In the wake of a difficult loss to the Seahawks on Sept. 12, Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett faced an early challenge. A high-profile decision did not go his way with the entire nation watching, and even Denver legend Peyton Manning publicly wondered if it was the right call.
It all hit early for Hackett. But the first-year head coach spent the week not simply moving forward and forgetting, but also closely examining his decision to attempt a 64-yard field goal that kicker Brandon McManus missed rather than go for it on fourth-and-5 with plenty of time and timeouts remaining in the final minute of a 17-16 loss.
Hackett has publicly acknowledged that he would handle the decision differently if he could do it again, while internally -- as part of his review -- he expressed that same self-awareness by re-evaluating the information he receives on his headset and for late-game and key sequences, sources say.
In a text message, Hackett emphasized the lessons above all else.
"Everyone learned so much this past week, especially me," Hackett texted me on Saturday morning. "And we are going to be better for it. Now we get to move forward, grow as a team and get ready for Houston!"
Hackett has built a strong bond with his players in a short time, and the locker room has remained tight this week. Speaking to people in Denver the past few days, the mood has been encouraging and optimistic rather than down, with strong communication among players and coaches.
As for what transpired this week, sources say Hackett worked to tighten up his overall process on end-of-game situations. This includes the information he receives on game day and via his headset, including a mix of analytics-based information, advice and time management data. While Hackett showed confidence in his kicker to make a career-long field goal, it's clear there must be an adjustment to the overall process. The hope is that begins this week.
The urgency to fix the issues is palpable.
Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson talk every day, a close bond building during an offseason of firsts. Wilson and Hackett had discussed making it to the 46-yard line prior to the field goal attempt, and the QB knew that was the target.
Wilson has shown alignment with his coach, saying this week that while he was ready with a play call he liked if Hackett had decided to have the offense go for it, he also supported what his new head coach decided. Wilson discussed the two sides of it during his Wednesday news conference.
"I always believe in having the ball and everything else, but also we've got a great kicker, and we're going to believe in our kicker again," Wilson said. "I also trust (Hackett's) decisions and everything else, but I'm also always ready to go try to do it if we need to."