Broncos CEO Greg Penner says coach search is part of top-to-bottom evaluation

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A week ago, Broncos CEO Greg Penner did not think this would happen.

Not on this timeline, at least.

He, the rest of the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group, and general manager George Paton knew a decision had to be made about coach Nathaniel Hackett’s future but planned to make the call at season’s end.

Then came Sunday, Christmas Day in Los Angeles, a 51-14 loss to the Rams. Sideline scuffles. A nationally televised debacle.

The decision to fire Hackett wasn’t made only because of Sunday’s meltdown – “it was about the full body of work and, for a number of reasons, it just wasn’t the right fit,” Penner said Tuesday – but the 37-point loss sealed the rookie coach’s fate with two games left.

“We didn’t go into this week thinking this was a time we were going to make a change, but after we saw the effort that we put forward on Sunday, some of the things that were going on off the field, we just felt like it was time to make a decision,” Penner explained at a news conference Tuesday during which he also called the performance “an embarrassment for our organization.”

If Sunday’s loss brought finality to Hackett’s short tenure in Denver, then Tuesday felt in many ways like the true beginning, at least publicly, of Penner’s role atop the football operation.

Penner will lead the coaching search. The next coach will report to him rather than to Paton. Penner is leading a top-down evaluation of the football side of the Broncos.

“This is a crucial offseason for us across our football operations,” Penner said. “That’s coaching, personnel and support staff. We’ve got to get this right.”

At the news conference, Penner redoubled his commitment to Paton as part of the solution, though the general manager made it clear he knows he bears the brunt of the responsibility for the Broncos’ 4-11 season.

“As I told the players yesterday, I take full responsibility for where we are as a football team,” Paton said. “I brought in the head coach, I brought in most of the players. Those are my decisions and there’s no one to blame but me. I just want to be clear, this isn’t just about the coaching. This isn’t just about Nathaniel. This is about the entire football operation. This is about the personnel, the players, the staff, everyone involved in our football team.

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