Remember when during the 2022 NFL regular season, the Denver Broncos, who held multiple primetime TV spots, were the laughingstock of the league?
Apparently not everyone does.
Last week, new Broncos coach Sean Payton went scorched earth in an interview with USA Today, in which he slammed every aspect of the previous season for the team. Not only did he refer to the previous staff as one of the worst in NFL history, he also didn’t hold much back about people still walking through team headquarters.
That’s just who Sean Payton is. He’s an old-school, no-nonsense, Bill Parcells understudy and at times can be crass. Since his comments were made public, he has walked them back some, admitting he crossed a line.
And he may have done so. Yet, multiple things can be true at once. Should Sean Payton have publicly called out another head coach through a reporter? Probably not. Was it unprofessional? For sure. Was Nathaniel Hackett a complete failure and embarrassment to the Denver Broncos franchise and to everyone who was forced to watch his primetime performances? Absolutely.
Yet, today, in the year of our Lord 2023, it is apparently prohibited from acknowledging the accuracy of the past.
Since his comments, New York Jets’ QB and the man who is arguably the sole reason Hackett was even considered for a head coaching position, Aaron Rodgers, lazily channeled Will Smith when referring to Payton as “insecure” and to keep Hackett’s “name out of his mouth”.
That is especially rich coming from Rodgers, who spent the entirety of last season going on Pat McAfee’s podcast to trash anyone and everyone he felt wronged him while spending the rest of the time essentially being an internet troll.
Yet, Rodgers’ response had many in the national media reacting with a “take that!” attitude towards Payton, who dared be overly critical of the mess that took place before he arrived.
The New York media especially seems to be overly coddling of the new offensive “play caller” since the ordeal, as Hackett has been made out to be some lovable goof in an 80s comedy. Jets wide receiver Allen Lazard talked about how fun it was being around Hackett and his ability to make players make animal noises.
Here, however, is the reality behind the new NFL media darling. He made the bizarre decision to not play any starters in preseason despite this being the first time these players and his game plan would meet one another.
He opted for a 65-yard field goal after refusing (forgetting?) to call timeout in week one of last season, losing in embarrassing fashion.
He spent every loss with the same opening, “It starts with me”, but he never made any changes or adjustments.
He literally had to hire someone to help him learn how to game plan.
He was so bad and had such a historically bad offense, that he eventually not only surrendered game planning duties, but offensive play calling as well and eventually had nothing more to do.
This was a historically bad coach, just as Sean Payton said, who was hired after the team general manager had a fun time eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas with them.
Was Sean Payton overstepping when he broke the so-called coach’s code? In that circle, sure. Is Hackett a decent human being who likely is fully aware of his failings? Highly likely.
Yet, the rush to defense of Hackett and vilification of Payton reeks of revisionist history. Payton is a hard-nosed, no-BS type of guy while Hackett proved to be more in over his head than a toddler operating a fire hose.
Is it fair to criticize Payton? Of course. Is it fair to ignore what actually happened on the field in 2022 and make Nathaniel Hackett into some sort of innocent victim? For Broncos Country and anyone else forced to watch the team in 2022, the answer should be an emphatic HELL no.
See you in week five, coach.
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