Ejiro Evero, not Nathaniel Hackett, more likely to return to Packers in 2023
While the Broncos' decision to fire Nathaniel Hackett frees him to return to Green Bay, another coach from Denver has a more realistic path to the Packers' staff, at least in 2023.
Rather than delay the inevitable, the Denver Broncos chose mercy instead. Following an embarrassing 51-14 loss in prime time, the team fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett, ending his tenure after just 15 games.
The decision capped off a disastrous run for Hackett in the Mile High City. When the Broncos hired him in January, they believed his three-year stint as the Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator had prepared him for the big chair. Indeed, Hackett came highly recommended by none other than Aaron Rodgers, the two-time reigning MVP who played some of the best football of his career with Hackett running the offensive meeting room. That experience, the team believed, made him an ideal match for Russell Wilson, the quarterback Denver acquired at the cost of multiple high draft picks and players.
But the wins never materialized. Instead, Wilson played as poorly as any starting signal-caller in 2022 and the offense ranked near the bottom of the NFL in most statistical categories. Hackett had head-scratching gaffes on the national stage. Even tweaks to the coaching staff and play-calling duties didn't remedy the problem. Denver won just four games, only one by multiple possessions.
With Wilson signed to a prohibitively expensive contract, firing Hackett became the only viable option for the Broncos.
Soon after the news surfaced, no shortage of people suggested a return to the Packers for Hackett. On the surface, the connection makes sense. Hackett enjoyed an incredible run under head coach Matt LaFleur and remains a favorite of Rodgers. Green Bay also hasn't achieved the same level of success offensively since losing Hackett who served an important role as the middleman between the star quarterback and the head coach.
But while Hackett certainly holds some appeal, plenty of hurdles stand between him and a return to Green Bay next season. Conversely, another member of the Broncos' coaching staff stands a better chance of joining the Packers in 2023: Ejiro Evero.
When the Broncos pulled the trigger on Hackett, he became just the second head coach fired before the end of his first season in the position since 1978. The other such coach, Urban Meyer, lost his job mainly on non-football grounds, allowing the Jacksonville Jaguars to fire him for cause and attempt to avoid future salary payments. No such factor exists with Hackett, meaning he will collect on the rest of his contract.
That, of course, provides Hackett with the option to take time off if he so chooses. Football famously wears down even the most ardent coaches, and Hackett has a young family that might conceivably prefer to see a little more of him. The failure of his Denver tenure might also provide ample reason to recharge before jumping back into the grind.
Hackett's contract with the Broncos could also play a major role in his near future. Because most head-coaching agreements include language that requires dollar-for-dollar offsets if a fired coach takes another on-field position, Hackett would essentially work for free should he accept, say, a coordinator job with another team. To avoid this, many fired coaches find work on television or take roles as off-field analysts for teams.
The Broncos should feel quite familiar with this practice. Vic Fangio, Hackett's predecessor in Denver whom the team fired with a season left on his deal, has spent the 2022 season as a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles. Many around the league expect Fangio to return as an on-field coach -- most likely as a defensive coordinator -- next year after the expiration of his Broncos contract.
Of course, exceptions to this trend exist. Matt Rhule had four seasons left on his deal when he lost his job as head coach of the Carolina Panthers in October. Despite the offset language in his contract, he accepted the head-coaching position with the Nebraska Cornhuskers less than two months later.
Even so, such cases typically come with caveats that don't apply to Hackett. Rhule's contract with the Panthers delayed the payment of his money for several years, a quirk intended to tempt him to take a new job sooner or risk losing multiple seasons. By contrast, Hackett will receive his money in a timelier fashion -- his deal with the Broncos covered only four years, half the length of the one Rhule signed with Carolina -- reducing the motivation to move on quickly.
But what if Hackett simply decides he wants to coach regardless of the financial ramifications? Even in that scenario, tying him to the Packers presents complications as the team doesn't have an obvious spot on the staff for him to take.