Former Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett spoke to reporters in New York Thursday ahead of his return to Denver this weekend.
Here’s everything the Jets offensive coordinator said about the team he coached for 15 games and its new head coach, Sean Payton, who in July called Hackett’s tenure, “maybe the worst coaching job in the history of the NFL.”
Question: What are your emotions going back to Denver?
Hackett: “Got to go win a football game.”
Question: How did they treat you there?
Question: In the two months since Payton’s comments, what kind of support have you got from the people around you – your players, coaches here, people around the league? What kind of feedback have you got and support?
Hackett: “It’s been great. For all of us, our sole focus is on winning a football game. We’ve got to get better on offense and we’ve got to do our part to be able to score points.”
Question: Are you able to compartmentalize that because obviously it’s going to be a topic of conversation, even on TV during the broadcast they’re going to be talking about those comments.
Hackett: “Sure. That’s how this game is. As a coach, in every single thing we do, you can only control what you can control. For me, I can control trying to get these guys in the best position to go beat the Denver Broncos.”
Question: (Inaudible about Payton reaching out after the comments)
Hackett: “Nope. Nope.”
Question: Did he reach out? Or you didn’t accept the call?
Question: If (Payton) approaches you to talk about it …
Hackett: “Let’s put it this way, everyone: 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. That’s all we’re looking for. What’s happened is in the past. Coaches definitely just focus on trying to put guys in the best positions and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Question: But you are human and what he said was pretty pointed. I know if it was me, this is like your first chance to go against it. Is there any bit of that in you?
Hackett: “Every game we want to win and every game we want to put the guys in great positions. That’s what I’m trying to do this week also.”
Question: What’s the No. 1 thing you learned as a head coach?
Hackett: “There’s so many things. I don’t think there’s just one. I’ll just keep that for me. Don’t want those out there because other people have to go through that experience to understand how to grow.”
Question: Given that you want this week to be (only about winning) for your players, did you address it in meetings so you can sort of get the elephant out of the room and move forward?
Hackett: “Nope. Just got to get ready for another game to win.”
Question: Do you take any satisfaction in that you were roundly criticized for last year and not much has changed this year?
Hackett: “I haven’t really watched their offense. I work primarily with the (Jets) offense. I know there’s some people in that organization that I really care about. That’s part of it. I just want to go get a win.”
Question: When a defense gives up 70 points, which happens so rarely, how much can you take from that game and how much does it feel like to some degree it’s an aberration?
Hackett: “One of the best players on their team is Justin Simmons. I know him being out was something that kind of triggered that, but I thought Miami had a great game plan vs. them. You always look at some of those things and see what you can pull from it. But every game is a challenge and every defense is going to play you a little bit different and might not do the exact same things. So you’ve got to be ready for how you think they might play you.”
Question: With everything that happened last year, (Jets head coach Robert Saleh) has talked about how you could have stayed home. Why did you want to get back right away?
Hackett: “I love this game. You ask yourself why do you do this? You do it for the relationships. You do it to be able to be with those guys and watch them have success out there. Watch Zach (Wilson) grow like we’re all talking about and seeing him develop as a quarterback. That’s why we do this. That’s why anyone teaches. Why do teachers teach? They love seeing the kids grow and gain knowledge and become better people. That’s why I do it and I think it was a great decision we made to come to this great organization and help everybody get better.”
Question: Do you think Payton regrets what he said?
Hackett: “I don’t know. Ask him.”
Question: How much have the other (Jets defensive) coaches been picking your brain about the kind of resource you can be regarding their personnel – Russell Wilson, etc.
Hackett: “A little bit. That’s something a lot of people always talk about — do you have the knowledge of the system? Do you have the knowledge of the player? I remember when I first started, I dove in — not going to mention the team, but I dove into a guy that had been at a team we were about to play. It was funny, because we got a lot of information, got to the game and we didn’t see one thing he talked about. So, it’s a chess game. They know that we know that we know that they know that we all know what we know. You have to take it with a grain of salt. There’s always a couple things you want to throw if you have some kind of 100%’s or, nothing’s 100%, but maybe 95%. We’ve also had to get ready for our game, too, so we’ve corresponded a little.”