Denver only scored 16 points in a Sunday loss to Las Vegas, but the Klint Kubiak experiment worked well enough for Denver head coach Nathaniel Hackett to stick with it.
Kubiak, the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach, will continue as the offense’s primary play-caller after taking the duties for the first time against the Raiders, Hackett said Monday.
“That’s how we’re going to move forward right now,” Hackett said. “I thought the communication between Klint and (offensive coordinator Justin Outten) was really good. I thought the operation was really good.”
The rookie head coach said he doesn’t regret waiting until Week 11 to make the change. He thought after the team beat Jacksonville in London going into its off week that he was the right man for the job.
That changed in Week 10.
“When we were in the Tennessee game, I just didn’t feel right,” Hackett said. “I think that’s why I really kind of put my foot down and decided to really move it over to Klint. I’m excited. I’m excited to see what Klint and Justin can put together and be a part of that.
“I think it’s a fresh look at everything.”
Kubiak called the game from the coaches’ box above the field and Outten from the box to the sideline so he could work more directly with quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense during the game.
“Coach Kubiak called a great game,” Wilson said after the game. “Even with the big transition of it all, I thought he was really sharp, communicated well. I thought (offensive coordinator Justin Outten) was great on the sideline, too. It was smooth in that sense.”
As for Hackett, he said coaching the game without calling plays was “different,” but, in his mind, productive.
“I lost my voice a little bit,” he said. “A lot of times I didn’t know what to do – thought I should call a play and actually hit the button (on my headset) a couple of times to call a play and talk to Russell and didn’t have the button there. But I really liked it. I thought it was fun to be part of it, a little more integral with the defense, right there for (defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero) if he needed timeouts, penalties, all that stuff. Special teams, offense, just being around the guys more. Trying to get the crowd pumped up, they were amazing last night. They brought a lot of juice and I thought that was critical.
“It was different, something I’ll have to get used to – and get used to not touching the button – but I thought it was really good.”
The embattled head coach acknowledged that there are “a couple of things we can clean up,” in terms of the communication between he, Kubiak, Outten and Wilson, but he defended the group’s process during the two-minute warning Sunday night. He indicated that Wilson knew the priority on a third-and-10 pass play was to keep the clock moving even if there wasn’t an open receiver downfield. Instead Wilson threw an incompletion.
“I thought it was great communication across the board,” Hackett said. “We had time to go through it and we knew if we got a first down we were going to win the game, so we wanted to give ourselves a chance for that. We talked about it as a group, we talked about the different plays we potentially could have there, settled on one. Russell wanted to make a play and we had a chance for it, potentially. We understood the situation, that we’d love for that clock to be running. He knew that. We all knew that and it didn’t work out that way.”
Before that sequence, Wilson looked more comfortable and in better rhythm passing for much of the game with his primary position coach at the controls. He completed a season-best 77% of his passes (24-of-31) and delivered the ball quickly for much of the early part of the game. In the second half, he scrambled more and was sacked three times and hit nine times in 19 dropbacks.
Hackett said he’ll still be involved in the process of designing a game plan each week, but expected that he’ll have more time to put toward other areas of the franchise.
“Right now as we evaluate going into the game plan together, I think there’s still going to be a lot of areas that I’ll work in and continually help develop that,” he said. “Be in the quarterback room and continually help with that but not have to be in there full time. Same thing with the group. So it’ll allow me to bounce around and do some other things.
“I was missing some things, whether it was meetings or other things that come up, so it will free me up a little bit and also at the same time I’ll still be there to help those guys as much as possible.”