Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton and former HC Nathaniel Hackett
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Sean Payton Rips Former Broncos Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett to Shreds

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton did not mince words when talking about former head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

The NFL preseason trash talk has begun, starting with Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton slamming former Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett — now the New York Jets' offensive coordinator — regarding his coaching job with the team last season.

Hackett, a first-time head coach with the Broncos in 2022, went 4-11 with the team before getting fired after a 51-14 Christmas Day loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

During that time, a lot of NFL fans looked at quarterback Russell Wilson and said he was "cooked" — a play on words from his days with the Seattle Seahawks, where they were not so long ago urging them to "let Russ cook."

Well, it appears Payton took those comments about Wilson personally and, in response, absolutely ripped Hackett in the process.

In a conversation with USA Today Sports, Payton started off by saying, "I'm going to be pissed off if this is not a playoff team."

That seems like a lofty goal considering the Broncos' performance last year, plus the fact they haven't had a winning season since 2016 while playing in the AFC West with the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders.

"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's (Sanders) there now.' That team won eight games or whatever. So, listen...just put the work in."

Bringing the Broncos to playoff prominence is going to be tough. We know they have a good defense, but the offense was abysmal last season. Wilson threw a career-low 16 touchdown passes, and the team averaged fewer than 17 points per game.

Another criticism of Wilson was his ability in the pocket. He was sacked 55 times last season.

"Man, we ran that kid through the car wash a hundred times now," Payton said of Wilson and questions about how this coach-quarterback dynamic will play out. "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."

To make matters potentially worse for the Broncos, Wilson signed a monstrous, five-year, $245 million deal.

Sean Payton Rips Nathaniel Hackett

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton walks around at practice.

Photo from Getty Images

Payton sees things about Wilson a bit differently than NFL fans, though.

"Oh, man," Payton began. "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."

Ouch. Shots were fired at Hackett there, but he wasn't done.

"Everything I heard about last season, we're doing the opposite," Payton said.

"That was a message," Payton said. "They can only beat the (expletive) out of you so much. 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."

The Broncos made several gaffes last year, including during a 17-16 loss against the Seahawks in Hackett's first-ever game as a head coach.

Near the end of that game, with about a minute to go, the Broncos faced a fourth-and-5 at about midfield. Instead of going for it or even punting the ball and using the three timeouts they had to try to get the ball back in potentially better territory, Hackett let the clock run to 20 seconds, called a timeout, and gave kicker Brandon McManus a chance to kick a game-winning field goal.

Unfortunately, it was a 64-yard kick, and it ended up being wide left. Hackett later said they should've gone for it.

Payton is an accomplished head coach. The Saints won Super Bowl XLIV under him, he was the Coach of the Year in 2006, and the Saints had numerous winning seasons.

Still, all of these things can be true — Payton can be right about Hackett, Hackett is probably better suited for a coordinator role, and Wilson could be out of gas.

We'll have to see — and we will when the Denver Broncos host the New York Jets in Week 5 on Oct. 8 at 4:25 p.m. ET.

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