LaFleur, Rodgers endorse Hackett for Falcons’ position

Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett interviewed with the Falcons on Thursday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur confirmed.

The Falcons’ interest in Hackett was first reported by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports on Nov. 1. Hackett’s interview was completed Thursday evening. NFL Media, which is in part owned by the Falcons, first reported/announced the interview Thursday.

“That’s really exciting,” LaFleur told the Wisconsin Media. “He’s earned it. I think he’d do a helluva job. Just everything that he’s added, the value that he’s brought here, it’s hard to quantify that.”

LaFleur couldn’t stop praising Hackett.

“And he does a great job with our entire offense, a great job with leading our offensive staff, and so I’m excited for him to get his opportunity. I have a lot of confidence that there’s no doubt he’s fully capable of doing a great job and somebody would be lucky to have a guy like him.”

Hackett, 41, has been with the Packers since 2019 on LaFleur’s staff. LaFleur was on the Falcons’ staff under Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. LaFleur was passed over for the coordinator position when Shanahan left for San Francisco after Super Bowl LI.

Hackett, who has worked with Aaron Rodgers for two seasons, could bring back Shanahan’s offense that helped Matt Ryan become the franchise’s first MVP.

“I have talked with him,” Rodgers said told Wisconsin media Thursday. “I think one of the prerequisite to being a good head coach is presence in front of the room. You have to have an innate, (inaudible) ability to captivate your audience, and part of that captivation is in the way you talk, your cadence, your inflection, your storytelling ability. I think those are underrated qualities that a coach can have, and Nate has all those things.”

Hackett is in charge of red-zone offense, and the Packers, who have one of the league’s top offensive lines, have dominated defenses in the red zone. The Packers rank first in the NFL with a 78.6 touchdown percentage, 91.1 scoring percentage.

Also, Hackett changed the name of the red zone to the gold zone because he’s a big fan of Austin Powers and James Bond (Goldfinger). He’s a character and comes up with all these offbeat terms and funny sayings and talks a mile a minute.

“All these jobs, they’re hard to come by,” LaFleur said. “I think every place might have its own unique set of challenges and a lot of its dependent on where you are roster-wise, but my experience in Atlanta was very special.”

LaFleur has been pushing the Falcons.

“There’s a lot of great people there, starting off with Mr. (Arthur) Blank,” LaFleur said. “He’s an exceptional person, an exceptional owner, obviously a very successful man. And he was great to work for.

“I think having (Falcons president) Rich McKay there, he’s another guy I have a lot of respect for, so I think that just all in all that organization is top-notch. I had a great experience there.”

He also was able to share information about the roster with Hackett.

“And not to mention, the players that are still on that roster, that when I was there, Matt Ryan, Julio (Jones), Alex Mack, there’s a bunch of guys there still that I have a lot of respect for,” LaFleur said. “Ricardo Allen is another guy that comes to mind, Grady Jarrett. There’s a lot of pieces there as well. And I know a lot of the coaches that are still there and some of those guys are some of my closest friends as well.”

Hackett’s first job in the NFL was as a quality-control assistant with Tampa Bay in 2006, where he stayed through 2007. He was a quality-control assistant with Buffalo (2008-09) before going back to the college ranks to coach at Syracuse (2010-13).

He’s a disciple of Doug Marrone and was with him at Syracuse, Buffalo and Jacksonville. Marrone was recently fired by Jacksonville and is available to join Hackett’s staff, if he lands the job.

Hackett was Buffalo’s offensive coordinator from 2013-14. For Jacksonville he was quarterbacks coach (2015-16) and offensive coordinator (2016-18).

He’s the son of former NFL and college head coach Paul Hackett, who has deep ties to USC, as does McKay.

“He’s been around football for a long time,” Rodgers said. “His dad, obviously, one of the legendary coaches of this profession. So he has the pedigree, but his presence. He brings such a great, positive energy to a room, and I think any team would be lucky to have him leading their squad.”

Hackett was asked Wednesday if he was ready to be a head coach.

“(I’m) definitely ready,” he said to the Wisconsin media. “I think it’s something you’re thinking about the minute you get into this profession.”

Hackett pointed to his background.

“Looking at the past and all the things I’ve been through, and all the learning moments I’ve had, things to do, things not to do, it’s just been incredible turning back and looking at all those things and becoming the person I am from growing up in this profession to all the different experiences to now being with coach LaFleur in this great organization,” Hackett said.

Working with Rodgers is a nice star on his resume.

“I think being with a great quarterback, great players, great people, you take so much from all those people and you just continually learn from all that and grow from that,” Hackett said. “At this point in my life I love exactly where I am. This is an amazing place.”

“A lot of people talk about it, and it’s an amazing place, you see that on Sundays when you go out and play. For the future you never know. It’s such a great opportunity to have this chance, to be in the playoffs, to have a first-round bye, and have (video cuts out and interview ends).”

Falcons’ 2021 draft position

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

2. New York Jets

3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston)

4. Falcons

5. Cincinnati Bengals

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