Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers defends Nathaniel Hackett, calls Sean Payton's criticism ‘out of line'

The Jets quarterback said that the Broncos head coach should "keep my coaches’ names out of his mouth"

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Aaron Rodgers is sticking by his offensive coordinator and firing his hardest throw of the summer at Sean Payton.

The Jets quarterback was bothered by critical comments Payton, the Denver Broncos' head coach, recently made about offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Payton told USA Today for a story published Thursday that Hackett's 15-game stint with the Broncos last season ”was one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.″

Payton also said there were “20 dirty hands” around Russell Wilson’s career-worst season, and took some shots at the Jets — Hackett's new team where he and Rodgers are reunited after enjoying success together in Green Bay.

“It made me feel bad that someone who has accomplished a lot in the league is that insecure that they have to take another man down to set themselves up for some sort of easy fall if it doesn’t go well for that team this year,” Rodgers told NFL Network on Sunday. “I think it was way out of line, inappropriate, and I think he needs to keep my coaches’ names out of his mouth.”

Rodgers, acquired by New York in April from Green Bay, said Hackett is “arguably my favorite coach I’ve ever had in the NFL.” The pair was together for two of Rodgers' four NFL MVP awards in 2020 and 2021 with the Packers.

During the interview with USA Today's Jarrett Bell, Payton also criticized the Jets being the latest NFL team “trying to win the offseason” — something he said the Broncos under Hackett tried to do and were “embarrassed.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh said Thursday “Hackett’s doing a phenomenal job here” when asked about Payton's comments. He also said the Jets are just focused on themselves, but recognizes “there’s a lot of people that are hatin’ on us and a lot of people looking for us to fail.”

Payton on Friday said he regretted his comments in which he disparaged Hackett, and said he would reach out to Hackett and Saleh “at the right time” to do so.

“Listen, I had one of those moments where I still had my Fox hat on and not my coaching hat,” said Payton, who’s returning to the sideline this season after a year’s sabbatical during which he worked as a studio football analyst for Fox Sports following a 15-year stint with the New Orleans Saints.

Rodgers told NFL Network he thought Payton's initial comments "were very surprising, for a coach to do that to another coach."

Meanwhile, the back-and-forth made the Jets' matchup in Denver in Week 5 on Oct. 8 a bit juicier. Payton acknowledged Friday his comments “certainly will bring more interest to the game when we play them, but that seems like years from now.”

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colorado, contributed.

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