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Sean Payton calls Hackett's performance one of 'worst in the history of the NFL'

Payton is intentional in his message, leaving players feeding off his confidence
Broncos Football
Posted at 1:40 PM, Jul 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-27 16:32:21-04

ENGLEWOOD — Don't look for Sean Payton and Nathaniel Hackett to exchange Hallmark cards anytime soon.

Payton criticized Hackett's 2022 operation in March at the NFL Owners Meetings, showing disgust for the special teams, endless penalties and an offense so dysfunctional that players could not be properly evaluated because the team struggled to get out of the huddle on time.

That was a jab. Wednesday, Payton delivered a haymaker in an exclusive interview with USA Today, saying Hackett's coaching performance "might have been one of the worst in NFL history."

"Everybody’s got a little stink on their hands,” Payton told USA Today. “It’s not just (quarterback) Russell (Wilson). It was a (poor) offensive line. It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was.”

The Broncos have missed the playoffs seven straight years and posted six consecutive losing seasons, the longest streak since 1963-72, pre-dating their entrance to the NFL. The offense bottomed out last season, averaging a league-worst 16.9 points per game. Wilson posted career lows in touchdowns (16) and completion percentage (60.2). He received a cascade of criticism for his play, office in the building, social media posts and tone deaf "Let's Ride" endings to press conferences after losses.

Payton offered support of Wilson, blaming his failures on a system-wide meltdown.

"That wasn’t his fault,” Payton said of his 2022 statistical abyss. “That was the parents who allowed it. That’s not an incrimination on him, but an incrimination on the head coach, the GM, the president and everybody else who watched it all happen. Now, a quarterback having an office and a place to watch film is normal. But all those things get magnified when you’re losing."

Payton: Broncos 'want to be seen in a different way' in rebound from bad season

Former Broncos and current Jets right tackle Billy Turner defended Hackett on Instagram. The two reunited in New York where Hackett is the offensive coordinator. Turner called Payton a "(bleeping) bum."

Payton said the Broncos were embarrassed last season. His messaging is always intentional. In a move out of the Bill Parcells playbook, Payton is taking the attention and pressure, providing players cover, while insisting that he will be upset if the Broncos don’t reach the playoffs. This confidence and urgency has not been lost on players.

“(The playoff desire) just lets you know how much he believes in the team. For him to say that after last year, he could have come in with any kind of mindset, and for him to believe in us like that, it shows the talent we have here and how good it can be if we get it all together."

One thing is clear, Payton is running everything. And that Jets game on Oct. 8 in Denver just became a lot more interesting. Payton chided the Jets for being on "Hard Knocks" this summer. It was a bit out of context since they don’t choose to participate, but rather it was forced on them by the league.

“We’re not doing any of that,” Payton said. “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 (Sanders) is there now.’ That team won eight games or whatever. So, listen… Just put the work in.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh responded to Payton in his press conference Wednesday.

“He can say whatever the hell he wants. I kind of live by a saying — ‘If you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t popping.’ So hate away,” Saleh said. “Obviously we’re doing something right if you’ve gotta talk about us when we don’t play you until Week Four.”