The Minnesota Vikings’ search for a head coach and general manager continues. Many exciting candidates have thrown their hat into the ring for the head coaching job, but there is no option more intriguing than Green Bay’s offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett.
The idea that the Vikings could pluck one of the offensive masterminds away from the Packers is entertaining, but it’s not reason enough to hire Hackett — just the cherry on top. Hackett has earned his stripes like many candidates searching for their first shot as a head coach. But he relates to his players in a way that differs from many other coaches.
Last year, Green Bay’s offense thrived in the red zone all season long. They referred to it as “the gold zone” because Hackett is obsessed with the Austin Powers movie Goldmember. Rodgers went into detail about it during his weekly appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.
“Our offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who installs the red zone, is obsessed with that movie,” Rodgers said. “One of our mantras is, ‘I love gold!’ We call the red zone the gold zone as an ode to Goldmember.”
After a touchdown last season, Rodgers celebrated accordingly by screaming, “I love gold!” as he looked to the heavens. That playfulness dates back to his days in Jacksonville when Blake Bortles was his quarterback, per the Washington Post.
“If we ever had mics that caught some of the plays that were different, it was usually a name that he threw out there,” Bortles said. “Sometimes it would get vetoed because me or [backup Chad Henne] were like, ‘I really don’t want to have to say that at the line of scrimmage in an NFL game.’ But a lot of the times we kind of went with it.”
Just what were some of Hackett’s checks called at the line of scrimmage when he was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive coordinator? How about “Dirty Pop” from the boy band N’Sync?
“I don’t even really know what that is or from, but I know it has something to do with Justin Timberlake,” Bortles said. “That was a play that we probably ran five to seven times a game when we were together, and every time he’d say it, he’d say it in his Justin Timberlake voice and kind of sing it.”
All of this is fine and dandy. Everyone can appreciate the coach who keeps things loose and likes to have fun. But Hackett also has an excellent track record in his years as the Packers’ OC. Sure, it’s easy to say it’s all Aaron Rodgers, or it’s mostly Matt LaFleur’s designs, but Hackett deserves plenty of credit. Not every coach gets a full-on endorsement from their current team when they’re looking to level up. The players can’t stop raving about Hackett in Green Bay, including Rodgers and LaFleur, per Madison.com.
“I think one of the pre-reqs to being a good head coach is presence in front of a room. You have to have a unique charisma and an ability to captivate your audience,” Rodgers said. “Part of that captivation is in the way you talk, your cadence, your inflection, storytelling ability. I think those are underrated qualities that a coach can have. Nate has all those things.
“He’s able to captivate the audience, which is usually the offense. Any time he gets up in his meetings, he has great energy. I don’t know how he does it sometimes, but to have a beautiful wife and four kids and all the demands that being a father has on you, and then to be able to bring it every single day at the facility is very admirable.… I think any team would be lucky to have him on their squad.”
Rodgers doesn’t have the most extensive inner circle. But he truly trusts Hackett, and the OC gets the best out of Rodgers consistently.
As for LaFleur, he had never worked with Hackett before the two came to Green Bay. Fast forward three years, and the Packers’ head coach is convinced that Hackett is ready for a gig running the show.
“It’s funny how things work out in crazy ways. He’s not a guy that, prior to us working together (in Green Bay), I had never worked with him before,” LaFleur said. “But (we’re) so fortunate that he’s been a part of this staff. He is as big of a reason as anybody of our success here. I would hate to lose him, but at the same time, I would be so happy for him and I know he’s ready for that opportunity.
“I absolutely do (think he’s ready), and I’m excited for him,” LaFleur said. “If I was a team out there that had a vacancy, I would absolutely want to get him in a room.”
Hackett checks many boxes for those in the market for a head coach this offseason, both with his personality and experience. He’s called plays for the Jaguars, and he’s had plenty of success as part of the Packers’ staff the last three seasons. While he’s missing legitimate head coaching experience, so are several other top candidates like Byron Leftwich and Kellen Moore.
The Vikings need to overhaul their whole attitude to reset from the Mike Zimmer era. It’s okay to enjoy the ride, and Hackett would assure that happens. Minnesota being able to steal him away from Green Bay as one of the glue guys for that franchise would make it all the sweeter.