Broncos HC Sean Payton Blames Nathaniel Hackett for Team’s 2022 Struggles

Sean Payton

Getty Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton fielding questions during his introductory press conference.

The 2022 season was one of the most embarrassing years — arguably the most embarrassing — seen from the Denver Broncos, and there was plenty of blame to go around.

Sean Payton, the team’s new head coach, pinned much of the blame on former head coach Nathaniel Hackett and his staff, according to a July 27 story by USA Today’s Jarrett Bell.

“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.”

Hackett, in his first NFL head coaching job, was fired after just 15 games, and the Broncos finished the season 5-12.

“It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was.”

Payton, who won a Super Bowl in 2010 with the New Orleans Saints, has made it known that he’s running the show this season and nobody is going to get in his way.

“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,” Payton said. “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.”

And the Broncos can expect to work a lot harder at this year’s training camp, according to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold.

“Hackett tried to dial things back as far as things could be dialed back … with a safety-first mindset,” Legwold wrote in a story published July 24. “Payton says he plans on upping the tempo and physicality of practices.”

Denver’s QB Is Not Washed Up: Payton

In 2022, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson had a career lows in passing touchdowns (16) and completion percentage (60.5), and many people figured that Wilson, 34, was on the decline. Some in the media started questioning Wilson’s legacy, discussing whether if he’s even a future Hall of Famer anymore.

“Had he retired before the start of this season instead of suiting up for Denver, I think he’d be a first-ballot lock,” wrote Seattle Times columnist Dan Calkins in December 2022. “Should he be punished for his nosedive since? … Not even his most vocal critics could have predicted this. He’s playing a mile above the sea but a mile below the gold standard.”

Payton, on the other hand, still thinks Wilson can play. “He’s still got gas in the tank,” he told Bell, pointing to what he’d seen in offseason workouts.

He suggested Wilson’s worst NFL season was not all his own doing.

“There’s so much dirt around that,” Payton told Bell. “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.”

Payton said Wilson’s personal quarterback coach, Jake Heaps, would not be allowed in the team facility this season. The team already has a quarterbacks coach and an offensive coordinator to work with Wilson.

“That’s not an incrimination on him, but an incrimination on the head coach, the GM, the president and everybody else who watched it all happen,” Payton said. “Now, a quarterback having an office and a place to watch film is normal. But all those things get magnified when you’re losing. And that other stuff, I’ve never heard of it. We’re not doing that.”

Sean Payton Sees Denver as a Playoff Team

The Broncos have not appeared in a playoff game since the 2016 Super Bowl and are the only team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl and miss the playoffs for the next seven seasons.

Payton has set expectations high for this team in just his first season.

“I’m going to be pissed off if this is not a playoff team,” Payton said. “Winning, it’s the salve for the whole organization. Makes everyone feel better.”

In 2006, Payton took over as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints with a previous record of 3-13. In his first season as the man in charge, Payton’s Saints won 10 games and made it to the NFC Championship before losing to the Chicago Bears.

“We’re going to learn how rewarding it is to play for each other, compete for each other, rather than for ourselves. And I expect us to think playoffs,” he said. “Everything I heard about last season, we’re doing the opposite.”

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