Denver’s effort to explain fourth-down decision doesn’t hold water

Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett made a bad decision on Monday night. Most if not all football fans agree with that. Questions still linger regarding how and when the decision was made.

Hackett has said that trying a 64-yard field goal was the plan all along. The video of the seconds that inexplicably ticked away before the Broncos called a time out seem to suggest that, in reality, they were considering the possibility of trying to convert a fourth-and-five play.

Quarterback Russell Wilson‘s explanation from his midweek press conference bolstered the notion that they weren’t simply implementing a predetermined plan to call time out and to try a field goal.

“I was at the line of scrimmage ready to go for it, too,” Wilson said. “I was calling a play and we were ready to go, but that’s what we decided, and we went with it.”

That’s definitely not what Hackett told reporters on Tuesday.

“Right away,” Hackett said as to when the decision to kick was made. “Russell knew it, he knew I was going to take a time out so he was going to see if he could get them to jump offsides, or anything like that. Which got me a little nervous because the crowd was so loud, I didn’t want us to jump offsides or anything like that. But that’s why, he just got up there was going to try to get them to jump.”

That’s just not true. Not even remotely. Watch the video of the moment. Confusion and uncertainty permeated the offensive side of the ball. When they finally lined up, Wilson never got into a real cadence. How could he have? There was no hard count because there could be no count at all. As Chris Simms pointed out on Thursday’s PFT Live, the left guard was turning back to Wilson, watching for Wilson to raise his leg. That would have been the signal to the guard to tap the center to snap the ball.

These are small points, but also big ones. Ownership is finalizing its first impression of Hackett. Nothing will change the outcome of the game or the way it ended. Hackett can either make it better by admitting what happened and owning it, or make it worse by offering up one or more full or partial untruths in an effort to conceal his blunder.

The Broncos are now owned by captains of corporate America. And, in corporate America, an employee dramatically undermines his or her credibility by trying to hide a mistake. Mistakes happen, to everyone. Management, in its never ending quest to separate the people it can trust from the people it can’t, will respect someone who admits to a mistake — and it will sour on someone who refuses to do so.

Hackett made a mistake. It’s obvious. He’s trying too hard to conceal it. Unless he’s saying what he has been saying at the express direction of ownership, he’s putting himself in a very bad position. Ownership will view him differently. They will doubt that they can trust him. And, depending on how the next 16 games go, they quite possibly will decide to find another coach for 2023.

Whether that happens depends on Hackett. But the simple truth is that he dug a hole for himself on Monday night. Since then, he has continued to dig.

Denver’s effort to explain fourth-down decision doesn’t hold water originally appeared on Pro Football Talk