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Nathaniel Hackett, 41, spent four seasons as an assistant offensive coach with the Jaguars before joining the Packers in 2019.

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GREEN BAY — There can’t be too many more meaningful endorsements for a coach than one from a two-time NFL MVP who’s well on his way to a third, so if the Atlanta Falcons — or any other NFL teams seeking a new head coach — were listening Thursday, they heard Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers deliver a full-throated endorsement of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

Hackett was interviewed by the Atlanta Falcons for their head coaching position on Thursday afternoon. While Rodgers would selfishly like to keep one of his favorite coaches and confidantes on the Packers’ staff, he wholeheartedly supported Hackett’s candidacy during his regular weekly Zoom call with reporters during the team’s playoff bye week.

Rodgers said he spoke to Hackett Thursday before the interview and pointed to Hackett’s football acumen, genes (his father, Paul, is one of the NFL’s best-known offensive innovators in the West Coast offense), energy and presence as qualities that should attract teams’ interest.

“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. He’s been around football a long time. His dad obviously is 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.

“I think any team would be lucky to have him in their squad.”

Atlanta is one of six head coaching vacancies in the NFL, along with Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston, New York Jets and the Los Angeles Chargers. Hackett, who was the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator under recently fired coach Doug Marrone until being fired by Marrone in 2018, also could be a candidate in Jacksonville.

Asked Wednesday whether he was ready to be a head coach, the 41-year-old Hackett said he is “definitely ready” but spoke glowingly of the two years he’s spent in Green Bay under coach Matt LaFleur, who he scarcely knew before getting the offensive coordinator job in January 2019.

“Looking at the past and all the things that I’ve been through and all the learning moments that I’ve had — things to do, things not to do — I think it’s just been incredible just turning back, reflecting and looking at all those different things and becoming the person that I am — from growing up in this profession to all the different experiences to now being with coach LaFleur and this great organization,” Hackett said. “I think being with a great quarterback, great players, great people, you take so much from all those people and you just continue to learn from all that and grow from that.

“At this point in my life, I love exactly where I am. I think this is an amazing place. For the future, you never know, it’s just such a great opportunity to have a chance to be in the playoffs (and) have a first-round bye.”

LaFleur has repeatedly credited Hackett for the Packers offense’s success in the red zone — or, as Hackett renamed it, the gold zone — this season. The Packers led the NFL with 80% red-zone efficiency this season, converting 48 of their 60 trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line into touchdowns.

“I think he’s earned it. He deserves a shot at it. I think he’d do a hell of a job,” said LaFleur, who was the Falcons’ quarterback coach under Dan Quinn in 2015 and ’16. ”Everything that he’s added, the value that he’s brought here, it’s hard to quantify that. And he does a great job with our entire offense, a great job of leading our offensive staff. I’m excited for him to get his opportunity. There’s no doubt that he is fully capable of doing a great job and somebody would be lucky to have a guy like him.”

Photos: Packers' 2020 season so far in pictures

Photos: Packers' 2020 season so far in pictures

Check out photo galleries from every game of 2020 through the end of the regular season and the playoffs — if the Packers make it.

This article originally ran on madison.com.


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