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'A very, very good football coach': NFLN's Ian Rapoport evaluates Broncos' hire of Nathaniel Hackett

As Nathaniel Hackett begins his tenure with the Broncos, reached out to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport to get his thoughts on the hire.

Rapoport details why Hackett made sense for the Broncos, why it was the right time for him to be a head coach and how his staff could shape up in Denver.

Aric DiLalla: What was your initial reaction to the team's decision to hire Nathaniel Hackett?

Ian Rapoport: "I thought it was great. I wasn't surprised, honestly, because I kind of heard how some Broncos people were talking about him after the initial interview and about the connection he made with [General Manager] George Paton. And so I wasn't like surprised. I know everyone was talking about maybe some other candidates, maybe Dan Quinn was a front-runner. I think a lot of people were saying that, and I got that because Quinn was a really strong candidate, too. But when I thought about what the Broncos were looking for, this made more sense. For people who don't know Nathaniel Hackett, he is fun and he is kind of crazy and he is incredibly brilliant. Very, very, very smart, very innovative, very creative. Just really likes football. Really likes talking about football. So there's been times at the Combine where I'll run into him or I'll sit down with him with no agenda, just say hello, and we'll get into a long conversation about just why some teams are running these plays and why other teams aren't and where they come from and the history of it, and it's just like, that's every conversation. It just draws you right in. He is a compelling personality and, I think, a very, very good football coach. So, no, considering what the Broncos were looking for, I wasn't surprised and I was pretty happy to see it."

AD: He's gotten attention in previous coaching search cycles. Why do you think now is the right time for him?

IR: "A better question from me would be, 'Why wasn't he a stronger candidate previously?' I wrestle with this myself because I have a hard time understanding why candidates are hot some years, but not other years, when they're the same quality of football coach. So, to me, I was always like, 'Why isn't this guy getting more attention?' And Hackett never quite worried about it. He wasn't a very good self-promoter, so that probably hurt him, because it does seem like some of the coaches who get some attention here care a lot more about their personal persona and brand, and I don't think he cares at all about any of that. So maybe that's why he was sort of in the shadows. But I just kept thinking, like, I knew what he did in Jacksonville, I knew what they thought of him in Green Bay, how integral he was to everything that Matt LaFleur does, and I was just kind of like, 'Why isn't anybody hiring this guy?' Honestly. I was like, 'Maybe I must be missing something.' I think it's good that Denver did it, because if they didn't, somebody else probably was, this cycle."

AD: There's obviously lots of speculation about Hackett's link to Green Bay, but is it your understanding that there's still several different ways that Broncos could go at the quarterback position? What happens now at that spot?

IR: "I would say if [Aaron] Rodgers gets traded, it's pretty clear to me the Broncos would be a great place and probably the front-runner if he gets traded. I just don't know if he's going to get traded. That's kind of the issue, is there's three outcomes. One is he retires, another is he plays for the Packers, another is he gets traded — and if he gets traded, I think probably Denver. But I don't know which one he's going to choose, so it's definitely not a slam dunk. I would also say — and I think fans are a lot smarter than this, so I don't believe people are assuming this — but it's not like the Broncos hired him to get Aaron Rodgers. They hired him to lead the football program and lead the team and run the team. I think they are going to upgrade at quarterback. I don't know who it's going to be. I say this with of course all due respect, he got Blake Bortles to the AFC title game. I think if he has a quarterback even between Bortles and Aaron Rodgers, I think he'll be successful."

AD: We've seen reports about potential offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator candidates. What can you say about how he'll build his staff here in Denver?

IR: "I would say defense would be a little easier. [Rams secondary coach/pass-game coordinator] Ejiro Evero from the Rams is probably going to be the guy. I actually thought he was going to get the Packers' defensive coordinator job last year. They ended up hiring Joe Barry who did a really, really good job, but I could've seen that either way. He's a bright young coach and they also happen to be close, which is nice because you know they share the same vision. Offensive coordinator will be a little … more complicated. You've got to go through the interview process, you don't know who's going to stop who, you don't know who's going to stay in Green Bay. [Packers OL/run game coordinator Adam] Stenavich would make sense, but does someone else jump in? Do they try to keep him? There's definitely some more questions and more figuring out, but it's similar to what you would say for Vic Fangio on the defensive side of the ball. I'm not as worried about offense, because the head coach will be heavily involved on offense and I trust what he would be able to do."

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