New Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton was brought in to fix the most embarrassing team from the 2022 NFL season. There is plenty of blame to go around for last year's Denver disaster, but Payton specifically pointed to former head coach Nathaniel Hackett for doing what he described as a historically bad job.
"They can only beat the (expletive) out of you so much," Payton told USA TODAY. "But everybody's got a little stink on their hands. It's not just Russell [Wilson]. 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."
While Payton lambasted the previous regime for the Broncos' failures, he also threw shade at this offseason's darling: the New York Jets.
"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."
Payton certainly called his shot, saying the Jets may have put too much into the PR side of winning the offseason. New York, of course, made the move of the spring when they traded for four-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Jets also attempted to boost his weaponry, adding Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman and Randall Cobb, plus Dalvin Cook .
Jets head coach Robert Saleh saw the quote, and addressed Payton's remarks on Thursday.
"I'm not going to acknowledge Sean. He's been in the league awhile, he can say whatever the hell he wants," Saleh said. "Obviously we're doing something right if you've gotta talk about us when we don't play until Week 4 (actually Week 5). ... There are a lot of crows pecking at our neck."
On Friday, Payton apologized for his remarks in front of reporters, and said he regretted his words 40 minutes after the interview.
"Listen, I had one of those moments where I still had my FOX hat on and not my coaching hat on," Payton said, via NFL Media. "I said this to the team in the meeting yesterday, we've had a great offseason relative to that. I've been preaching that message, and here I am, the veteran, stepping in it. It was a learning experience for me, it was a mistake, obviously. I need a little bit more filter."
Payton also apologized to Coach Saleh.
"I think the world of Robert. I know him. I don't know Nathaniel. But at the right time. It certainly will bring more interest in the game when we play them, but that seems like years from now. But I'll handle it the right way," Payton said, via Pro Football Talk.
One player that is well-positioned to share his opinion on this scuffle between Payton and the Jets is veteran offensive tackle Billy Turner. He not only played for the Broncos last year, but is now a member the Jets. Turner took to social media to respond to Payton and didn't hold back.
"Seems like someone started training camp and is trying to soften the blow after realizing what he's in for this season. F****** bum," Turner wrote. He also used the hashtag #BountyGate referencing to Payton's scandal that got him suspended for the entire 2012 season. Turner finished with the hashtag #childish.
It's interesting, because the Broncos and Jets are similar teams in a way. Both have elite defenses, and offenses led by veteran quarterbacks that won Super Bowls at their previous stops, and then were traded away. Coach Payton is hardly the first person to believe the Jets may be overhyped entering 2023, but for him to come out and compare them to last year's pitiful Broncos squad -- that's notable.
Mark it on your calendars, the Jets travel to take on the Broncos in Week 5 this season.