Broncos Country won’t be free from misery until coach Nathaniel Hackett is put out of his


Nathaniel Hackett went from Tigger to Eeyore in six months, a record pace even for these parts.

The Broncos’ badgered coach emerged from rock bottom Monday with enough bags under his eyes to fill the back of Santa’s sleigh. The gee-whiz of January, the joy of April, and the bounce of August had been replaced by a tired, beaten man reading from a tired, beaten script.

“This is not where we wanted to be at this time in the season,” Hackett said during his weekly Monday news conference, one several scribes were surprised to see him attend after a 23-10 loss to the sorry Panthers a day earlier. “None of us thought it was gonna be like that.”

Will someone please put this man out of his misery? And the misery of Broncos Country? This job isn’t just above Hackett. It appears to be killing him, slowly, the way cytospora canker kills a peach tree.

“I want to be the one that can do everything to help this football team,” Hackett continued. “We can’t play the way that we played (in Carolina) and expect to win a football game. So it starts with me, from preparation, practice preparation, every single thing that we do.”

If the Broncos were a sitcom (and we’re getting there), “It starts with me” would be Hackett’s catchphrase, the one the studio audience knows is coming but brings down the house anyway. He said it twice Monday. He said it twice back on Nov. 14, a day after a loss in Tennessee. He offered it up four different times during a presser on Oct. 7 when trying to explain a home loss to the Colts that almost put Al Michaels to sleep.

“I think that our fans are great,” Hackett continued when asked why a franchise that was purportedly going for it in 2022 stumbled into a 3-8 laughingstock.

“They want to win, just like we all do. I don’t blame them for being frustrated. For me, all I know is to work and (to) put my head down with our staff.”

He has no answers. None. No more tricks. No more holiday breaks. No more field days.

Hackett, a nice guy by nature, was even noticeably terse when asked to get to the bottom of Mike Purcell and Russell Wilson’s awkward exchange on national television. Probably because he already knew that a) his answer would please nobody; and b) the snapshot of Hackett staring ahead, seemingly oblivious, while right behind him Purcell, an undrafted plugger with a $4.0 million cap hit, was getting in the face of $245 million Big Russ, was destined to become the indelible image of the season.

Well, until things get worse. And they could.

New co-owner/CEO Greg Penner is no doubt doing his due diligence when it comes to the new family toy before the metaphorical heads start to roll. At this point, he’s only delaying the inevitable.

Getting housed by Sam Darnold is a collective failure, a shame shared. But when it comes to assigned blame, veteran voices around the league give Hackett and his coaching staff the edge by a nose over a fading and frustrated Wilson, who turns 34 Tuesday.

A league source and I got to chatting Monday and he said a current NFL head coach had recently gone over recent Broncos game film and told him, to his eyes, that Russ “wasn’t done, by any means. Physically, he’s gonna be fine. He’s gonna be OK. Now can he run the 40 what he ran it at age 26? No.”

We laughed, but the point was taken. It goes back to the system. And to a roster that’s got more cap money on the injured reserve than any other franchise right now.

Both of those are the problems of general manager George Paton, and the honeymoon for the Broncos and their general manager is coming to a sticky end a lot quicker than anybody would’ve thought nine months ago. Paton is a scout at heart, one of the best college wonks in the league. But if you whiff on quarterback and coach, nothing else matters. Nothing.

Every week, the football gods seem to enjoy torturing Hackett in new and unusual ways. A few hours before Han Solo glumly addressed the scribes, word got out that old friend Melvin Gordon had been signed onto the practice squad of … the Chiefs.

The Broncos, of course, get the law firm of Mahomes, Kelce & Reid twice over the season’s final six weeks. And you can already picture Gordon on the sidelines at Empower Field, dressed in Kansas City red, waving mockingly at Broncos Country after his current team beats his old one for a fourteenth … straight … time.


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