An unsuspecting matchup between the New York Jets and Denver Broncos in Week 4 is gearing up to be a must-watch game thanks to a war of words that new head coach Sean Payton seemingly started with his criticism of Jets’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
Payton unloaded on Hackett and his first year with the Broncos in an interview with USA Today published Thursday. He called out the former head coach who was fired after he compiled a 4-11 record in Denver last season.
“It doesn’t happen often where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed,” Payton told the outlet. “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.”
Payton also seemingly placed the blame on Hackett and others when addressing Russell Wilson’s dismal year.
“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.”
The message, intentional or not, was received by Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who on Thursday took it as a compliment to his team.
“Well, I’m not going to acknowledge Sean on that. You know, he’s been in the league a while. He can say whatever the hell he wants,” Saleh told reporters during a press conference.
“But as far as what we have going on here, I kind of live by the saying, ‘If you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t popping,’ so hate away. Obviously, we’re doing something right if you’ve got to talk about us when we don’t play you until Week 4.”
Hackett was hired by the Jets during the offseason, a move that undoubtedly helped the organization land four-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers.
“I think Hackett’s doing a phenomenal job here. The coaching staff is doing a phenomenal job. And we’re focused on us,” Saleh continued.
“I get it, there’s a lot of external noise, there’s a lot of people that are hating on us and 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.”
The Jets and Broncos will have the chance to settle things when they face off at Mile High stadium on Oct. 8.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.