Numerous NFL executives expressed pessimism about the tenure of Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who has gotten off to a disappointing 2-3 start in his first year at the helm.
Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post spoke with a few anonymous sources, who cast doubt over whether Hackett can right the ship after a rough start.
"Conversations with executives, evaluators and coaches who have watched the Broncos closely paint a bleak picture of their game-day operations and offensive scheme and identity, with problems so prevalent they wonder whether a largely unproven staff can get it righted," La Canfora wrote.
"Several suggested the need at least to bring on other outside consultants to try to spark more immediate gains, and fairly or not, Hackett's ability to survive his first season on the job is being debated in other teams' headquarters and around the league."
Hackett excelled during his last stop as the offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers, who were led by back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers. He parlayed that stint into the Broncos' gig, but he's had a rough going so far.
"Unless something changes quickly, I don't think he gets through the year. It looks too big for him. It looks too fast for him," a longtime personnel executive said to La Canfora. "The red-zone play-calling has been awful. I don't see enough adjustments being made."
The Broncos entered this season with high hopes after adding nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson via trade from the Seattle Seahawks.
However, the season began disastrously with a 17-16 road loss to those same Seahawks in Week 1. During that game, Hackett notably chose to go for a late 64-yard field goal instead of giving the ball to Wilson to convert a 4th-and-5 in hopes of getting into better field-goal range. The attempt was no good, and the Broncos lost.
A pair of ugly offensive performances in a 16-9 victory against the Houston Texans and an 11-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers preceded a loss to the previously winless Las Vegas Raiders.
The nadir of the season came two Thursdays ago, however, when the Broncos lost 12-9 at home in overtime to an Indianapolis Colts team that was missing their top offensive star in running back Jonathan Taylor and sits last in the NFL in points per game.
That included a 4th-and-1 shot to the end zone for the win in overtime, but the ball fell incomplete. Wilson also threw a red-zone pick in the fourth quarter.
Red-zone issues have been a problem—the Broncos are dead-last in the league with a red-zone touchdown percentage of just 21.4 percent—which one exec noted.
"Some of that is on the quarterback, certainly," a rival general manager said, "but they don't seem to have a lot of ideas when the field gets tight, and I don't think they have the right people in that building now to fix it."
Now Denver is in danger of falling to 2-4 with a Monday night matchup at the Los Angeles Chargers looming, and execs do not have much hope.
Still, the season is just five games old, with 12 more to go. Hackett does have time to turn this around and restore hope in the team's prospects, specifically the offense. We'll see if he's able to get it done starting Monday.