Hackett and Pickett would be a peculiar, but possible, pairing with the Broncos.
With the Broncos’ head coaching interview process completed, Nathaniel Hackett and Dan Quinn appear to be the co-frontrunning finalists. And with the ninth pick in the draft, the Broncos may choose quarterbacks Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis.
The only undefeated team in NFL history – the Dolphins of 50 years ago – had what legendary Cowboys coach Tom Landry respectfully labeled the “No-Name Defense’’.
The Broncos of the last five seasons had the “No-Game Offense’’.
The hopeless, hapless, useless offense from 2017-21 scored fewer than 20 points in 45 games.
In George Paton’s extensive search the past week for a coach who will lead the Broncos from the Oranges of Wrath on offense, he has interviewed 10 candidates.
Only one nominee was his team’s principal offensive play-caller in 2021. But Kellen Moore, in all probability, will not be the Broncos’ next head coach.
The winner will be a defensive coordinator (Quinn or Jonathan Gannon) or an offensive coordinator (Hackett, Kevin O’Connell, Brian Callahan or Eric Bieniemy) who served in the playoffs this weekend under a head coach who calls the majority of offensive plays.
The Broncos will be taking a challenging chance on The New Man who will be chosen as soon as Monday.
At 33, Moore has been the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach, then offensive coordinator for four seasons. He would be the Broncos’ second-youngest head coach ever. Josh McDaniels was 32 when hired in January of 2009.
Dan Quinn, 51, is the only contender with head coaching experience, but he never has been an offensive coach. In his six years with the Falcons he had three coordinators – Kyle Shanahan, Steve Sarkisian and Dirk Koetter – who called offensive plays.
Gannon, a defensive quality control or secondary coach with three NFL teams, was named the Eagles’ defensive coordinator in ’21. Jerod Mayo, a former Patriots linebacker, returned to the team as inside linebackers assistant in 2019. Even though he doesn’t have the title of defensive coordinator, Mayo shares the role with Bill Belichick and Belichick’s son Steve. Neither Gannon nor Mayo have been involved with NFL offenses.
The Broncos’ exploration group was impressed by Gannon and Lions’ first-year defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn in their interviews, but they and Mayo realistically won’t get the job in Denver.
Packers quarterback coach Luke Getsy, hired in 2019, likely will be elevated to coordinator if Hackett becomes a head coach.
The four offensive coordinators have vital roles with head coaches Matt LaFleur in Green Bay, Sean McVay in Los Angeles (Rams), Zach Taylor in Cincinnati and Andy Reid in Kansas City. They helped develop the playbook and offensive schemes, conceived game plans (including scripting the first 15 plays) and shared the play-calling in exhibition games and from the press box and on the sideline during games. But none has total responsibility for their offenses.
Hackett is the only one in the bunch who has been a coordinator with three teams – the Bills in 2013-14, the Jaguars in 2015-16 and the Packers in 2019-21. He called plays in his previous positions before joining Green Bay. O’Connell was the coordinator with Washington before being hired by McVay in 2020. Callahan was an assistant quarterbacks coach with the Broncos and QB coach with the Lions and the Raiders. In 2019 he was chosen the Bengals’ coordinator.
Bieniemy has been the Chiefs’ running backs coach, then offensive coordinator, since 2013. In the first playoff game he could be seen on the sideline calling plays in the opening quarter, but Reid and he took turns afterward.
Callahan and Hackett are sons of former NFL coaches, and O’Connell spent time with five different teams as a backup quarterback. Callahan was a walk-on quarterback at UCLA, but mostly played as a kick-holder. The Bruins’ head coach then, and now Colorado coach, Karl Dorrell persuaded Callahan to become a coach, and Broncos’ coach McDaniels gave him his first NFL opportunity.
Callahan has the strongest Broncos connection. He coached under McDaniels, John Fox, Adam Gase (coordinator) and Gary Kubiak and in two Super Bowls. He married a Broncos’ cheerleader. Paton has been an executive on teams that had Quinn and Bieniemy as assistant coaches. The Broncos lost in 2021 to teams with Bieniemy (twice), Gannon and Callahan and blew out teams with Quinn, Moore and Glenn.
What’s the name of the game for the Broncos?