ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Never mind what everyone is saying on TV and sports-talk radio, or writing on opinion blogs and newspapers.
It’s what the players inside the Denver Broncos’ locker room are saying about their maligned head coach Nathaniel Hackett that has the greatest impact on how the team will perform in their next game on Sunday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers.
Denver’s standout defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones says to a man, Broncos players stand with their coach.
“We’re all pretty positive,’’ Jones said in a sit-down interview Wednesday with 9NEWS. “I can speak for everybody about that. He’s going through those rookie woes like we all did when we first came into the league. Just getting adjusted and accustomed to things. Obviously, this isn’t his first year coaching, but it’s his first time as head coach and making those big-time decisions.
“I’m not really worried about coach struggling. Some things have happened these past couple games and that’s fine. I still have all the confidence in the world in coach Hackett.’’
Maybe if the Broncos were 0-2 and Hackett was taking his time while making the wrong decisions, the players might grumble and wonder. But they’re not. They’re coming off a 16-9 win against Houston and the players’ collective moods go as the team wins and loses. If Hackett filled the footballs with helium and the Broncos won, the players would admire the coach for bringing the extra lift.
“We’re just sticking by him,’’ defensive co-captain Bradley Chubb said. “We’re at a point where we’re 1-1. We know we could be 2-0, but we had mistakes and stuff like that. So we’re not withering away from him, we’re not going against him. Everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s locked in and trying to push this thing to 2-1.”
The 49ers are coached by Denver’s (and Mike and Peggy’s) favorite son Kyle Shanahan. He was asked about his initial experiences and struggles with game management during his first games as San Francisco’s head coach in 2017.
“It’s not always about getting the play in,’’ Shanahan said in a conference call Wednesday with the Denver media. “You need receiver substitutions. You need the quarterback getting to the line. There’s so many things that go into it. You’re always responsible for it, but it takes a whole team to do that the right way, and early on it is a little bit harder, especially when you’re playing with a bunch of new players.
“So it takes time to do. I mean, I remember my first game, I went for it four times. And they were ones I should not have gone for and I’d never done that before. And that’s when I realized, you can’t think like the coordinators. Those are all experiences you go through for the first time, but he’s done this for a while and you guys have a good coach there and very good offensive play caller.”
Hackett reiterated again Wednesday that game management and decision-making have been a priority this week, adding that general manager George Paton and assistant general manager Darren Mougey have been involved in the process.
“It’s something we’ve jumped into and wanted to make sure we can get better at that,’’ Hackett said. “And it starts with me. I’m trying to do every single thing I can to put myself in better position to make quicker, faster, more efficient decisions. George, Mouge all those guys have been absolutely spectacular in helping me through that process. That is something that is new for me. And I think we’re going to have some good answers as we move forward.’’
His quarterback, Russell Wilson, is optimistic as well -- not that Wilson sees anything in life any other way.
“I’m definitely confident in what we’re going to do,’’ Wilson said. “It’s a new week. It’s the beginning of the season and we’re continuing to get better in every area.
“I think the biggest thing that we want to eliminate is penalties. That’s on us as players more than anything else to make sure we take that out of the game, because that puts you in second-and-25, second-and-21, second-and-22. Those aren’t good against good football teams.
“I trust coach Hackett tremendously. Also, too, we trust our team. No matter what the scenarios, no matter what we do, we trust we’re going to get it done.’’
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