It’s hard not to wonder if the culture has really changed in Broncos Country
Nathaniel Hackett’s approach to preparing the Broncos for the season has drawn a lot of attention. His jogging workouts and regeneration days were the talk of the camp. His starterless approach to the preseason is controversial. Even his decision to turn day three of the off-season minicamp into a team-wide “field day” was a talking point.
At every turn, the Broncos told us it was much ado about nothing. They pointed out that the team’s first-year head coach knows what he’s doing.
Hackett defended his approach. He went on “Schlereth and Evans” during training camp and explained his methods.
“It’s a new NFL; it’s as simple as that,” the head coach told the co-hosts. “There’s more science than we’ve ever had in this game.”
He didn’t stop there.
“I’m pretty sure you haven’t worn an extra helmet on your helmet,” Hackett told Schlereth, a three-time Super Bowl winner in the 1990s. “So I think there’s so many different things, and our primary focus is health. The healthiest team at the end usually has the best chance of moving forward and making a playoff run. That’s just a fact.
It wasn’t just him. For a man, the Broncos players defended their head coach.
Dalton Risner appeared on “Stokley and Zach” during training camp and tried to explain why team practices were a good idea. Denver’s starting left guard was right in the plan, contrasting it with past schemes.
“The thing Hackett does a great job of is when we come here, we’re ready to work,” Risner said. “I won’t use any names. But in the last three years, we’ve been able to spend four or five days in pads in a row. Right? By the time you get to that third or fourth day, the boys are beaten.
He was far from alone. Garett Bolles, Bradley Chubb, Kareem Jackson, Albert Okwuegbunam and Malik Reed all stood behind the podium during training camp and defended their head coach.
“I love it,” Jackson said. “It’s my 13th camp, so call him every three days – he can call him every other day if he wants. I won’t argue with him at all. That’s fine; it’s all in the goal to start the season in good health.
It sounds good. But will the Broncos be ready to play football when things start in Seattle on September 12?
That was the debate. The “old school” crowd has its doubts.
They were calmed down a bit by the Broncos’ performance against the Cowboys. Denver dominated when Dallas visited for joint practice. They also won the pre-season game between the two teams, earning a 17-7 win.
It made the sound bites a bit more legit. This provided evidence that the team was responding to Hackett’s methods.
The players said they would reward their coach’s confidence. They have sworn to answer the bell and play hard when called.
There is now reason to wonder if that was true. It’s starting to look more and more like that idea.
First, there was the team’s performance in their second pre-season game. Losing to the Bills didn’t matter. Falling 42-15 in a game they seemed completely disinterested in was a concern.
But this is only the pre-season. The loss was an opportunity for the Broncos to learn from their mistakes. They could show that they knew how to react in the face of adversity.
Then they went out and laid an egg in practice on Wednesday. Days away from a dismal effort, the Broncos had such bad practice that their head coach lost his voice from barking at them so much.
“At the end of the day, we have a standard and they fell short yesterday,” Hackett said Wednesday. “They recognized it. They got it. He wasn’t just one guy, but that kind of stuff is unacceptable. You just have to keep your focus all the time.
At this point, an eye roll is in order. It’s nothing but talk, talk, talk. These are words that don’t mean much. These are just catchy quotes that make everyone feel better for a short time. But in the end, their emptiness manifests, usually in the form of lost football matches.
It’s been the norm for five years in Denver. During the worst period in football in post-merger Broncos history, there were all kinds of positive things said at the UC Health Training Center. And in the end, they all turned out to be nothing but spin.
Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio were once hired. Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Teddy Bridgewater were once positioned as the answer to quarterback. New attitudes, a sense of urgency and renewed focus were all topics of discussion.
Blah, blah, blah. It goes on and on.
Right now, the platitudes coming out of Broncos training camp this year seem more or less the same. The Broncos have repeatedly spoken of a “new culture” in Dove Valley. They insisted that things are different in 2022.
Talking is cheap. And Broncos Country is tired of hearing it.
Action speaks louder than words. And for the past four days, they’ve been sending a disturbing message.
I feel more and more that nothing has changed. It seems that Nathaniel Hackett is exploited by a group of leaders who talk the most and not much action.