E Point Perfect

Former Vikings GM Shakes Things Up in Denver


Former Vikings GM Shakes Things Up in Denver
Nov 13, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett talks with quarterback Russell Wilson. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.

Thoroughly exposed and embarrassed on Christmas Day — and on national television — the Denver Broncos brass has seen enough.

Former Minnesota Vikings and current Broncos general manager George Paton fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday, just 15 games into his head coaching career. The Los Angeles Rams, led by journeyman quarterback Baker Mayfield, blasted Denver 51-14 in Week 16, the final straw and catalyst for change.

Former Vikings GM Shakes Things Up in Denver

Denver was a fashionable pick — by, like, everybody — to make noise in 2022, especially after Paton swung a Godfather deal for quarterback Russell Wilson in March. Paton sent QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DL Shelby Harris, two 1st-Round picks, two 2nd-Round choices, and a 5th-Rounder to Seattle for Wilson and a 4th-Rounder. At the time, the trade was mostly received by pundits and fans as “Well, you should do anything necessary to get a franchise quarterback.” Few chided Denver for the deal, instead applauding Paton for the bold move.

Former Vikings GM Shakes
Dec 11, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett.Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

But Wilson has been abysmal to start his career’s second chapter — even to the point of a punchline. What used to be perceived as motivational and fun from Wilson is now cringeworthy and the subject of memes.

Heading into Week 16, Wilson ranked around the eighth-worst starting quarterback in the league, a far departure from what Broncos fans believed was on tap when the trade was executed nine months ago.

Aug 27, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

Wilson is owed $107 million from 2023 to 2028 — guaranteed — making it next to impossible to endorse his exodus. Somebody “had to go” after the 4-11 start of the season, and Paton ensured Hackett was the fall guy. Now, thanks to the pre-Black-Monday timing, Denver can get an early glimpse of the 2023 coaching carousel, perhaps eyeing the monsters-of-rock candidates like Sean Payton or Dan Quinn.

The Broncos rank 30th per offensive EPA/Play and fifth via defensive EPA/Play. The next guy or gal coaching the team will have building blocks on defense but a real head-scratcher regarding Wilson’s demons. That person can either pray Wilson figures it out and return to 2012-2020 supremacy, or Denver will truly be saddled with one of the most godforsaken contracts in sports.

Nov 28, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos general manager George Paton. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

Moreover, whatever is on the itinerary for Paton, he’ll effectuate change without value draft capital because that flew out the door westerly with the Wilson trade. A new coach will inherit a gossamery Wilson, a franchise hellbent on a winning football tradition, limited draft capital, and a new ownership group. Paton may need to swing for the fences to rectify his recent sins.

Otherwise, he’ll be on the hot seat like Hackett amid the last month. His Wilson trade is already compared to the Vikings Herschel Walker trade from 1989, and he is the guy who hired Hackett.

The Vikings travel to Denver for a date with Broncos next year. Hackett will likely hit the offseason coaching market as an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach.

The Broncos interviewed current Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell before selecting Hackett 10 months ago.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).


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