It's been a rough first season for Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett so far. But despite the troubling losses and prime time embarrassments (and the 2-5 record), he still has the full support of general manager George Paton.
In London for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Paton told the media that he approves of Hackett's leadership and the job he's been doing.
“I believe in Nathaniel,’’ Paton said Thursday via 9News. “I support Nathaniel 100%. He’s been in this for seven games as a head coach. The scrutiny he’s faced is unprecedented. We’ve had four prime time games, so he’s had to learn in front of the entire world.
“But I really like how he’s kept the team together. They’re connected. He’s kept our building together. I appreciate how he came through that.
“I see the day to day with Nathaniel," Paton said. "I see him in front of the team. It’s hard to lose five games like we’ve lost. And Nathaniel has great leadership. And he’s kept our coaching staff, really our entire building together.’’
There's some nice stuff in there, but the thing that sticks out is that Paton believes Hackett has received "unprecedented" scrutiny. Let's unpack that a little, shall we?
Has Hackett been over-scrutinized?
To start, every first-year NFL coach is subject to a lot of scrutiny. That's part of the job, and even if the coach leads the team to the Super Bowl in their first season, they'll be criticized and questioned a lot on the way there. So that was going to happen regardless of how the team played once games began.
When the season did begin, Hackett opened himself up to tons criticism at the end of his first game, a 17-16 loss to quarterback Russell Wilson's former team, the Seattle Seahawks. Late in the fourth quarter and facing 4th and 5, Hackett decided to go with a 64-yard field goal attempt instead of having Wilson, a Pro Bowl quarterback who was acquired for moments like that, try to get the yardage. It didn't work and the Broncos lost.
From there, things did not get better.
Hackett got booed and mocked by fans at home in their ugly 16-9 Week 2 win over the Houston Texans (and their only other win this season, a 11-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3, was also pretty ugly).
A week later, he had reportedly brought in someone to help him with in-game management, which he said had been an issue.
With the game on the line in overtime against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5, he decided to have the offense try to pick up the first down and go for the win instead of kicking a field goal for the tie, but the offense couldn't make it happen and they lost.
Broncos struggled again in Week 6, losing to the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime after special teams muffed a punt.
Guess what? The Broncos also lost in Week 7, looking hopeless against the New York Jets, though Wilson was not able to start this game due to an injury.
Wilson, their expensive new quarterback, has not been playing at the level he was expected to, and has been battling shoulder and hamstring injuries.
After all of that, Hackett has definitely earned the criticism and scrutinization he's received. It's true that four of the Broncos' five losses (Weeks 1, 3, 5, and 6) have been in prime time, giving him more exposure, but it's not like he's being heckled in his press conferences.
Paton may be acting like fans and the media have been pelting Hackett with rotten garbage when they see him in the street, but he gave his head coach a little breathing room with his comments. Hackett knows Paton is behind him and doesn't see the constant roasting in the media as a reason to stop supporting him. If the Broncos can snag an easy win or two, Hackett might finally feel like he's gotten at least his head above water.