DENVER — Nathaniel Hackett, son of a longtime NFL assistant coach, husband and father of four children and for the past three seasons the offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers, has been hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos.
A source told 9NEWS it’s a four-year deal.
> The Broncos officially introduced Nathaniel Hackett as the new head coach during a news conference at 3 p.m. Friday. You can watch the full introduction below:
“Us as players we’re not in the loop every single day,'' Broncos left guard Dalton Risner said in an interview with 9NEWS. "We have faith in (general manager) George Paton and we were just waiting to see what he ended up doing for our organization.''
As an offensive player, was Risner pleased the Broncos now have an offensive-rooted head coach?
"I think we were all excited and thrilled when we saw that Nathaniel Hackett became our head coach,'' Risner said. "One, because he is an OC. We know there needs to be some changes on offense. We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to score more points. So having an offensive mind like him and seeing the players that he coached that were tweeting him and supporting him and trying to contact him and tell him how much they appreciated him, that’s what got me excited.
"I can tell already he’s a player’s coach. I think there’s a lot of positives that you can look at with Nathaniel Hackett and why he’s going to be a great head coach and why there’s going to be a lot of buzz around the facility. I want to get in there as soon as a I can and shake his hand. I’m excited to start this relationship.”
Risner was referring to multiple Packers players who went to social media to wish Hackett, most notably receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who tweeted: "One of the absolute best human beings and smartest coaches around. Man this makes my heart happy seeing great people get rewarded. I wish my guy nothing but the absolute best."
Hackett replaces Vic Fangio, who was fired Jan. 9 as head coach after a three-year record of 19-30, and beat out 9 other candidates the Broncos interviewed for the job, including finalists Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, and Kevin O’Connell, offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.
Quinn and O’Connell, though, never got a chance to interview a second time with Broncos’ general manager George Paton and his five person search committee. Hackett flew in Monday to Centennial Airport, was picked up just before noon by Denver front-office executives Chip Conway and Ray Jackson, and had an 8-hour interview with Paton and other Broncos employees.
After the interview, the plan was for Paton and his search committee; director of player personnel Darren Mougey, executive director of football operations Kelly Kleine, contract/cap specialist Rich Hurtado, chief communications officer Patrick Smyth and Jackson to have dinner at Shanahan’s Steakhouse. But the interview at Broncos' headquarters ended later than scheduled.
Hackett, it seems, is an engaging fellow. He not only has the intelligence of a former neurobiology major at University of California-Davis but is also humorous, and, yes, a bit quirky relative to football coaches. Put it this way, Hackett is a former hip-hop dancer.
He is also husband to Megan, and father to four children -- Harrison, London, Briar and Everly.
Anyway, with time short after the interview at Broncos headquarters, Paton called an audible and sought a less informal dinner with Hackett. So Paton picked one of his favorite spots, Los Dos Potrillos, in Centennial, to unwind with Hackett and Mougey. It was former Broncos coach Gary Kubiak who put Paton on to Los Dos. Kubiak used to finish off his week Friday night with dinner in a back booth at Los Dos.
On Monday, Paton, Hackett and Mougey each had a margarita. Not two. Hackett had the tamale plate.
Hackett then flew out of Centennial a little after 8 p.m. Monday night. No contract offer had been extended, although Paton knew Hackett was his guy.
The planned second interviews with Quinn and O’Connell were never set. Negotiations with Hackett apparently snagged to the point that Wednesday he accepted a second interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose negotiations with Tampa Bay offensive coordinator and former quarterback Byron Leftwich had also stalled.
When he learned of that second interview in Jacksonville, Paton decided to move on signing Hackett. Hurtado was called into the office Wednesday night and the four-year deal was finalized about 10 minutes prior to midnight. Hackett will sign the contract today or Friday, before his introductory press conference.
"Nathaniel Hackett is a dynamic leader and coach whose intelligence, innovation and charisma impressed us from the very start of this process,'' Paton said in a statement. "In addition to having a brilliant offensive mind, Nathaniel is an outstanding teacher and communicator with a strong vision for all three phases of our team.
