The NY Jets should have enough motivation in a pivotal Week 5 matchup against the Denver Broncos, as a loss could end their season early at 1-4. Even with all of that pressure, the Jets are fighting for the honor of offensive coordinator and former Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett.
Hackett became one of just a handful of NFL coaches who were fired before the conclusion of their first season, as he went 4-11 in a year where he was expected to lead Russell Wilson to the playoffs. Hackett returned to old friend Aaron Rodgers, earning snipes from Sean Payton along the way.
Payton put most of the blame for Denver's poor play last season on Hackett, ruthlessly ripping apart his coaching. Even though Hackett stunk in his old role, Payton's comments were viewed as out of line. Hackett's offensive linemen are personally motivated to stick it to the Broncos.
"He got thrown under the bus," center Connor McGovern told ESPN's Rich Cimini. "We wanted to rally around him from the start. He's such a good guy...He's a phenomenal coach, crazy smart, and he makes meetings really fun and easy to learn...for him to get thrown under the bus and dragged through the mud, you definitely want to play that much harder."
Right tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker also said that the team is behind Hackett and using Payton's comments as extra motivation. "I think this week there may be a little bigger chip on some of the guys' shoulders just because of the comments that were made before," Vera-Tucker said.
NY Jets players support Nathaniel Hackett before Broncos return
While Hackett struggled mightily, multiple stories have shown that he was coaching in a tough environment. When the starting quarterback has a personal office, the locker room dynamic can be quite odd. Payton hasn't exactly covered himself in glory with the Broncos.
Denver is clocking in at 1-3, just like the Jets, after surrendering 133 points in their last three games and 70 in Week 3 against the Dolphins. If a bad Bears team (who threw for four touchdowns against Denver) didn't choke, the Broncos would be 0-4. Maybe it wasn't 100% Hackett's fault.
Hackett was roundly ripped for a stagnant, rigid offense and poor handling of Zach Wilson in his first few games with the Jets, but he has been the talk of the town after a terrific performance against the Chiefs almost resulted in an upset victory. Will he be able to recapture that pixie dust and win in his old stomping grounds?