Jets Made Effort To Hire De Facto OC To Oversee Nathaniel Hackett?

While woeful two-year coaching stretches have occurred throughout NFL history, Nathaniel Hackett is coming off a uniquely brutal period. The short-lived Broncos HC’s rebound effort fizzled four plays into last season, and although Aaron Rodgers‘ presence has effectively kept the embattled play-caller in place as Jets OC, the team does not appear pleased with its top offensive coach.

A report in January mentioned Robert Saleh exploring ways to strip some of Hackett’s authority, going so far as to say the fourth-year HC explored adding to his staff to limit his current OC’s power. It appears such an exploration did, in fact, occur. The Jets are believed to have pursued a hire that would have overseen Hackett on the offensive side, according to SNY’s Connor Hughes. No known hire has occurred at this point.

This shadowy search looks to have been aimed at an assistant HC-type hire, as opposed to a new OC. The latter effort would have required the Jets to comply with the Rooney Rule and dismiss Hackett, whom they hired largely to woo Rodgers in 2023. Unlike the Broncos, the Jets did manage — thanks to the Packers deeming Jordan Love ready to play by 2023 — to reunite Rodgers and Hackett. But the former ended up losing a season due to an Achilles tear. Rodgers’ repeated endorsements of Hackett have almost definitely kept the veteran coach employed.

The Jets actually making such a hire would have brought an extraordinary step, and it is interesting the team would even try this given the NFL’s OC landscape and this type of staff addition’s potential impact on Rodgers. The 20th-year QB certainly wields considerable power with the Jets. Among the 32 NFL teams, play-calling duties either run through a head coach or offensive coordinator. It is not certain the Jets were seeking a new play-caller, but it certainly sounds like they sought someone who could oversee Hackett on this front. With Saleh a defensive-minded HC, guardrails associated with Hackett are not in place.

If the Jets had truly made such an addition, it would have brought another ignominious chapter for a coach whose stock has tumbled since his Broncos stint. Beating out Dan Quinn for the Denver HC job in 2022, Hackett quickly proved overmatched. His bizarre decision to attempt a 64-yard field goal in his Broncos opener preceded a Week 2 game in which Denver fans counted down the play clock, as procedural penalties — or timeouts used to prevent them — piled up. This led to Broncos GM George Paton insisting Hackett hire a game management coach (Jerry Rosburg). A disjointed Broncos season still ensued, as the Hackett-Russell Wilson partnership dropped the team to 32nd in scoring offense. The Broncos made Hackett just the third post-merger HC to be fired before his first season ended.

Jets brass was not impressed with Hackett’s ability to adjust the offense to Zach Wilson last season, and the team’s 10 offensive TDs through 12 games marked the fewest any team had compiled since 2000. The Jets finished 29th in scoring and 31st in yardage last season, putting just about every key team decision-maker on thin ice.

Rodgers’ injury prompted ownership to give Saleh, Hackett and GM Joe Douglas a pass for 2023. It would seem Woody Johnson‘s patience will run out if the Jets extend their NFL-leading playoff drought to 14 seasons.

Saleh is among only six 21st-century HCs to retain his job after beginning a tenure with three sub-.500 seasons. Hackett, who operated as a non-play-calling OC in Green Bay for three years, will be counted on to maximize Rodgers’ age-40 season. Even when Rodgers was healthy last summer, Hughes adds the four-time MVP would repeatedly change a play Hackett called. With Rodgers being just about all that stands in the way of Hackett being axed, this will be an interesting partnership to follow as the Jets hope to justify the 2023 trade for the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

View Comments (22)