Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers criticized Sean Payton on Sunday for comments the Broncos coach made about Jets offensive coordinator and former Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett, calling Payton’s words “inappropriate” and “out of line” during an interview with NFL Network. Here’s what you need to know:
- In an interview with NFL Network’s Peter Schrager at Jets training camp, Rodgers said it was “very surprising” that Payton went after Hackett, a longtime friend and coach of the quarterback, in an interview with USA Today published Thursday. Payton said he believed the work Hackett and his staff did with the 2022 Broncos “was one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”
- “It made me feel bad that someone who has accomplished a lot in the league is that insecure that they have to take another man down to set themselves up for some easy fall if it doesn’t go well for that team this year,” Rodgers said. “I thought it was way out of line, inappropriate, and I think he needs to keep my coaches names out of his mouth.”
- Payton on Friday said he had “regret” for the comments, saying he still had his “Fox” hat on — a reference to his time as an analyst for the network last season — and not his coaching hat. He said he wished he had more “restraint” when assessing last year’s struggles for the Broncos under Hackett.
- The Jets will play the Broncos in Denver in Week 5.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
What to make of Rodgers’ comments from a Broncos perspective
Much of what Payton was trying to do when he made comments about the 2022 Broncos was defend his quarterback, Russell Wilson, who received a bulk of the criticism for the disastrous season that included a 5-12 record and the NFL’s worst scoring offense at 16.9 points per game.
“These guys — and I said it to them last night — you guys deserve the best teaching in the world,” Payton said Friday. “We’re going to give it to you. They really do (deserve it). They’re the best players in the world. They deserve a chance. Now, it’s not going to be easy.”
It is no surprise that Rodgers was angered by Payton’s comments about Hackett, who was fired after 15 games and a 4-11 record during his lone season as the Broncos’ head coach. Hackett was the Packers’ offensive coordinator for three seasons before becoming Denver’s head coach, and Rodgers won two MVP awards during that stretch.
“My love for Hack goes deep,” Rodgers said. “Had some great years in Green Bay, kept in touch. Love him and his family. He’s an incredible family man, incredible dad. On the field, he’s arguably my favorite coach I’ve ever had in the NFL. Just his approach to it; how he cares about the guys; just how he goes about his business with respect, leadership, honesty, integrity.”
What Broncos’ players took away from comments, though, was that Payton has a strong belief in what they can accomplish in 2023. Payton also told USA Today he’d be “pissed off” if the Broncos weren’t a playoff team this season.
“Sean Payton is a hell of a coach, and he believes in his players,” said new outside linebacker Frank Clark. “He believes in his quarterback. I can’t say that about a lot of people, but I believe in Russ. When you trust in your quarterback and you believe in what that man can do, at the end of the day, no telling how far that team can go.”
Week 5 can’t get here soon enough. — Kosmider
What else the Jets said about Payton’s comments
Rodgers spoke to Jets media the day before the article with Payton’s comments dropped so he hadn’t had a chance to publicly comment on it until Sunday. It’s not surprising that he took Payton’s quotes about Hackett so personally — Rodgers has basically admitted since his trade to the Jets that Hackett was the No. 1 reason he came to New York. He considers him a close friend and has, on many occasions, raved about Hackett as a person.
“The more you’re around him, the more you realize how special he is as a human, how it is authentic, and he just loves ball and loves teaching,” Rodgers said at the start of training camp.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb — who also played for Hackett with the Packers — took a shot at Payton for his comments in an ESPN Radio interview, too, saying “you talking about the Bounty-gate coach?”
Jets coach Robert Saleh had some words for Payton when the article came out on Thursday too. Initially opting to take the high road — before going deeper into his feelings about another coach talking trash about both the Jets trying to “win the offseason” and Hackett.
Here was Saleh’s full quote on Payton:
“Well, I’m not going to acknowledge Sean on that. He’s been in the league a while, he can say whatever the hell he wants, but as far as what we have going on here. I can live by the saying ‘if you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t poppin, so hate away.’ Obviously, we’re doing something right if you got to talk about us when we don’t play until Week (Five), and I’m good with it. The guys in our locker room, they’ve earned everything that’s coming to them and really excited about what’s going on.
“I think Hackett’s doing a phenomenal job here. The coaching staff is doing a phenomenal job and we’re focused on us. I get it, there’s a lot of external noise. There’s a lot of people who are hating on us. There’s a lot of people looking for us to fail. There’s a lot of crows pecking at our neck, but all you can do is spread your wings, keep flying high until those crows fall off and suffocate from the inability to breathe. It’s a whole other analogy I’ll get into later, but we’re really, really, really excited about the group we have, the coaching that’s going on, but I’m going to keep our focus on us and making sure that we’re prepared every single day to do the best we can and learn from our past and grow with every moment that we have.” — Rosenblatt
(Photo: Rich Schultz / Getty Images)