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The decision to tank or not can wait; the Broncos need to beat Hackett and the Jets this Sunday

Atrocious former head coach Nathaniel Hackett returns to Denver to face the Broncos on Sunday as the New York Jets offensive coordinator; don’t let him leave with a smile

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett will go down as one of the worst in franchise history to hold that position, but somewhere along the lines, he started to receive the victim treatment.

Those lines occurred when current Broncos head coach Sean Payton spoke to USA Today this offseason and obliterated Hackett and his staff for what took place prior to his arrival. Payton went as far as to say it “might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was.”

And here’s the thing... Payton was right.

That isn’t to say Payton shouldn’t have a little egg on his face for (a) breaking something of an unspoken code in the coaching ranks by roasting a colleague, and (b) for not exactly taking “one of the worst jobs in history” and starting out 1-3.

Yet, Hackett was indeed one of the worst head coaches in recent league history. Let’s recap what exactly took place under his watch.

  • Not playing any starters during the preseason despite implementing a brand new system with new key players
  • Losing opening game by electing a 63-yard field goal attempt over letting his high-priced QB attempt to convert
  • Scoring 20 or more points just twice through the first 13 weeks despite being regarded as an offensive guru
  • Constantly said after losses it started with him only to not make any changes
  • Finished with the worst offense in football
  • Had to hire a guy after week one to game plan for him
  • Eventually had to surrender play calling duties as well

Yeah, this guy did literally nothing well, was in over his head since day one, did not know how to handle Russell Wilson in the slightest, and his firing was completely warranted.

Yet, when Payton opened his mouth a little too wide, it all of a sudden became the “Oh, poor little Nathaniel, how dare that meanie Sean Payton be so cruel!?” story.

Aaron Rodgers quickly came to his defense, several outlets criticized Payton’s comments while at the same time coddling Hackett as some innocent boy scout who needed defending.

Forget all that happened in 2022 to the Broncos under Hackett’s watch, Sean Payton was mean, and that’s all that matters!

Now, Hackett is set to return to face the team he was hired to lead through the 2022 season and beyond, but as an offensive coordinator. And his play calling has not improved much with a change of scenery.

Through four weeks, the Jets rank 30th in total offense and are averaging 15.5 points a game. Yet, he’s still getting the victim treatment in this ordeal, and former Bronco and current Jet Connor McGovern went out of his way this week to defend him.

“He got thrown under the bus — and then they tried to drag him under the bus,” McGovern told ESPN. “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 Jets are a terrible offensive football team, just as the Hackett-led Broncos were a terrible offensive team, but at least he’s nice. Not sure exactly where “phenomenal coach” and “good at his job” can be quantified, but power on, Connor.

Both coaches have remained relatively mum about the offseason comments and all that was said subsequently, but rest assured both men will be feeling pressure. Payton, however, should be feeling the most.

The Broncos may not win another game after this weekend, who knows, but this a game that is as must-win as it gets from a pride point of view. A coach like Payton, a renowned Super Bowl winner, cannot deliver verbal blows like he dealt only to come up short when it really matters.

And the Broncos themselves, both sides, should remember what Hackett put them through a year ago when they were embarrassments in prime time games week after week.

This one is about pride, both for the Broncos last season, and for Sean Payton this season. Don’t mess it up, men. A loss this weekend is one you may never live down.

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