.
Hackett will be one of at least 15 NFL head coaches this year who will double as their team’s offensive play-caller. Included are fellow first-time head coaches Mike McDaniel (Miami) and Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota).
Because of his previous play-calling experience — two years apiece at Syracuse and for Buffalo and Jacksonville — Hackett’s transition should be manageable.
“That will help him, no doubt,” Broncos general manager George Paton said. “He’s had successes to draw upon. He’s very quick-minded and can handle a lot, but he does have a lot of people to help him with game management.”
Last year, Atlanta’s Arthur Smith and Philadelphia’s Nick Siranni were new head coaches who called the plays.
“It’s different for every guy,” said Smith, who had play-calling experience as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator. “You have to know yourself and how involved you’re going to be on game day and find a process that works best for you.”
Siranni, who was also a first-time play-caller, said a key was surrounding himself with veteran coaches.
“There is a lot that goes into calling the game and preparing the team for the week,” he said. “The best thing I had was experienced play-callers on my staff and that helped the transition.”
Siranni also pointed to Hackett’s life — his father, Paul, was a coach for four decades — as a plus for handling the play-calling and game-managing.
“I’ve been around really good head coaches all my life and I got to sit at home with my dad (who was a coach) and Coach Hackett is the same way,” he said. “There were definitely challenges (last year), but I felt like my path leading up to it helped me prepare for it.”
On Hackett’s offensive staff, only quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak has NFL play-calling experience (last year with Minnesota). Offensive coordinator Justin Outten is stationed in the coach’s box to serve as the eyes in the sky for the Xs-and-Os and football strategy analyst Brad Miller is also upstairs advising on game management.
“We have a lot of conversations,” Hackett said of he and Miller. “It’s really great to have somebody in your ear giving you the ‘go,’ if you want to go for it on fourth down and when to take a timeout and always keeping me up to date with that.”
During the preseason games, Hackett was trailed on the sideline by assistant to the head coach Derek Haithcock.
“Derek is there to make sure I don’t do anything crazy and make sure I have the red flag (to challenge),” Hackett said. “He’s right there if I need the (Microsoft) Surface (tablet) and he’s also charting plays and doing all kinds of things just so I can (make) transitions to be there for defense and special teams and make it efficient.”