Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton unleashed criticisms on his predecessor Nathaniel Hackett and his new team, the New York Jets, in an interview
Sean Payton pins blame for awful 2022 season by Broncos, Wilson on predecessor Nathaniel HackettBy ARNIE STAPLETONAP Pro Football WriterThe Associated PressENGLEWOOD, Colo.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Sean Payton was so intent on having the Denver Broncos put last year’s awful 5-12 season behind them that he had a video made showing a 2022 Ford Bronco with its rearview and side mirrors removed.
Clearly those mirrors were no longer missing this week when he excoriated his predecessor, Nathaniel Hackett, and lashed into Hackett’s new team, the New York Jets, in an interview with USA Today’s Jarrett Bell that was posted Thursday.
Payton, who’s returning to the sideline after a year’s sabbatical, called the work Hackett and his staff did in Denver last season “one of the worst coaching jobs in the NFL” and said there were “20 dirty hands” around Russell Wilson’s career-worst season.
“Everything I heard about last season,” Payton said, “we’re doing the opposite.”
Although Payton was known for his frankness during his 15-year stint with the New Orleans Saints, his comments came as somewhat of a surprise given that he’s admonished his team not to look back at 2022 and because he had avoided playing the blame game when discussing roster repairs and culture change.
“It doesn’t happen often where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed,” Payton told USA Today. “And that happened here. Part of it was their own fault, relative to spending so much (expletive) time trying to win the offseason — the PR, the pomp and circumstance, marching people around and all this stuff.
“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. 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.”
Payton’s next media availability is Friday.
Asked about Payton’s comments, Jets coach Robert Saleh had some spicy comments Thursday.
“Well, I’m not going to acknowledge Sean on that. You know, he’s been in the league a while. He can say whatever the hell he wants,” Saleh began.
“But as far as what we have going on here, I kind of live by the saying, ‘If you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t poppin’,’ so hate away. Obviously we’re doing something right if you’ve got to talk about us when we don’t play you until Week 4.”
The Jets visit the Broncos on Oct. 8 in Week 5.
Saleh also defended Hackett, who was hired as New York’s offensive coordinator following his dismissal from the Broncos on Dec. 26 with a 4-10 record. Hackett’s arrival helped lure Aaron Rodgers to the Jets this offseason.
“I think Hackett’s doing a phenomenal job here. The coaching staff is doing a phenomenal job. And we’re focused on us,” Saleh said. “I get it, there’s a lot of external noise, there’s a lot of people that are hatin’ on us and a lot of people looking for us to fail. There’s a lot of crows pecking at our neck. But all you can do is spread your wings, keep flying high until those crows fall off and suffocate from the inability to breathe.”
Behind Rodgers, the Jets are aiming to end the league’s longest current playoff drought at 12 years. Up next are the Broncos, who haven’t been back to the postseason since winning Super Bowl 50 in Peyton Manning’s last game, the seven-year streak the longest ever for a Super Bowl champ.
The Broncos’ chances of turning it around in 2023 rest largely on how Wilson bounces back from last year, when he looked nothing like the star he was in Seattle.
“There’s so much dirt around that,” Payton said. “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.”
Payton said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen from Wilson so far this offseason, adding, “He’s still got gas in the tank.”
With contributions from AP Pro Football Writer Dennis Waszak Jr.