"Getting to know Nathaniel over the last couple weeks, he will bring positive energy and enthusiasm to the entire Denver Broncos organization as our head coach. Creating a winning and competitive environment for the players, coaches and staff-and doing it through personal connections and efficiency-is a big part of his plan for the Broncos.
"From developing younger players to working with all-time greats as a key part of winning teams, Nathaniel has had tremendous success in this league. He's a student of the game and knows how to put players in position to win.
"I could not be more excited to partner with Nathaniel and welcome him along with his family-his wife, Megan, and children Harrison, London, Briar and Everly-to the Denver Broncos."
Although he didn’t call plays for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense, Hackett did work alongside head coach Matt LaFleur in putting together the game plans. More importantly, Rodgers reportedly has spoken highly of Hackett.
The early plan is for Hackett to be the Broncos' game-day play caller.
There appears to be a decent chance that Rodgers, who has led the Packers to one Super Bowl championship and five conference championship games in the past 12 years, may play somewhere other than Green Bay in 2022. He feuded with team management last offseason to the point where he hoped to be traded. In some part because his fiancé, actress Shailene Woodley, has roots in Boulder, Rodgers seemed headed to Denver in a trade – providing Green Bay agreed to move him.
The Packers did not. However, Rodgers’ contract was reworked so that he would have a prohibitive $46.4 million cap hit in 2022 while the Packers’ cap space for next season currently sits at minus-$46.6 million. If the Packers surrender this offseason and do put Rodgers on the trade market, the quarterback-starved Broncos figure to be the first team in line.
“It’s going to sound cliché but whatever George Paton decides that’s the best for our future as a team that’s what we’ve got to roll with,'' Risner said. "And Nathaniel Hackett I’m sure he’s going to play a big role in who wants to play quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Me as a left guard I have to focus on getting better myself and how I can help this team improve. That’s my job. Whoever we can bring in at quarterback now that we have Nathaniel Hackett as head coach, I’ve just got to trust the process or what they’re doing.”
Even without his potential package deal with Rodgers, Hackett was a legitimate head coach candidate on his own merits. Starting with he’s the son of Paul Hackett, who spent more than 40 years as an NFL and college offensive coach. So Nathaniel Hackett grew up around the game – just as Paton did as the son of Los Angeles-area high school coach.
Once Nathaniel Hackett got into coaching, he quickly became a Doug Marrone protégé. Marrone was the head coach and Hackett his offensive coordinator for two years at Syracuse in 2011-12. The Orangemen went from 5-7 in their first year to 8-5 the next. Marrone’s offense went from 84th in country in 2011 to No. 56.
The duo then spent two years with the Buffalo Bills and again made a quantum improved from 6-10 in 2013 to 9-7 in 2014. Hackett’s offense went from 22nd in scoring the first year to 18th the next. Then it was on to Jacksonville where in Marrone’s first full season as head coach and Hackett’s as offensive coordinator, the Jaguars went a surprising 10-6 to reach the 2017-season AFC Championship Game and even with the passing-challenged Blake Bortles at quarterback finished No. 5 in offensive scoring with 26.1 points.
The 2018 season was a disaster for practically all involved in Jacksonville, particularly Marrone, although Hackett not only survived, he landed the next season in Green Bay with LaFleur and Rodgers in 2019. The Packers won 13 games in all three regular seasons, although they also suffered disappointing playoff losses prior to reaching the Super Bowl each year.
While that was disheartening for Hackett the Packers’ offensive coordinator, it was perhaps fortuitous timing for Hackett the head coach candidate as he was available for the first private jet ride in for a second interview Monday with the Broncos. Had the Packers beat the 49ers last week, Hackett would not have been available to interview this week. It’s possible the Broncos would have waited for the Packers’ postseason run to end, maybe even if it lasted pasted the Super Bowl. But it would have been less likely.
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