Denver Broncos lock up Nathaniel Hackett before Jaguars scheduled second interview

·4 min read

The Jacksonville Jaguars had planned to interview Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on Thursday.

But those plans have changed with the Denver Broncos finalizing a deal to make Hackett their next head coach, according to the NFL Network.

A person close to the situation confirmed Wednesday night the Jaguars had planned to interview Hackett for a second time on Thursday.

Regardless, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who was interviewed for a second time on Tuesday in Tampa, still appears to be the frontrunner. Despite several reports Wednesday that indicated the Jaguars had offered Leftwich the job, sources confirmed that no such offer has come forth yet.

Leftwich,42, is on the finalist list that includes Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Sources have not confirmed whether the Jaguars have hit a snag in contract negotiations with Leftwich. However, some reports indicate that is the reason for the delay.

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Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is seen before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is seen before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

Leftwich has been the Jaguars' fan base's top choice and several former Jaguars players have expressed their support for the former quarterback. Former Jaguars great Jimmy Smith tweeted Wednesday night that he I loved playing with Leftwich when they were teammates in Jacksonville.

''He knew the offense better than the coordinators,'' Smith wrote.

Leftwich also interviewed for the vacant Chicago Bears head coaching job virtually last Thursday.

According to sources, the Jaguars' in-person interview with Leftwich went almost five hours and occurred mid-afternoon Tuesday in Tampa.

Jaguars still searching

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Jaguars remain in talks with Leftwich and Eberflus, amongst others, but are not close to a deal with anyone, according to his sources.

Eberflus was the first candidate to be interviewed a second time by the Jaguars owner Shad Khan, general manager Trent Baalke and Shad's son, Tony. Eberflus remains a finalist for the Bears job, interviewing for a second time Wednesday.

Eberflus has been the Colts defensive coordinator since 2018 after serving seven years as the Dallas Cowboys linebackers coach. Before making the jump to the NFL, Eberflus spent eight seasons as Missouri's defensive coordinator.

Eberflus got his first coaching job as a student assistant at Toledo in 1992 before becoming a graduate assistant. He served as Toledo's recruiting coordinator and outside linebackers coach from 1994-95 and remained a defensive assistant at the school until 2000.

He served as Missouri's defensive coordinator from 2001-08 before making the jump to the NFL as a linebackers coach with the Cleveland Browns from 2009-10. He left the Browns to become the Dallas Cowboys linebackers coach from 2011-15. In 2016-17, he served as both linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Cowboys. The Colts hired Eberflus to become their defensive coordinator in 2018.

Under Eberflus this season, the Colts finished with the second-most takeaways (33), ninth in scoring defense (21.5), 10th in rushing defense (109.1), 19th in pass defense (234.1), and 16th in total defense (343.2).

With Denver set to hire Hackett, seven other franchises are trying to hire a new head coach besides the Jaguars — Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and New Orleans Saints.

Since launching their search five weeks ago, the Jaguars have interviewed former NFL head coaches Doug Pederson and Jim Caldwell, Jaguars interim head coach Darrell Bevell, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, Hackett, Eberflus and Leftwich.

Hackett, 42, was among the three finalists for the Broncos job, which included Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell. Hackett reportedly had an eight-hour meeting with the Broncos Monday but was not offered the job. He also interviewed for the Chicago Bears job.

Hackett spent four seasons with the Jaguars, first serving as quarterbacks coach in 2015 before getting promoted to offensive coordinator by former head coach Gus Bradley. Hackett remained offensive coordinator until the 2018 season when former coach Doug Marrone fired him after 11 games.

Hackett has spent the past three seasons as Green Bay's offensive coordinator. He became available for a second interview after the Packers were booted out of the playoffs after last Saturday's 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in last Saturday's NFC Divisional round playoff game.

''It's absolutely an honor to be even considered for something like this,'' Hackett said during a virtual call with reporters two weeks ago. ''So we're going to do it during the bye because we wrapped up that No. 1 seed. It's a dream for any football coach to have an opportunity to potentially become a head coach.''

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville Jaguars coach candidate Hackett reaches Denver Broncos deal