Aaron Rodgers has never been one to mince words. The Packer legend and four-time NFL MVP has made his opinion known on many subjects, from vaccine mandates to the state of officiating in the league to his friendship with former president Donald Trump; Rodgers takes no prisoners.
So, it was no surprise when Rodgers took to the airwaves to blast an NFL coaching legend recently when one of his closest friends and favorite coaches was roundly criticized in an interview. Rodgers was firing back at former Saints coach and new Denver Bronco headman Sean Payton over some scurrilous remarks about former Bronco coach and now Jet assistant Nathaniel Hackett.
Hackett was an assistant on several of the Green Bay teams and forged a close bond with the enigmatic quarterback. In 2022, Hackett landed the head coaching job in Denver, and despite having a potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Russell Wilson and a roster loaded with elite skill players, fielded one of the more inept offenses in recent memory.
After one disastrous 5-12 season, Hackett was fired and landed in New York as an assistant with the Jets. His hiring was crucial to the franchise landing Rodgers in hopes the veteran quarterback could provide the missing piece for a team that is on the cusp of greatness.
New Bronco coach Sean Payton, of New Orlean Saints fame, took over the vacant Denver job, and hopes are high for a resurrection in the Mile High city. Usually a class act, Payton made some uncharacteristically unflattering remarks about Hackett in a recent interview, drawing Rodger’s ire.
Payton minced no words when discussing the 2022 Broncos: “Oh, man, there’s so much dirt around that. 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.”That wasn’t his fault. That was the parents who allowed it. 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. 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.”
While Payton isn’t wrong in his characterization of the events of 2022 for Denver, the way he presented it was classless and unbecoming of a coach of his stature. Payton has long been regarded as one of the best in the business, and to throw another coach under the bus is simply unacceptable, especially to Rodgers.
In a sitdown earlier this week, Rodgers defended his friend and coach, Nathaniel Hackett, and gave a scathing rebuke to Payton: “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 easy fall if it doesn’t go well for that team this year. I think it was way out of line, inappropriate, and I think he needs to keep my coaches’ names out of his mouth.”
Rodgers is famously loyal to his friends, as evidenced by his continued support of Donald Trump and now Nathaniel Hackett. Of course, it is easier to defend Trump, as he didn’t take a talent-laden roster and make it the laughing stock of the league like the clearly overmatched Hackett did.
Hackett will have his shot at redemption, as hopefully, Trump will, but it remains to be seen if Rodgers will do a better job of realizing Hackett’s offensive vision like Wilson and the Broncos couldn’t. If he can’t the honeymoon may be over before it starts in New York.
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