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Denver Broncos fire 1st-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett

Dec 26, 2022, 10:36 AM | Updated: 1:57 pm
Nathaniel Hackett Russell Wilson...
Broncos QB Russell Wilson talks with head coach Nathaniel Hackett during a game against the Colts on Oct. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – The Denver Broncos fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday with two games left in the season.

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Team owner and CEO Greg Penner said he’ll lead the search for a new coach with assistance from GM George Paton, in whom he expressed confidence while announcing Hackett’s dismissal.

Firing Hackett with two games left in a lost season allows Penner to begin his search for a replacement immediately.

Players were told during a team meeting Monday that senior assistant coach Jerry Rosburg, who was hired by Hackett in September to help him with game operations and clock management, will serve as interim head coach.

The Broncos scheduled a news conference for Tuesday to discuss the changes.

The group involving Walmart heir Rob Walton, his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, Greg Penner, purchased the Broncos for $4.65 billion last summer, a global record for a professional sports franchise, and Rob Walton said after the league’s approval that he aimed to make the Broncos perennial championship contenders again.

On Sunday, the Broncos (4-11) were blown out by the equally downtrodden Los Angeles Rams 51-14 when Russell Wilson threw three interceptions and was sacked six times. The game featured a sideline spat between backup QB Brett Rypien and guard Dalton Risner, and pass rusher Randy Gregory threw a punch at a Rams player after the game.

In a statement Monday, Penner thanked Hackett for his dedication but said that “following extensive conversations with George and our ownership group, we determined a new direction would ultimately be in the best interest of the Broncos. This change was made now out of respect for everyone involved and allows us to immediately begin the search for a new head coach.”

Penner said that “moving forward, we will carefully evaluate every aspect of our football operations and make whatever changes are necessary to restore this franchise’s winning tradition.”

Hackett replaced Vic Fangio last January but hasn’t been able to build an offense suitable to Wilson, who recently turned 34.

Hackett is the third NFL head coach fired during the 2022 season. The Carolina Panthers replaced Matt Rhule with interim head coach Steve Wilks and the Indianapolis Colts fired Frank Reich and replaced him with coaching novice Jeff Saturday.

Many fans thought the Broncos hired Hackett away from the Green Bay Packers, where he was offensive coordinator, to help them land quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But Rodgers decided to re-up with the Packers and the Broncos instead traded for Wilson, who was seen as still in his prime.

Wilson, however, has had an awful first season in Denver after the Broncos sent four premium draft picks and three players to Seattle for the nine-time Pro Bowler. Wilson has 12 touchdown passes with nine interceptions and 49 sacks in 13 starts and has been unable to snap out of a season-long funk.

He is 3-10 as Denver’s starter and has missed games with a pulled hamstring and a concussion.

He routinely has ignored open receivers underneath to try for deep throws and he has shown a noticeable dip in his ability to escape from pass rushers this season.

The Broncos have missed the playoffs seven straight seasons and extended their string of losing records to six.

They will try to snap a 14-game losing streak to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and beat Patrick Mahomes for the first time in 11 tries.

Wilson picked off, sacked by Wagner in Rams blowout of Denver

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