FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Without mentioning Sean Payton by name, New York Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett responded Tuesday to Payton’s scathing criticism, saying the comments about his coaching performance last season violated an unwritten “code.”
Hackett said he wasn’t surprised by Payton’s remarks, claiming his Denver Broncos successor has been blasting him publicly for a year.
“Obviously, [the] last week has been a very unique week for this organization,” Hackett said. “I’ve been involved in this business my whole life — 43 years. As a coach, as a coach’s kid, we live in a glass house. We know that. We all live in different rooms, we all have a key for it. It’s one of those things, there’s a code, there’s a way things are done in that house.
“This past week, it’s frustrating and it sucks, but we’re all susceptible to it — the things you do, the mistakes you make. It costs you time on the field, it costs you your job … all those things. And I own all that stuff. That’s a fact. I’ve got no excuses.”
Payton created national headlines last week, telling USA Today that Hackett’s 15-game run with the Broncos last season was “one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL” and that there were “20 dirty hands” around quarterback Russell Wilson. Payton said he made “a mistake,” saying he planned to call Hackett and Jets coach Robert Saleh to apologize.
Hackett said he hasn’t received an apology from Payton, adding that he doesn’t expect Payton to follow through on his promise.
Asked if he believes Payton broke the code of the coaching fraternity, Hackett said, “I do. I do.” He said the criticism was “very expected. You knew it was going to happen. You knew he was going to handle it that way at some point. That’s how it was going all last year.”
Payton, who worked as a Fox Sports studio analyst last season after 15 years as the New Orleans Saints coach, was critical of the Broncos. He ripped them for allowing Wilson to have a private coach and his own office at the team facility. Payton also jabbed them for disciplinary issues and clock-management problems. Hackett was fired with a 4-11 record, as Wilson suffered the worst statistical season of his career. New ownership hired Payton to resurrect the franchise.
The Jets face the Broncos Oct. 8 in Denver.
“It’s unfortunate that it had to happen, the comments that were made, but, hey, they did,” Hackett said. “I’ll tell you, I was probably more surprised that it happened now. [I] was definitely expecting them in Week 5 [when the two teams play each other]. So, I’m almost thankful that we got that out of the way. We all understand the way certain people feel and think.”
Asked about the Week 5 matchup, Hackett smiled and said, “It’s just another game.”
Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers continued to defend Hackett, saying “a lot of people were surprised” by Payton’s criticism.
“I didn’t like it at all,” said Rodgers, who called Payton “insecure” in a previous interview.
Hackett, whose father, Paul, was a longtime NFL and college coach, said the controversy has galvanized the team. He appeared genuinely touched by the support from the organization, saying players he doesn’t know — on the defensive side of the ball — have offered encouraging words. Former players, too, have reached out.
“Everybody has been unbelievable,” Hackett said. “I think that’s something that’s just awesome. It has brought our team together.”