Jets want to get Hackett ‘payback’ vs. Broncos

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Trashed two months ago by Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton, New York Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett finally gets his chance for revenge on Sunday. If you believe Hackett, it’s not even on his mind.

A tight-lipped Hackett downplayed the long-anticipated showdown, choosing Thursday to give only cursory responses to questions about Payton and his return trip to Denver.

The feeling among Hackett’s players is different. Center Connor McGovern believes Hackett was unfairly criticized by Payton, who told USA Today in late July that Hackett’s 15-game tenure last season was “one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.” McGovern said they’d love for Hackett to get “payback” at Empower Field, where the two 1-3 teams meet.

“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.”

Hackett didn’t make it through one full season with the Broncos, who fired him with a 4-11 record. They finished last in scoring, as quarterback Russell Wilson produced a career-low QBR (38.8). Payton said there were “20 dirty hands” around Wilson, suggesting Hackett and his staff were responsible for his drop-off. Payton also was critical of Hackett’s coaching during his one season as a Fox Sports analyst.

McGovern said Hackett hasn’t mentioned the situation to players this week, which Hackett confirmed.

“That’s not the type of guy he is,” said McGovern, who played with the Broncos from 2016 to 2019. “He has put his head down to grind. He doesn’t let stuff affect him. But that organization did him dirty, and we definitely want to allow him to get some payback.”

Jets tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker said, “We rally behind Hack, regardless. I think this week there may be a little bigger chip on some of the guys’ shoulders just because the comments that were made before.”

Hackett had no interest in discussing Payton, who later admitted it was a “mistake” to call him out the way he did. Hackett said he hasn’t received an apology from Payton.

“Let’s put it this way, everyone,” Hackett told reporters. “This game is about those guys out on that field. This game is not about me, it’s about me helping them during the week. I just want the guys to go out there and play a great game.”

Hackett said there are “some people in that organization that I really care about a lot,” but he didn’t go much further than that, except to say he grew as a coach and a playcaller during his time in Denver.

The game would have more juice if quarterback Aaron Rodgers were healthy. It was Rodgers, in the wake of Payton’s comments, who rushed to Hackett’s defense. In training camp, Rodgers said the criticism was “way out of line, inappropriate, and I think he needs to keep my coaches’ names out of his mouth.”

Rodgers, three weeks removed from Achilles surgery, won’t be at the game. Zach Wilson, coming off the best game of his career, will start for the third straight week.

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