INDIANAPOLIS — Every time Nathaniel Hackett stands in front of a microphone and addresses a large room of people, it’s easy to see why he won the interview.
He doesn’t smile. He grins with wide eyes. He bounces, he uses hand, arms and body language with a strong, vibrant voice.
No offense to Vic Fangio, the Broncos’ previous head coach. But Nathaniel Hackett is a 180-degree swing in enthusiasm and personality. The guy who won the interview, it seems, has been much the same at work the past 5 ½ weeks as the Broncos’ new head coach.
"Everything that we thought he would be after interviewing him," general manager George Paton said of Hackett in a sit-interview here Tuesday with 9NEWS. "The energy, I mean very efficient. Hired a like-minded staff. A young staff. Great synergy in the building. A lot of juice, he brings it.
"You know, it’s not all fun and games. He’s a grinder, he works at it. And he’s very aggressive.’’
After Hackett got the Broncos’ head job on January 27, he set about making near complete wholesale changes to the Broncos’ coaching staff. He replaced such NFL veterans like offensive line coach Mike Munchak with first-time offensive line coach Butch Barry. He replaced longtime defensive line coach Bill Kollar with first-time defensive line coach Marcus Dixon. He’s got new position coaches who were hired straight out of college.
And he did it on purpose.
"I looked back at my experience in Green Bay," Hackett said in his sit-down interview Tuesday with 9NEWS. "At Green Bay it was unbelievable. We had a first-time quarterbacks coach, first-time wide receivers coach, first-time O-line coach, first-time tight end coach and first-time head coach. Looking at it from that standpoint after working with people that had a lot of experience and had been in different areas, all over from the NFL, just how we bonded, how we all worked and the appreciation everybody had for the jobs -- I thought that was real important to create. A bunch of guys that are going to work together, be humble.
"Think about what’s right for the Denver Broncos, not necessarily about what they’ve done. I think it was about guys being great teachers."
Yeah, but this is the NFL. A grown man’s league. Is Paton concerned about such heavy coaching turnover from experienced to inexperienced?
"No, I’m not," he said. "These guys are really confident. I sat in some of the (assistant coach) interviews with him and to hear him talk about our team and free agency. … You’ve got to start somewhere. The main thing is they’re all on the same page. I keep talking about synergy but it’s really good with this staff. These guys get there early, they work out together. They love being around each other. I think that translates to the field with the players when they know the coaches are all on the same page."
Out with the old. In with the new. The Broncos weren’t the only team who hired a bunch of unknown assistants this offseason, although they were unique in their hiring of a coach to the coaches. John Viera, Hackett’s neurobiology college classmate, is the Broncos’ new Instructional Designer.
"I just know he’s the smartest guy I’ve ever met," Paton said of Viera. "I’ve seen some of his videos, too—I’ll let (Hackett) explain it because it’s a little out of my realm. But really encouraged in the way he’s going to help teach not only our coaches how to teach, but really keep our players engaged in meetings. I think that’s hard in this day and age."
Paton added he had never heard of an Instructional Designer until he first interviewed Hackett on January 15 in a Green Bay hotel conference room.
"He blows you away in an interview, and then brings up a teacher for the coaches," Paton said. "I’ve never heard of it, but it’s pretty cool. I like it. Very progressive of Nathaniel and our building needs that."
"He’s just teaching them how to teach from the standpoint of how to use different PowerPoints, how to use different testing, interactive testing, and all the different things that he uses when he’s just teaching people biology," Hackett said. "I think it’s the same thing. Any teacher that we’ve all had—your favorite teacher was probably your favorite subject. I want everybody to have football as their favorite subject."
Also by design, the Broncos wanted greater diversity with their coaching staff. Hackett promised this during his initial head coach interview with Paton and he’s delivered. Counting interns and quality control coaches, 12 of Hackett’s top 22 coaches are Black, up from four on Fangio’s staff in 2021.
"I think we needed a reboot in the building," Paton said. "And it starts with diversity. I think when you have a diverse staff you have diverse thought. You make better decisions when not everyone’s the same. That was an emphasis with Nate in our interviews. And they’re good coaches. Nate’s not checking a box. He’s hiring the best coaches and a number of them happen to be minorities."
OK, so there’s a lot more energy and enthusiasm with the Broncos’ new head coach and his assistants. But how will be after a three-game losing streak?
"Same way," he said. "This is the greatest – that hasn’t happened a lot. But, hey, this is football. And there’s going to be adversity. That’s just how it is. You can’t win every game. You’re going on streaks good and bad. And I think in the end it’s the person that you are and you don’t change, and they feel that strength. The players have to believe in it and you have to hold people accountable. Myself included. When people feel that stuff that’s how you build a great team."
By the way. Any chance Hackett can pick up the phone and try to convince Aaron Rodgers, his quarterback the previous three years in Green Bay, to come to Denver?
"Ha, ha," he said. "That’s a good little sneak in though. That’s good."
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