DENVER — There was no sense delaying the inevitable. The Denver Broncos fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday morning, less than 24 hours after this once proud franchise suffered an embarrassing 51-14 Christmas Day shellacking to the Los Angeles Rams.
"It's been a tough day, that's for sure,'' said Broncos guard Dalton Risner. "I grew to respect coach Hackett, I grew to love him and I value him so much. I love that guy. I know he's going to have a lot of success in the future and for me it was an honor to play with him for 15 games."
>Watch Broncos co-owner and CEO Greg Penner and General Manager George Paton speak about Hackett's firing on Tuesday:
Jerry Rosburg, who was hired by Hackett to help him manage game-day operations prior to week 3 of the regular season, has been named interim head coach for the final two games. The Broncos first asked defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero to serve as interim but he declined. Evero was no doubt advised that he will be a strong head coach candidate this offense and the interim deal can be risky. Usually a team doesn't play better under interim head coaches, although Steve Wilks has done an impressive job turning around Carolina this year.
Rosburg, 67, was a 19-year NFL special teams coach, mostly with the Baltimore Ravens, until he retired after the 2018 season. He returned to coaching as a senior advisor with the Broncos' this year. Because of his special teams background, Rosburg can oversee the overall head coaching responsibilities while the other three coordinators -- Justin Outten and play-caller Klint Kubiak on offense; Ejiro Evero on defense and special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes -- can continue to be in charge of their respective phases.
Hackett didn't even make it through the first season of his four-year contract. A 4-11 record, the No. 32 scoring offense, the mysterious struggles of quarterback Russell Wilson and the Christmas Day debacle in a standalone, nationally televised game against a similarly bad Rams team all conspired to doom Hackett.
While it was general manager George Paton who hired Hackett following an exhaustive search of 10 candidates after firing coach Vic Fangio at the end of last season, it was new owner and CEO Greg Penner who made the decision to fire the head coach.
The Broncos confirmed the firing in a statement on Twitter:
After hiring three consecutive head coaches with no previous head coach experience – Vance Joseph in 2017, Fangio in 2019 and Hackett in 2022 – the Broncos are expected to prioritize experience in this head coaching search. Penner is expected to lead the search with Paton to assist.
Candidates may include Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, former Saints head coach Sean Payton, former Colts head coach Frank Reich and Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a former Atlanta head coach.
Broncos' defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is also expected to be interviewed for the job.
The Broncos' new head coach for 2023 -- the seventh since 2014 (John Fox, Gary Kubiak, Joseph, Fangio, Hackett, Rosburg and TBA) -- will be expected to come up with a plan to fix Wilson.
By placing Hackett at the forefront of blame, Penner is indicating he believes Wilson can be fixed. Wilson was top 10-rated QB in 9 of first 10 yrs in Seattle. He ranked 14th in the exception. Wilson is the NFL's 29th-ranked passer now after his three interception nightmare Sunday at Los Angeles.
The next head coach will likely be all about fixing Russ.
"I wish we as players could have done better to him succeed more,'' Risner said of Hackett. "I can't say enough good things. It was an honor to play for him."
Risner said he talked to Hackett by phone and communicated those same sentiments.
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