New York Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett may not be talking about wanting to get revenge against the Denver Broncos — who fired him 15 games into his first season as head coach in 2022 — in their upcoming Week 5 matchup, but his players sure seem all in on doing so for him.
Jets center Connor McGovern, who said that the team wants to help Hackett get “some payback,” raved about his offensive coordinator.
“He got thrown under the bus — and then they tried to drag him under the bus,” McGovern told ESPN Thursday. “We wanted to rally around him from the start. He’s such a good guy. I don’t know how you want to say this — the opportunity he has — but we want to make the most of him being our playcaller.
“He’s a phenomenal coach, crazy smart, and he makes meetings really fun and easy to learn. So, he’s definitely a guy that you want to play hard for. Then to go to a place that was dogging a guy that’s so nice and so good at his job, and for him to get thrown under the bus and dragged through the mud, you definitely want to play that much harder.”
The Broncos entered the 2022 season with Hackett, a first-time head coach, and quarterback and nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson, who they acquired from the Seattle Seahawks for a king’s ransom in the offseason. They proceeded to go 4-11 before Hackett got the boot.
Hackett’s successor, former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, entered Denver with lofty expectations after it traded a first-round draft pick and swapped a second-rounder for a third-rounder to attain him. Payton then chose violence in July, saying that Hackett’s head-coaching stint with the Broncos “might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”
One way or another, Jets guard Alijah Vera-Tucker thinks that Payton’s remarks add fuel to the fire for Sunday’s matchup.
“We rally behind Hack, regardless. I think this week there may be a little bigger chip on some of the guys’ shoulders just because the comments that were made before,” Vera-Tucker told ESPN.
Prior to becoming Denver’s head coach, Hackett was the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers from 2019-21. Hackett’s relationship with future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers — who suffered a likely season-ending Achilles tear in Week 1 — played a role in him becoming New York’s offensive coordinator, and vice versa.
The Jets are coming off a brutal 23-20 home loss to the reigning Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs, who ran out the last 7:24 of the game after quarterback Zach Wilson had an untimely fumble. The loss dropped the Jets to 1-3. Meanwhile, the Broncos are coming off their first win of the season in dramatic fashion, as they overcame a 21-point second-half lead to beat the Chicago Bears.
The week earlier, Payton & Co. suffered a historic 70-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins. That said, Wilson has been markedly better through four games this season, boasting a 106.7 passer rating (a 22.3-point jump from last season) and completing 67.4% of his passes (a 6.9% increase from last season).
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Which corner will Hackett and Payton be fighting out of this weekend (CC: Bruce Buffer)?
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