Nathaniel Hackett's first game in charge of the Denver Broncos has been labelled ‘the worst head-coaching debut in NFL history’, after a questionable choice in the dying seconds of the game cost his side victory against the Seattle Seahawks.
Hackett has been slammed for his decision to attempt a 64-yard game-winning field goal, instead of putting the ball in the hands of $242 million (USD) quarterback Russell Wilson and going for it on 4th and 5.
'DISGRACEFUL': Chicago Bears' home ground savaged amid NFL farce
'WALKING MUSCLE': 14-year-old NFL prospect sends fans into frenzy
The Broncos could have called timeout with just over a minute remaining and given Wilson, who had already thrown for 340 yards, the opportunity to gain five more for a first down and extend the drive.
Instead they opted to let the clock tick down to 20 seconds remaining before calling timeout.
Brandon McManus’ kick, which would have tied for the second-longest field goal in NFL history, drifted right of the uprights.
The public backlash towards Hackett was swift and savage, with his decision making called out as ‘stupefying’ and ‘horrific’, while some pundits even suggested he should be facing the axe after just one game in charge.
There have only been 2 field goals of 64 yards or longer in NFL history and Nathaniel Hackett still decided to attempt this kick instead of letting Russell Wilson try to convert a 4th-and-5. Wilson going to trade himself somewhere else before week's end pic.twitter.com/9I1hoyLrl7
— John Breech (@johnbreech) September 13, 2022
I’m absolutely stupefied by that decision by Hackett. I really don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that.
Just decided he had a better chance of his kicker making the 2nd longest field goal in NFL history than he had of his quarterback picking up five yards!
— nick wright (@getnickwright) September 13, 2022
He CHOSE to attempt the 2nd longest FG in NFL history and take the ball out of Russ’s hands. What a horrific decision from Hackett
— Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT) September 13, 2022
Brandon McManus career history on 62+ yard FGs
62 yards - 2016 - MISS
62 yards - 2018 - MISS
63 yards - 2021 - MISS
64 yards - 2019 - MISS
64 yards - 2022 - MISS*
70 yards - 2021 - MISS
THIS is what Nathaniel Hackett opted for instead of the $242M Russ on 4th & 5???
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 13, 2022
I truly believe we just witnessed the worst head-coaching debut in NFL history.
I have no idea what kind of coach Nathaniel Hackett will turn out to be but he got literally everything wrong today and I have lost basically any shred of faith I had in the Broncos in one game.
— Sam Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) September 13, 2022
Fire Nathaniel Hackett. That is not an overreaction. That is one of the worst coaches football games I have ever seen.
— Kevin Walsh Jr. (@TheKevinWalsh) September 13, 2022
If the Broncos fired Hackett after tonight, I’d understand.
— Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) September 13, 2022
Hackett had 2 options:
1. Ask a guy who had already thrown for 340 yards to throw for 5 more.
2. Ask a guy whose career-long FG was 61 to make from 64.
He chose Option No. 2.
This will be hard to live down.
— Chris Raybon (@ChrisRaybon) September 13, 2022
Even NFL legends Peyton and Eli Manning, watching live on their program ManningCast, were left scratching their heads at the decision not to call a timeout and allow Wilson to make a play.
Peyton was trying his HARDEST to call a TO for the Broncos 😬 pic.twitter.com/eZxNQdWpPH
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 13, 2022
Denver QB throws support behind coach
Wilson defended his coach post game, saying he would not doubt Hackett’s decision making moving forward.
"We got the best field goal kicker maybe in the game,'' Wilson said.
"I believe in coach Hackett, I believe in what we're doing, I believe in everything.
“Anytime you can try to find a play on 4th-and-5, that’s great too. But I don't think it was the wrong decision… If we’re in the situation again, I wouldn’t doubt whatever he decided.”
McManus was also quick to take responsibility for the loss, tweeting that it was on him to successfully make the kick in such a scenario.
46 yard line left hash was my line to get to. They got it there. Need to make the kick
— Brandon McManus (@thekidmcmanus) September 13, 2022
Broncos coach says he got it wrong
However, speaking to media the morning after the contest, Hackett admitted he made the wrong call.
"Looking back at it, definitely should have gone for it," Hackett said.
"One of those things, you look back at it and say 'of course we should go for it, we missed the field goal.' But in that situation we had a plan, we knew 46 was the mark."
"We said 46 yards, the 46-yard line was where we wanted to be," Hackett said. " ... Didn't work, it sucks, but hey, that's part of it.
"That's part of being in this seat, being in this profession. This stuff is going to happen at all times, it's been happening my whole career, even when my dad was coaching, you're prepared for that, you understand that. You've got to keep grinding.”
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.