Raiders Broncos Football

Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, left, hugs head coach Nathaniel Hackett before a Nov. 20 game against the Raiders in Denver.

If GM George got a do-over, he indubitably would have hired one of the other two Broncos head coach finalists — Dan Quinn or Kevin O’Connell. Instead, he must do it all over again.

George Paton will have a second chance with the first choice, assuming Quinn is not bitter and prefers better. And O’Connell, who finished third on the list, certainly is staying right where he.

The winner of the Broncos’ coach-off, Nathaniel Hackett, turned out to be a loser.

Should the Broncos be beaten Sunday by the pitiable Panthers, “Can’t’’ Hackett may not last until Christmas. Paton, like Santa, will be making a list, and checking it twice.

Isn’t it curious that none of the Broncos’ players are defending the quasi-head coach or demanding that he return next season? Even Russell Wilson seems to be positive about new play-caller Klint Kubiak. The defensive unit continues to praise coordinator Ejiro Evero, a head coach-in-waiting. Special teams coach Dwayne Stukes ought to be more worried about his next job in a league with different initials: USFL or XFL.

Meanwhile, the Broncos score about as often as a World Cup team.

Hackett could be in danger of not reaching the Malavasi Line with the Broncos. Ray Malavasi joined the Broncos as an assistant coach in 1963 and was promoted to head coach upon the abrupt resignation of Mac Speedie after two games into the 1966 season. At year’s end, Malavasi (4-8) was fired. Hackett is 3-7.

The Broncos’ brain trust considered removal of a first-year head coach in 2017. Vance Joseph, who hadn’t been fully vetted when he brought his Boulder baggage to the Broncos, lost 10 of the last 12 games and was approaching a 5-11 record when chief football executive John Elway met with Mike Shanahan, and they seriously discussed the return of the franchise’s greatest coach to replace Joseph in 2018. CEO Joe Ellis wouldn’t permit the proposed change, and Joseph survived for one more season.

Paton won’t want to fire his precious prized pick, but the new owners had nothing to do with the Hackett hiring.

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What became of the other nine coaches interviewed by the general manager and his selection committee? Five of them, and possibly two more, will coach in the postseason.

Jonathan Gannon is the defensive coordinator of the Eagles, who possess the NFL’s most impressive record at 9-1. O’Connell is head coach of the 9-2 Vikings. Quinn is the defensive coordinator and Kellen Moore the offensive coordinator of the 8-3 Cowboys. Eric Bieniemy remains the 8-2 Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. The Bengals and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan are 6-4, and the Patriots, with inside linebackers coach Jared Mayo, are 6-5. Luke Getsy, offensive coordinator of the 3-8 Bears, and Aaron Glenn, defensive coordinator of the 4-7 Lions, also were rejected candidates.

Besides O’Connell and Hackett, the other three first-year head coaches, who were not contenders for the Broncos’ position, are Brian Daboll (Giants), Mike McDaniel (Dolphins) and Matt Eberflus (Bears). Daboll, at 7-4, and Aurora’s McDaniel, 7-3, both could advance to the playoffs.

If Hackett is history, the Waltons and Paton shouldn’t think for a millisecond about anybody without previous head coaching experience. After their hirings, Mike Shanahan, John Fox and Gary Kubiak took the Broncos to their past four Super Bowls. The next three will not achieve one .500 season in six.

Quinn, the Falcons’ coach on the losing side (in overtime) of Super Bowl LI, and Sean Payton (Paton and Payton?), the winning Saints coach in XLIV, should be the favorites in Denver, but the Broncos’ chaos and confusion doesn’t seem to interest Payton, and Quinn probably would decline to revisit this quagmire.

Three more ex-head coaches would qualify.

Leslie Frazier, the Bills’ assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, served as the Vikings interim coach and head coach from 2010-2013 when Paton was an executive in Minnesota. Raheem Morris, defensive coordinator of the defending Super Bowl champion Rams, was the Buccaneers’ head coach from 2009-2011. And Brian Flores, the Steelers’ senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach, was the head coach of the Dolphins from 2019-2021. He filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams, including the Broncos, which would preclude Flores being in the mix.

No matter the end of this error the done-over Broncos must not fail with a fourth consecutive head coach.

Woody Paige has been a sports and general columnist in Colorado with the Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Colorado Springs Gazette and The Denver Gazette since 1974. He has been a commentator for the ESPN network on six different shows for 20 years.

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