Ex-Ravens Assistant Hired to Help Broncos Head Coach Make ‘Gameday Decisions’

Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett

Getty Images Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

First-year Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett is just two games in to his head coaching career, but he’s already made a season’s worth of rookie mistakes. That explains why he and the Broncos felt compelled to make an unusual in-season hire, one designed to help him make better in-game decisions.

On Saturday Sept. 25, Adam Schefter of ESPN and Mike Klis of 9 News (Denver) reported that Hackett has hired former Baltimore Ravens associate head coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg as a “special assistant to help him with gameday decisions.”

According to Klis, “Rosburg had been with the Broncos all week, observing practices and talking with personnel while his specific role and contract were being finalized. Rosburg will be in the coaches’ box during games – starting Sunday night when the Broncos meet the 49ers – wearing a headset that enables him to communicate directly with Hackett regarding game-day decisions and operations.”

Jerry Rosburg Won a Super Bowl With the Ravens in 2012

Rosburg, 66, worked under Ravens head coach John Harbaugh from 2008-18, serving as associate head coach and special teams coordinator. He retired in March 2019 to spend more time with his family.

At Rosburg’s retirement press conference, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said: “I would say that Jerry’s been my best friend for 25, 30 years. Jerry has been not only the best special teams coach in the league for the past 11 years plus, he’s been the best associate head coach and the best friend that a head coach could have. Without Jerry Rosburg, there’s no way we would’ve had anywhere close to the success we’ve had.”

Indeed the Ravens reached the postseason in seven of Rosburg’s 11 seasons with the team and beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013.

Prior to joining the Ravens in 2008, Rosburg served as special teams coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons (2007) and the Cleveland Browns (2001-06). Before that he worked in the college game, holding positions at Notre Dame and Boston College.

As for Hackett, he is in his first season as Broncos head coach, having previously served as offensive coordinator for three different teams — the Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills.

2 Weeks Worth of Game Management Debacles

But his game management skills have proven to be so lacking that he has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to explain his head-scratching decisions and his team’s operational challenges.

During his first game as an NFL head coach, Hackett became a laughing stock on Twitter after the Broncos stopped trying to advance the ball during the final minute of a one-point game. Despite having ample time remaining — not to mention timeouts and a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson — Hackett eschewed a 4th-and-5 from just inside Seahawks territory. Instead he settled for a longshot 64-yard field goal attempt — a longshot for anyone other than Ravens All-Pro Justin Tucker, that is. Brandon McManus missed the field goal and the Broncos lost a heartbreaker, 17-16.

Hackett’s second game — a 16-9 home win over the Houston Texans — was marred by operational miscues, with the Broncos forced to burn all three second-half timeouts in an effort to avoid being penalized. Denver also took two different delay of game penalties on field goal attempts, the second of which nullified a 53-yard field goal and turned it into a punt. It got so bad that Broncos fans began counting down the seconds remaining on the play clock to try to help the offense avoid further delay of game penalties.

But beginning Sunday night, Hackett will have an extra set of eyes and ears in Jerry Rosburg, who will presumably help him avoid the kinds of mistakes that have dogged him in the first two weeks of the season, during which the Broncos posted a 1-1 record.

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