Nathaniel Hackett will receive an immediate opportunity to bounce back. The recently fired Broncos HC will be hired as the next Jets offensive coordinator, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The Jets have since announced the move.
This represents a quick turnaround for Hackett, who became just the third head coach to be fired before his first season ended since the 1970 merger. But Hackett brings extensive experience as an OC, having held that title for the Bills, Jaguars and Packers over the past 10 years. The Jets are also hiring Keith Carter as their offensive line coach, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
The Jets conducted an expansive search to replace Mike LaFleur, and considering Hackett’s recent past, this is a rather surprising hire. The Broncos submitted a bizarre season under Hackett, falling to last place offensively despite trading for Russell Wilson. Hackett both hired a game management coach and removed himself as Denver’s play-caller this season, and the Broncos cut the cord after the Rams’ Christmas Day 50-spot.
But Denver experienced a run of injury issues as well. The team lost starting wideout Tim Patrick in training camp, was down Javonte Williams and Garett Bolles by October and regularly played without multiple starting offensive linemen. Wilson also missed time due to injury. Hackett worked with Wilson to redesign Denver’s offense, and the results produced a spectacular failure. But this Jets hire will undoubtedly be connected to the quarterback many thought the Broncos were trying to lure last year.
Aaron Rodgers has spoken highly of Hackett, who held a non-play-calling OC role in Green Bay for three seasons. The Jets are among the latest teams connected to the all-time great, who is now in a third offseason of trade rumors. The Broncos were unable to lure Rodgers from the Packers to pair him with Hackett, but the rumblings about the 18-year veteran being on the move persist. Jets-Rodgers connections will intensify with the Hackett hire.
Hackett, 43, worked as Doug Marrone‘s OC in Buffalo and Jacksonville. Both jobs featured play-calling duties. While he was not gifted much at quarterback during these stints, four of the five offenses he oversaw ranked outside the top 16 — three of those finishing outside the top 20. The outlier came in 2017, when the Jaguars made a surprising run to the AFC championship game behind a strong defense and the No. 5-ranked scoring offense. The Jags upset the Steelers in the divisional round, scoring 45 points in that game, and held a two-score lead on the Patriots in the second half the following week. Jacksonville reached that stage despite losing Allen Robinson early in the season. The team crashed back to earth in 2018, with Blake Bortles regressing and Hackett being fired. But Hackett landed the Green Bay job soon after.
The Jets were the only team to interview Hackett for their OC gig this year. The Jets will now have employed both Nathaniel and Paul Hackett as OC; the elder Hackett worked in this role from 2001-04. Hackett and Robert Saleh were also on the Jaguars’ staff together in 2016, when the current Jets HC coached Jacksonville’s linebackers.
The Jets are placing a bet Wilson and the Broncos’ spate of injuries were the cause of Hackett’s shortcomings and/or that Hackett’s presence will appeal to Rodgers, who should have multiple suitors. The Packers have not committed to trading Rodgers, but GM Brian Gutekunst did say Jordan Love is ready to start. Jets owner Woody Johnson was in place when the team traded for Brett Favre before his age-39 season back in 2008. Rodgers turned 39 last month. Even if Rodgers is not bound for the Big Apple, the Jets should be expected to acquire a veteran passer. Johnson said he is prepared to pay up for one, after the team’s Zach Wilson experiment busted early. Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo are also set to be available, complicating a Rodgers path that may take longer to form.
The Titans axed Carter when they jettisoned OC Todd Downing this month. Carter served as Tennessee’s O-line coach for the past five seasons; that time overlaps entirely with Derrick Henry‘s surge and the team’s run of solid play with Ryan Tannehill. Other teams pursued Carter, SNY’s Connor Hughes tweets, but he will go with Hackett to New York.