Pressure on Hackett, Wilson and Broncos after opening loss

In their efforts to dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs, the other three teams in the AFC West have invested heavily in the summer, and the Broncos made the most eye-catching signing of the three.

Russell Wilson brings winning experience and the respect of everyone in football to Denver, and much was expected from the new lineup. The NFL game day odds indicated that they had a good chance of getting off to a strong start against Wilson’s old team, Seattle.

Instead, what transpired was an embarrassing loss that has put head coach Nathaniel Hackett, Wilson, and the Broncos under huge pressure just one game into the season.

What went wrong?

Attention will inevitably focus on what happened with 20 seconds to go, with the Broncos trailing 17-16, but that wasn’t the only problem. The Broncos got to the red zone four times and came up with a grand total of six points. There were way too many penalties. Twice, Seattle recovered goal line fumbles.

All of that wouldn’t have mattered so much if Nathaniel Hackett hadn’t gambled on his kicker completing a 64-yard field goal with the seconds ticking. Yes, fourth down and five is not a great situation, and the success rate from there is just under 50%. But the success rate for field goals from over 64 yards is around 11%. So, yes, it was a gamble, but it was a terrible one.

Hackett but Wilson too

Naturally, it was the rookie head coach who got most of the blame. Some pundits took an opportunity to bash the whole concept of “offensive gurus,” suggesting that coaches like Hackett were all about the theory and didn’t know what to do in a real-life pressure situation.

There’s no doubt that Hackett got that one wrong, and there seemed to be a lack of certainty as the seconds ticked down, which needs to be rectified going forwards. But the Broncos’ new quarterback shouldn’t dodge his share of the blame for what happened.

We were told that one of the reasons why Wilson left Seattle was because he wanted a chance to stamp his authority on a franchise – to have more of an input. Certainly, a player of his experience and ability could be invaluable in situations such as those that faced the Broncos in Seattle. So, where was he?

Hierarchies are important in sports teams, but surely a rookie head coach could have used some advice from his veteran quarterback, particularly as the decision that Hackett made was to effectively stand down his star player and hand the responsibility to his kicker.

Positive signs

The fact that Hackett is a rookie head coach is, in some ways, a positive. Mistakes like the one he made on Sunday can be written off as part of the learning process, as long as there is a process and it begins soon. There were also plenty of positives for the Broncos against Seattle.

Denver got into scoring positions multiple times, and it could be argued that they should have won the game on the balance of those opportunities. Wilson completed 29 of 42 passes, going for 340 yards and one touchdown, which is a solid beginning to his career with the Broncos.

Running back Javonte Williams and receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton also had good games. Williams finished with 108 yards, including 11 receptions, while Jeudy and Sutton combined for 174 yards and a touchdown from eight catches. Offensively, they had 34 minutes in possession and produced a total of 433 yards, which indicates that they were working well. And the Broncos defense held strong, shutting out the Seahawks entirely in the second half.

Going forward

There is plenty for Hackett to work with going forward. Admittedly, they need to iron out some of the problems ahead of a tough run of games from Week 3 onwards. The Broncos will face the 49ers, Colts, Chargers, and Raiders in a four-week run that will tell us a lot more about their progress.

Obviously, Hackett needs to be clearer in his game planning and more decisive in key moments, but Wilson also needs to add his input where he thinks he can make a difference.

The chain of command is one thing, but when your head coach is a rookie, it is incumbent on a player of Wilson’s caliber to make a broader contribution. If he can do that, there is every chance that the Broncos will put their opening defeat behind them and get to the playoffs.

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