Sean Payton: Hackett’s season with Broncos ‘might have been’ worst coaching job ever


Sean Payton did not hold back when sharing his thoughts on the man he replaced in Denver. 

As he defended Russell Wilson in an interview with USA Today, the new Broncos coach said Nathaniel Hackett’s lone season at the helm in Denver “might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”

Payton also took aim though at several members of the 2022 Broncos in the interview, saying that “everybody’s got a little stink on their hands” and called out the offensive line’s performance as the team fell well short of their preseason expectations, going 5-12.

Hackett was fired immediately after 15 games. The Broncos are financially committed to Wilson, who threw for career lows in completion percentage (60.5) passing touchdowns (16) and passer rating (84.4). 


While Payton acknowledged that Wilson isn’t without blame, he placed a lot of it on the people around him in the organization. 

“There’s so much dirt around that,” Payton said when asked what went wrong with Wilson in 2022. “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.”

Sean Payton rips Nathaniel Hackett-Broncos for last season’s collapse

Sean Payton rips Nathaniel Hackett-Broncos for last season's collapse

Payton was hired in early February as the team hopes he can get the most out of Wilson like he did for Drew Brees with the Saints. 

As Payton still believes in Wilson, he told USA Today that his approach this offseason is to do “the opposite” of “everything I heard about last season.”

That included the removal of Wilson’s personal quarterbacks coach, Jake Heaps, from the team’s facility. Payton’s reaction when asked whether Heaps would be allowed back into the building at his introductory press conference in February drew headlines, with some thinking that it was an attack at Wilson at the time. 

However, Payton thinks it was a more of failure of the organization to allow it to happen. 

“That wasn’t his fault,” Payton said. “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. And that other stuff, I’ve never heard of it. We’re not doing that.”

Even though the Broncos brought in a Super Bowl-winning coach, expectations around the team are low entering 2023 and there’s far less buzz surrounding them, too. 

That’s the way Payton likes it, though, saying the expectations and buzz led the Broncos to get “embarrassed” in 2022. Payton doesn’t want the Broncos to be viewed as the offseason winners and took aim at the team that employs Hackett now as he thinks they’re making the same mistake Denver made last season. 

“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,” Payton said. 

“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 will get to go head-to-head against Hackett, who is now the Jets’ offensive coordinator, this season. Denver hosts New York in Week 5. 

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