The Denver Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett just 15 games into the 2022 season, making him one of the fastest flameouts for a first-year head coach in NFL history.
Anybody backing the Broncos at Colorado sports betting sites probably had a bad time of it these past few months.
Denver has missed the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons – the franchise’s last appearance was when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 – and has cycled through four head coaches in that span. That does not even include interim coach Jerry Rosburg, who led the Broncos for the last two games this season.
So whoever takes over as Denver’s NFL coach will perhaps have the benefit of low expectations, at least initially. But then again, there is a history of first-year coaches achieving big things in their first season in Denver.
Will that translate for those placing a Broncos wager at Colorado betting apps in the 2023 season?
We at BetColorado.com took a look at the best debut seasons for first-year coached in the Mile-High City in the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB to see what the next Broncos coach could live up to if everything goes well.
Denver Broncos: Gary Kubiak, 2015
Two coaches steered the Broncos to the Super Bowl in their first season.
In 1977, Red Miller debuted with a bang, leading the “Orange Crush” defense to a 12-2 record, an AFC West Division title and the first playoff berth in team history (the Broncos had mostly been pretty sorry dating to their first season in the American Football League in 1960). Once in the postseason, Denver knocked off two 1970s powerhouses, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, on their way to the Super Bowl.
But the Broncos were stoned by the Doomsday Defense in the big game as the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XII, 27-10, in New Orleans.
Gary Kubiak repeated Miller’s feat and went one step better, not only reaching the Super Bowl in his first season at the helm but winning it.
Kubiak, a former backup quarterback for the Broncos, led Denver to a 12-4 record in 2015 after taking over from John Fox. Denver then defeated Pittsburgh and New England in the AFC playoffs and knocked off the Carolina Panthers, 24-10, to win Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
That was the peak for Kubiak, who coached Denver to a 9-7 record in 2016 then stepped aside, citing health reasons. The Broncos have not been to the playoffs since that Super Bowl win with Peyton Manning at quarterback, and have not had a winning season since Kubiak’s swansong.
Looking ahead to the 2023 season, the Broncos playoff chances are 33.3% at DraftKings Colorado to bounce back and make the playoffs with their new coach.
Colorado Avalanche: Bob Hartley, 1998-99
The question of the best first-year coach in Avalanche history is a bit complicated.
The best regular season for a hockey coaching debut in Denver belongs to Patrick Roy, whose Avs piled up 112 points on their way to the top spot in the Central Division and the third-best record in the NHL in 2013-14. However, Colorado was stunned by Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs, and the postseason is ultimately how NHL coaches are judged.
So that’s why Hartley gets the nod over Roy and Tony Granato, who took over for Hartley partway into the 2002-03 season and led the Avs to 100 points in his first full season of 2003-04.
Hartley led Colorado to 98 points in 1998-99, good for first place in the Northwest Division. The team then knocked off San Jose in six games and archrival Detroit in six games in the first two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs. Colorado lost to Dallas in seven games in the conference final.
One more odd factor here: The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in their first season in Denver, 1995-96. However, that was Marc Crawford’s second season as the franchise’s head coach – his first season was 1994-95, the franchise’s last season playing in Quebec City as the Quebec Nordiques – so his triumph does not count as a first-year feat.
Colorado, the defending Stanley Cup champion, is +750 at FanDuel Colorado Sportsbook to win it all for the second year in a row.
Colorado Rockies: Bud Black, 2017
The Rockies, to put it mildly, don’t quite have the track record of playoff glory that the Broncos and Avalanche do. Colorado’s MLB team entered the National League in 1993 and after 30 seasons the Rockies have recorded just five playoff appearances and one pennant.
The only manager to guide Denver’s baseball team to the postseason in his first full year is Bud Black.
In 2017, after Black replaced Walt Weiss as manager, the Rockies finished 87-75, third in the NL West and 17 games behind the division champion Los Angeles Dodgers. However, that was good enough for a Wild Card berth as Colorado finished one game ahead of Milwaukee for the final NL playoff spot. The Rockies lost to the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks 11-8 in the Wild-Card game on Oct. 4.
The Rockies were better in 2018, going 91-72 and reaching the NL Division Series before being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in the best-of-five NLDS. Black is still Colorado’s manager and enters the 2023 season with a .479 record and two playoff appearances for the Rockies through six seasons.
Jim Tracy deserves mention because he was named 2009 NL Manager of the Year after taking over for Clint Hurdle, who was fired in May after an 18-28 start. Tracy led Colorado to the NL Championship Series, where they lost 3-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies. But we’re only counting full first seasons for the purposes of this list.
For the 2023 season, the Rockies are a very long longshot, +25000 with DraftKings Sportsbook Colorado to capture the franchise’s first World Series title.
Denver Nuggets: George Karl, 2005-06
Not even counting their tenure in the upstart American Basketball Association from 1967-75, the Nuggets have been to the playoffs more often than not in their NBA history.
What they lack is an NBA title, or even an appearance in the Finals. The 2022-23 season might be one of their best chances; the Nuggets, strong contenders this season in the West, are +800 at BetMGM Sportsbook Colorado for the championship.
They have been to the Western Conference final four times since joining the NBA for the 1976-77 season, and George Karl was one of the coaches to lead them there.
Karl took over partway through the 2004-05 campaign and was Denver’s third coach that season. The Nuggets went 32-8 in the second half of the season under Karl, who turned a sub-.500 bunch into a playoff team.
In his first full season (again, our standard for this list) Karl went 44-38 in the 2005-06 season and led the Nuggets back to the playoffs. Denver went to the playoffs nine straight seasons under Karl, including that partial first season, but only advanced out of the first round once. That was in 2008-09, when the Los Angeles Lakers took out the Nuggets in six games in the West final.
Karl, who last was an NBA head coach with the Sacramento Kings in 2016, is a 2022 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
It’s a good idea to check with BetColorado for the best Colorado sportsbook promotions before placing those futures bets.