Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett vows to solve slow decision-making, communication issues

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos tight end/fullback Andrew Beck got pushed out of bounds short of a first down on a befuddling third-down run call with four minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter Sunday against Houston.

The Broncos at the time trailed the Texans, 9-6, but were running the ball efficiently, so the first head-scratcher was giving Beck, with one carry to his name in the past three seasons, what looked like an option read with Javonte Williams as the pitch man.

What happened next, though, was even more difficult to figure.

Nearly 20 seconds of game time rolled off the clock before quarterback Russell Wilson, who appeared to be looking for a fourth-down call from his head coach, and the offense came off the field and the field goal unit trotted on for what would have been a 53-yard attempt to tie the game.

Except by the time the decision was made, that group was in a time crunch. When holder Corliss Waitman dropped to a knee and kicker Brandon McManus toed his spot, only five seconds remained on the play clock. Those melted away and Denver was flagged for a delay of game. Instead of a 59-yard attempt, head coach Nathaniel Hackett sent on the punt team.

Boos rang through a beautiful afternoon at Empower Field at Mile High following the latest in a string of double-clutch decisions from Hackett.

“There’s a lot of things and we need to make sure the communication is clear and concise," he said Monday. "I need to do better at making decisions faster and quicker and getting that information to the quarterback and being on the same page as him.

“That’s something we were talking about this morning all the way to this evening and making sure. It’s got to improve.”

32 THINGS WE LEARNED:Comebacks galore during NFL Week 2

NFL WEEK 2 WINNERS, LOSERS:Patriots offense shows improvement, Cowboys still have hope

NEVER MISS A SNAP:Sign up for our NFL newsletter for exclusive content

Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson talks with head coach Nathaniel Hackett during the second half against the Texans.

Earlier in the game, faced with a fourth-and-goal from Houston’s 2-yard line, Hackett again took time following an incompletion to opt against keeping his offense on the field and the same thing happened — a delay of game on the late-arriving field goal unit.

“I was considering on both of those situations (whether to go for it or kick the field goal) and that’s where I just need to be better in communicating with everybody, getting the proper information and making the right decision,” Hackett said.

The first time didn’t cost Denver points, but both instances added to a lengthening list of times through two weeks when decisions appear to not come quickly enough from Hackett. With a minute left and trailing 17-16 in Week 1 at Seattle, Hackett, armed with all three timeouts, opted to run 40 seconds off the play clock and attempt a 64-yard field goal rather than keep his offense on the field for a fourth-and-5 attempt. A day later, he said in retrospect that Denver, “definitely should have gone for it.”

Part of the now-recurring problem, Hackett said in this week’s postmortem, is streamlining who communicates with him on the headset going forward.

“I think it’s that and I think I need to just be ahead of it a little bit more,” he said. “When you’re calling plays, you naturally want to get the next play going. I think getting that information a little bit earlier, those are the things that we’re talking through and going through and making sure that I have all the right information. The most important thing is being on the same page with Russell, also. Letting him know, ‘hey, we may have four downs here.’ I think I can do a better job in making him aware of that.”

The rookie head coach said he’s aggressive by nature and sometimes needs to ensure he’s making the right decision for his team. In any of those three instances in which he’s eventually called for his field goal unit, it is difficult to imagine that any of his staff or his players would have blamed him for keeping Wilson — who Denver traded five picks and three players for in March and just signed to a $245 million extension — and the offense on the field.

Certainly, if he was still an offensive coordinator, he’d have at least considered lobbying for the ball to be in his quarterback's hands, particularly one of Wilson’s caliber.

“It’s funny, looking back at all my time in the past and conversations that go on, you always have an opinion,” Hackett said. “It’s interesting when it’s now your decision is the one that matters. I just want to make sure that I’m as efficient as I can possibly be and communicate the best way that I can.

“Up to this point, I haven’t done that. I know I can be a lot better.”

Hackett expressed confidence in himself and his staff and said that while he’s always open to change, he’s not imminently planning on adding a more veteran offensive voice — Denver’s a young staff across the board, though the defense does have a pair of experienced senior assistants in Dom Capers and Bill Kolar — or adjusting his own gameday duties. He added that he believes the communication and decision-making issues can be rectified quickly.

“In those moments, it happens so fast. The process of what we do — every single thing that we do is a process — getting to gameday, during gameday, everything is a process,” Hackett said. “Process, process, process.

“We just need to tighten that process up so we can make decisions faster.”