Broncos owner backs Nathaniel Hackett amid ‘high expectations’

Broncos owner backs Nathaniel Hackett amid ‘high expectations’


While rumors of his job status have swirled in recent days, Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett received a vote of confidence from arguably the most important person involved in the situation.

Broncos co-owner and CEO Greg Penner is standing by his first-year coach — but amid a 2-5 start, Penner noted that Hackett has to improve over the second half of the season.

“I support Nathaniel and really want to see him succeed,” Penner told reporters Friday, per ESPN. “He’s a first-time head coach, there’s a lot of new things to get in place and he and I talk every week. I love talking with him about the game and he’s obviously incredibly passionate. But he knows we’re not performing at the level we expect to. But we’ve got high expectations for him in the second half.”

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Nick Wright explained on “First Things First” why firing Nathaniel Hackett midseason would be bad for the Broncos.

While he offered support to his beleaguered coach, Penner was noncommittal when asked if Hackett was assured to finish the season.

“We’re never going to go into those kinds of things,” Penner said. “Again, I’m supportive of Nathaniel and really want him to succeed here. [But] as you guys know this is a week-to-week sport and we’re always evaluating things and our goal is to win as many games in the second half as we can.”

Broncos general manager George Paton also weighed in on the matter and struck a more defensive tone.

“I believe in Nathaniel. I support Nathaniel 100 percent,” Paton told reporters, per Denver7. “He’s been in this for seven games as a head coach. The scrutiny he’s faced is unprecedented. We have had four prime-time games, so he’s had to learn in front of the world. He’s kept the team together. They are connected. He’s kept our building together. And I appreciate how he’s gone through this. …

“Obviously, the results aren’t there. Obviously, it’s not good enough. We all need to get better, and it starts with me. I do believe in this football team, I do believe in the people in our building, the coaching staff, that we can turn it around. It’s only seven games. Obviously we’ve been in every game, and that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about winning games, and we need to learn how to win football games. We haven’ t done that.”

Hackett was hired a few months before Penner, his wife (Carrie Walton Penner) and his father-in-law (Rob Walton) reached an agreement to buy the Broncos for a record $4.65 billion in June. Not long after the sale was approved in August, the new ownership group made their first splash by signing newly acquired quarterback Russell Wilson to a five-year, $245 million extension.

Penner reaffirmed his commitment to Wilson, whose 83.4 passer rating this season is on pace for a career low.

“Russell has won a lot of games in the NFL, he’s been a nine-time Pro Bowler, he’s won a Super Bowl,” Penner said. “Russell knows how to win. … I think he can be a great quarterback for us. He hasn’t performed at expectations, but he’s a fierce competitor and I think he can be a great quarterback for us.”

Penner’s comments come two days before the Broncos take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, a game that could determine which path his club decides to go down the rest of the season. Denver has reportedly received inquiries about defensive end Bradley Chubb and wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler ahead of the Nov. 1 trade deadline.

Perhaps helping matters, Wilson is set to return this weekend after missing one game with a strained hamstring. The Broncos rank last in the NFL in scoring offense (14.3 points per game).

“I thought it would take time,” Paton said. “Obviously it has, but there’s a lot we have to work on. And then you have some injuries on offense. Our staff’s trying to learn each other, our players are trying to learn each other. It’s just a lot. No excuses. We need to play better,” Paton said from the Harrow School in London where the Broncos are practicing this week. “The offense isn’t good enough to win games. Defense has kept us in it, but the offense has to play better.”

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Jorge Oliveira

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