Broncos melt down in loss, Randy Gregory throws punch and Nathaniel Hackett loses control of team

INGLEWOOD, CALIF. — From slamming his helmet to throwing a punch, linebacker Randy Gregory was the Grinch that stole the last pretense of respectability from an NFL franchise that has become an embarrassment to Broncos Country under the watch of coach Nathaniel Hackett.

“Y’all want to know if I hit him in the mouth, I did,” Gregory said on a sad Christmas for a bad football team as he bolted from the locker room after a 51-14 loss to the Rams.

You didn’t need to look at the scoreboard, however, to see Hackett has lost control of this team. It’s not a question of if he’s fired, but how team ownership and general manager George Paton can keep Hackett through the remaining two games on the schedule.

The NFL has little choice but to fine Gregory, and if the Broncos want to maintain any shred of dignity, they should suspend the incorrigible linebacker for repeated temper tantrums.

“What altercation?” Gregory said at his locker when approached by reporters after the game. Perhaps he was confused, unable to keep all his brouhahas straight. Gregory threw his helmet in disgust after the Rams took a 24-3 lead in the second quarter and got flagged for head-hunting on LA quarterback Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter.

You’re a mean one, Mr. Gregory.

We can’t make this stuff up: Gregory wore a bright green Grinch sweater to the stadium. When he changed into his football gear to take the field, Gregory displayed all the tender kindness of a seasick crocodile.

Among 11 wretched losses of this season, this dismantling by the Rams was perhaps the most painful of them all, with Russell Wilson throwing three interceptions and offensive lineman Dalton Risner bickering with backup quarterback Brett Rypien on the sideline.

But when the fourth quarter mercifully ended, it somehow got worse. As players from both teams mingled on the field, exchanging holiday greetings, Gregory threw a punch at Rams offensive lineman Oday Aboushi.

Gregory never should’ve been in the position to embarrass the organization that way. Hackett should’ve taken away his helmet and put him in timeout after the 30-year-old linebacker slammed his helmet 9 minutes and 42 seconds prior to halftime.

I asked Hackett why he didn’t bench Gregory at that moment.

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