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ESPN Star Michael Wilbon's Brutal Takedown of Broncos Coach Nathaniel Hackett

ESPN's Michael Wilbon while ripping on Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett during the November 28 edition of Pardon the Interruption.
ESPN's Michael Wilbon while ripping on Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett during the November 28 edition of Pardon the Interruption. ESPN/Photo by Michael Roberts
After the Denver Broncos' humiliating 23-10 defeat to the woeful Carolina Panthers on November 27, social media overflowed with renewed calls for head coach Nathaniel Hackett to be fired. And while Hackett tried to quiet some of the noise during a November 28 media appearance at which he acknowledged the stunning underperformance of his 3-8 squad, ESPN's Michael Wilbon, one of the most prominent sports commentators in the country, used him for verbal target practice during an episode of Pardon the Interruption.

The passion with which Wilbon scorched Hackett — he practically shouted the word "dreadful" not once, but twice — offers the clearest evidence to date that the man who was supposed to lead the franchise back to glory has reached the employment point of no return.

During his time at the podium, Hackett was asked what he'd say to fans who want to send him packing.

"Nobody is as frustrated as I am," he ventured. "This is not where we wanted to be at this time in the season. None of us thought it was going to be like this, and that responsibility is fully on me. I want to be the one that can do everything to help this football team, because we, as a group, have to come together and find a way to win a football game. We can’t play the way that we played yesterday and expect to win a football game. It starts with me from practice preparation and every single thing that we do. I’m the most frustrated."

He added: "I think that our fans are great. They want to win, just like we all do. I don’t blame them for being frustrated. For me, all I know is to work and put my head down with our staff. I believe in this staff, and I believe in these players. We have to get better plays and better execution across the board."

Continue to watch a video of Hackett's remarks.
Around the same time that Hackett was offering up mea culpas, PTI hosts Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser were addressing what they saw as the weekend's biggest story involving the four teams in the American Football Conference's western division: the Kansas City Chiefs' latest victory, the Los Angeles Chargers' triumph after head coach Brandon Staley opted to go for a two-point conversion as time wound down, the Las Vegas Raiders' Josh Jacobs notching more than 300 yards from scrimmage in another win, or the moment in the Broncos' loss when defensive lineman Mike Purcell began yelling at quarterback Russell Wilson, whose putrid on-the-field efforts to date stand in stark contrast to the giant contract he signed just before the regular season started.

Kornheiser opted for the Wilson-Purcell dust-up. "Before this season began, everybody said Denver has everything in place except a quarterback. They get a Hall of Fame quarterback, they pay him $245 million dollars and they have him until 2028, and he stinks this year. They stink. They're three and eight. They've lost seven out of eight, or something like that. They have the worst offense in the entire NFL, and Russell Wilson, if my numbers are correct, is the 29th-rated passer. He's got eight touchdowns in ten games and five picks, and I want to say, 'What happened? You're better than this.'"

An instant later, Wilbon exploded. "I'm not going to put all of this at Russell Wilson's feet," he snapped. "I'm not. On Sundays, nobody dumps anything at the feet of the coaches, the head coaches, because that's not what the analysts do on Sunday during game broadcasts. They don't want to blame the coaches, as if they're afraid of them. Well, let me blame the damn coach! Okay?"

Referring to Hackett generally rather than by name, Wilbon continued: "The guy in Denver shouldn't have even been the coach. I'm not saying he shouldn't be a coach. I'm sure he's got fine credentials. He's got fine credential bloodlines" — a reference to his father, former college and NFL coach Paul Hackett. "Tony, he's dreadful. That situation, that team, all of it, from the way they conduct themselves to play-calling, schematically, they're dreadful. He is probably going to be fired...but don't tell me about Denver unless you start not with Russell Wilson, who's been bad, but with the head coach. Start there."

"He's been bad, too," Kornheiser agreed. "Even worse."

For now, Hackett remains the head coach of the Broncos, and Pro Football Talk suggests that the odds of him being bounced before season's end are small. But more words like Wilbon's from other nationally known pundits could change that.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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