Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton didn’t hold back in an interview with USA Today, criticizing the coaching job done by Nathaniel Hackett and his staff during the 2022 season.
Payton called it “one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.” He also pointed out that there were “20 dirty hands” involved in quarterback Russell Wilson’s subpar performance last season, where he had just 16 touchdown passes and was sacked a league-high 55 times.
When asked about the Broncos approach for the upcoming season, Payton stated, “Everything I heard about last season, we’re doing the opposite.”
He further took a dig at Hackett’s new team, the New York Jets, who traded for high-profile quarterback Aaron Rodgers, similar to the Broncos trade for Wilson last year.
“It doesn’t happen often where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed,” Payton said. “And that happened here. 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.
“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 [Sanders is] there now.’ That team won eight games or whatever. So, listen…just put the work in.”
Payton also stuck up for his new quarterback, Wilson, and made it clear that he felt he was set up to fail last season due to the inept coaching staff and overall dysfunction within the franchise.
“Man, we ran that kid through the car wash a hundred times now. But that’s a storyline, though. How is this going to look? How’s it going to work? You know what? We’re fixing to find out, as Bill [Parcells] would say.”
Coaches publicly attacking other coaches is a rarity. You see a lot more of it in college football rather than the NFL. However, Payton couldn’t help but be honest about the situation and tell it like it is.
“Oh, man, there’s so much dirt around that. 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.
“That wasn’t his fault,” Payton added. “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.”
In response to Payton’s comments, Jets coach Robert Saleh brushed them off, saying, “I’m not going to acknowledge Sean. He can say whatever the hell he wants. If you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t popping.”
Payton had previously expressed his disappointment with the Broncos performance last season, describing it as “hard to watch.” He also revealed that Wilson would not be allowed to have a personal quarterback coach or support staff of his own in the team’s complex.
Despite his criticisms, Payton has been supportive of Wilson throughout the offseason, believing that a more structured offense and a better “vision” will help the veteran quarterback return to form. He emphasized that Wilson still has plenty of talent left and that the team will find out how things will work under their new approach.
As Peter Schrager of the NFL Network points out, Payton knew exactly what he was doing when making these comments.
Sean Payton’s comments …
There’s intentionality in everything he does. He’s had all summer to chart everything he does out. He sees it (football, the media, the reaction) all as a giant chess board. He doesn’t just talk without a purpose specifically meant for HIS team.
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) July 27, 2023
Interestingly, the Broncos play the Jets in Week 5, with Hackett’s new team visiting Denver on October 8. The matchup is sure to attract plenty of attention given the recent exchanges between Payton and Saleh.
Leave it to @VetanzeTherapy on Twitter to perfectly sum up the entire situation…
Nothing Sean Payton said was wrong.
Necessary? Maybe not.
Unwarranted? Yeah, a bit.
Friendly? Hell no.
But true? 100%
Sean Payton doesn't give AF about your feelings
— Training Camp Mario (@VetanzeTherapy) July 27, 2023
October 8 can’t get here fast enough!