The Denver Broncos have found the man they hope breaks their six-year playoff drought, as they hired Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their head coach Thursday.
The position was open after the Broncos announced they fired Vic Fangio following the 2021 campaign. He went 19-30 and finished with a losing record in each of his three seasons at the helm.
"[General manager George Paton] will have full authority to select the next head coach of the Broncos," president and CEO Joe Ellis said at the time. "This is his decision and his program. I have complete confidence in George's ability to lead an exhaustive and successful head coaching search."
That search landed on Hackett, and he has a daunting task ahead of him.
Denver went 7-10 in 2021 and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year. It's a far cry from the five straight AFC West titles from 2011 through 2015 during a stretch that featured two Super Bowl appearances and one Lombardi Trophy.
The division largely belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Broncos have to deal with two of the best quarterbacks in the league in Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. What's more, the Las Vegas Raiders were a playoff team this season, leaving Hackett's new squad at the bottom of the standings.
That Mahomes and Herbert are in the division makes the quarterback concerns all the more pressing in Denver.
Gone are the days of John Elway and Peyton Manning winning Super Bowls. The Broncos have turned to players such as Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater under center during the last six years.
It's not a list of the best signal-callers in the NFL, even though Lock was a second-round pick in 2019. Bridgewater, meanwhile, is a solid stopgap who can keep teams competitive even if he isn't the answer as the long-term franchise quarterback to compete with the likes of Mahomes and Herbert.
The hope was Lock would be that, but he led the league with 15 interceptions in 2020 and sat behind Bridgewater for much of the 2021 campaign.
Denver has a passionate fanbase and well-established history of success, but Hackett will have to help find the answer at quarterback and compete in a challenging division that features some of the best players in the league.
The 42-year-old is accustomed to competing at the highest level from his time as the offensive coordinator of the Packers. He helped lead them to the best record in the NFC this season at 13-4.
Hackett also has experience as the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, but he had held the role in Green Bay since the start of the 2019 campaign.
The Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game during the 2017 season with him on the staff, and the Packers have been annual Super Bowl contenders with Aaron Rodgers directing Hackett's offense.
If the Broncos can replicate that success in the coming years, they should be a force in the AFC under their new coach.