Broncos fire Hackett following 4-11 start to year

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday.

The move comes after a 4-11 start and Sunday’s 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Hackett’s dismissal puts an abrupt end to the shortest tenure of any noninterim head coach in franchise history. The Broncos’ new ownership — the Walton-Penner Group, led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, his daughter Carrie Walton Penner and son-in-law Greg Penner — quickly ran out of patience for a team with one of the league’s best defenses with an offense that simply could not score.

“Following extensive conversations with [general manager] George [Paton] and our ownership group, we determined a new direction would ultimately be in the best interest of the Broncos,” Greg Penner said in a statement. “This change was made now out of respect for everyone involved and allows us to immediately begin the search for a new head coach.

“Moving forward, we will carefully evaluate every aspect of our football operations and make whatever changes are necessary to restore this franchise’s winning tradition,” Penner said, adding that Paton will assist in the coaching search. No interim coach has been named.

The team has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday at noon ET.

At one point this season, the Broncos featured the No. 1 scoring defense and the No. 32 scoring offense. The Broncos also missed the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year, the longest playoff drought since the franchise’s earliest years when it missed the playoffs between 1960 and 1976.

It’s a far cry from Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen’s three-decade run as owner, when the Broncos went to more Super Bowls (seven) than they had losing seasons. This season is also the fifth time the Broncos have averaged fewer than 20 points per game over the past seven years. Until Hackett’s firing, Wade Phillips had the shortest tenure as the team’s noninterim head coach in the post-AFL-NFL merger era — two seasons (1993-1994) — before he was fired by Bowlen and Mike Shanahan was hired.

Hackett, 42, was hired in January as the franchise’s 18th head coach after serving three seasons as the Green Bay Packers’ offensive coordinator under Matt LaFleur. At the time, Paton called Hackett a “dynamic leader and coach whose intelligence, innovation and charisma impressed us from the very start of the process.”

Then-Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn were also finalists for the role. O’Connell was later hired by the Minnesota Vikings, whose resurgent offense has led them to a 12-3 start. Shortly after Hackett’s hire, the Broncos traded five draft picks, including two first-rounders and two second-rounders, as well as three players to the Seattle Seahawks to acquire quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson was signed to a five-year, $245 million contract extension just before the start of the season.

Broncos 15.5
Texans 16.9
Colts 17.5
— ESPN Stats and Ifnormation

But the excitement of the Broncos’ offseason quickly fizzled out as Hackett’s in-game decision-making was questioned right from the start of the season.

In Week 1, his call to have kicker