Nathaniel Hackett will return to Denver with the Jets on Sunday, in his first appearance there since he was fired with a 4-11 record as the Broncos’ head coach last season.
For the Jets’ offensive coordinator, it also will be the first time facing Sean Payton after the new Broncos coach ripped Hackett over the summer for doing “what might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”
“From whatever was said in training camp, in a football life, that was like 20 years ago,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “That’s a non-topic, but obviously it is going to be a personal feel to go back.
“I think [Hackett] understands, coach’s kid and going through this process, he will know how to handle himself. He will know how to keep his emotions in check and to make sure we do what’s best for this organization and this team with how it stands now. I fully expect him to be perfectly fine and levelheaded.”
In July, Hackett said that Payton broke “the code” of not ripping other coaches in a USA Today story.
Payton also singled out the Jets in that USA Today story as the latest NFL team “trying to win the offseason” after acquiring since-injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers and participating in “Hard Knocks” on HBO during training camp.
The four-time MVP, who is sidelined with a torn left Achilles, defended Hackett — his former offensive coordinator with the Packers — from Payton’s criticism.
“I think it was way out of line, inappropriate, and I think he needs to keep my coaches’ names out of his mouth,” Rodgers said in July.
Payton was more complimentary Monday about the Jets, who dropped a tight 23-20 loss Sunday night to the Chiefs with Zach Wilson at quarterback. Both teams enter Sunday’s game with 1-3 records, after the Broncos defeated the Bears in Week 4.
“They’ve obviously gone through an injury at quarterback,” Payton said of the Jets. “They’re playing outstanding in the kicking game and on defense.
“Offensively, Sunday night, you saw a much better team in a big moment. They had some brutally tough calls down the stretch. This is a good football team. You can see it on tape; you can see it when you watch them play. That’s where our focus will be this week.”