Sean Payton puts former Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett in a bodybag

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Sean Payton didn’t pull any punches in a USA Today interview, as he criticized former Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, while also throwing shots at the New York Jets.

The Denver Broncos‘ 2022 season was a downright disaster. After trading for quarterback Russell Wilson, the team was supposed to contend for a playoff spot. Instead, they finished last in the AFC West with a 5-12 record and fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett before the season ended. Needing a proven sideline boss, the Broncos negotiated a trade to acquire Sean Payton, who was retired, from the New Orleans Saints. Now, he is tasked with reviving Wilson and helping take the Broncos back to the playoffs.

On Thursday, USA Today’s Jarrett Bell dropped an interview with Payton with the season on the horizon. Let’s just say that Payton wasn’t shy in sharing his true thoughts on a variety of topics. One topic that he touched on was Denver’s season and discussed why Wilson had such a down year. Payton blamed “20 dirty hands,” one of them being Hackett. Specifically, Payton said, “It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was”

"“Oh, man,” Payton said, h/t USA Today. “There’s so much dirt around that. There’s 20 dirty hands, for what was allowed, tolerated in the fricking training rooms, the meeting rooms. The offense. I don’t know Hackett. A lot of people had dirt on their hands. It wasn’t just Russell. He didn’t just flip. He still has it. This B.S. that he hit a wall? Shoot, they couldn’t get a play in. They were 29th in the league in pre-snap penalties on both sides of the ball.”"

Broncos coach Sean Payton takes shots at Nathaniel Hackett and the Jets

Hackett’s tenure as Broncos head coach was, well, not good. There was the decision to kill time off the clock late in Week 1 only to try a 60-plus-yard field goal (which was unsuccessful). Then, there were Hackett’s poor clock management skills, highlighted by Broncos fans at Empower Field at Mile High counting down the play clock in unison when they faced the Houston Texans in Week 2. But most importantly, the offense was among the worst in the league. The defense did all it could, but the offense could barely get any drives going.

After a Christmas Eve blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Hackett was fired. Now, he is the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets, where he has once again reunited with former Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Speaking of the Jets, Payton set his focus on them, basically calling them the offseason darlings in the NFL. From bringing up that the team will be on “Hard Knocks,” to comparing them to the now Washington Commanders’ 2000 team.

"“We’re not doing any of that. The Jets did that this year. You watch. ‘Hard Knocks,’ all of it. I can see it coming,” said Payton. “Remember when (former Washington owner) Dan Snyder put that Dream Team together? I was at the Giants (in 2000). I was a young coach. I thought, ‘How are we going to compete with them? Deion’s (Sanders) there now.’ That team won eight games or whatever. So, listen…just put the work in.”"

The Jets acquired Rodgers to be their new quarterback this offseason. It was an area that needed to be addressed, as it prevented the team from making the playoffs last year. Adding a four-time NFL MVP fixes that on paper at least. Not to mention that the team brought in other players this offseason like Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, and Randall Cobb to help take the offense to another level. With these additions, the expectations are high for the Jets, as they are being picked to make the playoffs this season.

As for “Hard Knocks,” the Jets openly said that they would prefer not to do it, but the final decision was made by the NFL. Additionally, the team said that they will not be allowing NFL Films to film players getting cut, which was a big part of the show in the past.

Payton has seen teams that were hyped up in the offseason ultimately not even make it to the playoffs. Will the Jets be the latest example? We’ll find out. But, Payton didn’t hold back when discussing the Jets’ hype machine, and the performance of Hackett as Broncos head coach last year.

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