DENVER — Forgive Broncos fans for connecting the dots with shaking heads and sly grins.
Thursday, the New York Jets hired former Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett as their offensive coordinator. Consider it rocket fuel for trade rumors that the Green Bay Packers will ship former MVP Aaron Rodgers to the Jets.
If this story sounds familiar, the first version played out in Denver a year ago. The Broncos named Hackett as their head coach, impressed by his energy, confidence and innovation. He was the antidote to the decaffeinated reign of Vic Fangio.
The underlying question was also there: Could he convince Rodgers to come to the Broncos? The Broncos insisted that Hackett's close relationship with Rodgers did not inspire the hiring. It was believable because no one could predict Rodgers' next move, and there was no guarantee the Packers would move on from, at that time, the back-to-back MVP.
Rodgers never landed in Denver, signing a new contract in Green Bay. The Broncos acquired Russell Wilson from the Seahawks, which seemed like a potentially better deal since he was six years younger than Rodgers and widely accomplished.
While Hackett tried to make it work with Wilson, the coach's timing passing scheme from the pocket made the pairing a disaster. Neither was blameless as the Broncos offense lacked an identity — the Broncos abandoned the run for the most part — and was shamefully bad on third down and in the red zone.
After a 2-1 start full of penalties and coaching gaffes, the Broncos lost 10 of their next 12 games and owned the league's lowest-scoring offense. CEO Greg Penner fired Hackett after an embarrassing 51-14 Christmas Day loss to the Rams, stained by a sideline dust-up between Dalton Risner and Brett Rypien and Randy Gregory punching a Los Angeles player after the game.
Players liked Hackett because he emphasized chemistry, and made practices and meetings more engaging and fun. But it came without consequences in light of poor performances and lacking discipline.
Before joining the Broncos, Hackett served as Green Bay's offensive coordinator, though he did not call plays as he did previously in Jacksonville. The Broncos fired Hackett with three years remaining on his contract. They will receive an offset based on his salary with the Jets.
The Jets are the cusp of taking the next step, the only team with a longer active playoff drought than the Broncos. Hackett will be counted on to revive the offense. But will be able to do that with Rodgers' arrival?