Sean Payton takes shot at Nathaniel Hackett-era Broncos, vows to do opposite: ‘One of the worst coaching jobs’

By Kevin Patra, Around the NFL Writer

The Denver Broncos enter the Sean Payton era following an embarrassing 2022 campaign that floundered under former head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

Payton’s goal is to recalibrate the franchise that owns three Lombardi Trophies.

“Everything I heard about last season, we’re doing the opposite,” Payton told Jarrett Bell of USA Today.

Never one to mince words, the Super Bowl-winning coach took direct shots at the previous staff and what they allowed to occur under Hackett’s watch, particularly with star quarterback Russell Wilson.

“Oh, man,” Payton told Bell. “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.”

Wilson, the player who was supposed to get the Broncos over the hump, experienced his worst pro season last year, struggling in every aspect. Payton was careful not to lump the disaster all on the QB’s shoulders, noting, “He’s still got gas in the tank.”

Instead, Payton blamed the coaches and team brass — including current general manager George Paton — for Wilson’s first season in Denver, during which the QB’s personal coaches had access to the facility, something Payton has already vowed won’t happen under his leadership.

“That wasn’t his fault,” Payton told Bell of Wilson. “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.”

Added Payton:

“But everybody’s got a little stink on their hands. It’s not just Russell. It was a (poor) offensive line. It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was.”

In explaining how he is turning around the Broncos by focusing on work habits, Payton took a swipe at the New York Jets, Hackett’s current team.

“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 Commanders 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.”

Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters during his scheduled Thursday news conference that he would get into Payton’s comments on the Jets or Hackett, per The Associated Press, but he did have one message.

“If you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t popping,” Saleh said, per SNY TV. “So hate away.”

Later Thursday, veteran offensive lineman Billy Turner (who played for the Broncos last season and signed with the Jets last week) voiced his displeasure with Payton, calling him an “(expletive) bum” on Instagram.

“Seems like someone started training camp and is trying to soften the blow after realizing what he’s in for this season,” Turner wrote, per

The Broncos host the Jets in Week 5 (Oct. 8). Get the popcorn ready.

Playing in the AFC West, which Denver hasn’t won since 2015, and a stacked conference, the Broncos face an uphill climb to get out of the cellar. Payton remains undaunted.

“I’m going to be pissed off if this is not a playoff team,” he said.

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