NFL Analyst Sounds Off on Nathaniel Hackett’s Late-Game Decision Making

Nathaniel Hackett

Getty Nathaniel Hackett disappointed in Denver's loss to Seattle.

Denver Broncos fans held their heads in disbelief as they watched an entertaining game against the Seattle Seahawks close out Week 1 of the NFL season. Disbelief turned to confusion when new head coach Nathaniel Hackett took the ball out of new quarterback Russell Wilson’s hands with the game on the line, a move that resulted in a 17-16 loss and a dose of criticism.

“The stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Brock Huard, former NFL quarterback and now a radio host on Seattle Sports 710.

Huard, appearing as a guest September 13 on “Schlereth and Evans,” on Denver’s 104.3 The Fan, wasn’t done questioning Hackett’s late-game decision making.

“Why did you not play with a little tempo? Why did you not pick up the pace? Why did you play as if you were playing against Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes on the other side?” said Huard, who played for Seattle in 2000 and 2001 and the University of Washington before that.

“Give yourself more opportunities with three timeouts,” Huard said, referring to the final two minutes of the game. “To play the way they did in the final two minutes was mind-boggling. You played right into the Seahawks’ hands. Absolutely ridiculous. If you’re a Broncos fan, you should be fuming.”

Hackett Goes Against Convention

Wilson, who played 10 seasons for Seattle before being traded to Denver in March, was put in the perfect scenario to win the game. Denver got the ball back with 4:02 left in the game, down by only one point in the stadium where Wilson had 22 career game-winning drives. The Broncos also had three timeouts.

Denver started the final drive on its own 22-yard line, needed to get into field goal range, which, according to a postgame tweet by kicker Brandon McManus, would have been the Seahawks’ 46-yard line. That meant Wilson’s offense needed just 34 yards to give McManus a 64-yard attempt.

In the first 2:02 minutes of the drive, Denver’s offense moved the ball only 18 yards. After the two-minute warning, the Broncos actually moved backward on a couple of plays and found themselves in a difficult 3rd-and-14 scenario. But then Wilson made a little swing pass to running back Javonte Williams, and the second-year back forced his way to the Seattle 46-yard line with 1:03 left on the clock. It was now fourth down with 5 yards to go.

Instead of putting the ball in Wilson’s $242 million hands to attempt to get a first down, Hackett decided to run the clock down to 20 seconds and give McManus a shot at kicking the game-winner from 64 yards out.

McManus, the last remaining player from the Broncos’ 2016 Super Bowl roster, missed the kick.

Peyton Manning and Shannon Sharpe Also Were Confused

During ESPN2’s “ManningCast,” Peyton and Eli Manning were joined by Hall of Fame Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe. In the final two minutes of the game, Peyton Manning and Sharpe began cheering for the Broncos.

When Denver got to fourth down with 57 seconds left in the game, Manning urged Denver to call a timeout while making the timeout hand signal.

When the kicking unit came onto the field, Manning announced in disbelief that the Broncos were going to kick a field goal. Sharpe responded loudly: “Kick what!”

Even though McManus has the leg to make a field goal from 60 or more yards, he is now 1-of-5 on field goal attempts beyond 60 yards.

In fact, only two players have ever made a field goal from at least 64 yards, Matt Prater in 2013 and Justin Tucker in 2021. His 66-yarder broke Prater’s record.