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New Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton blasts former coach, staff

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By Jacob Lev, CNN

(CNN) — In a rare critique of the team’s previous coach and staff, new Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton told USA Today that his predecessors had done “one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.”

Payton, who was hired this past offseason by the Broncos, sounded off on former head coach Nathaniel Hackett and others. Last season, Hackett was let go by the team after a 4-11 record under him.

The 59-year-old Payton didn’t hold back on his disgust for the team’s former coaches and their treatment of quarterback Russell Wilson last season.

“There’s 20 dirty hands, for what was allowed, tolerated in the fricking training rooms, the meeting rooms,” Payton told USA Today Thursday.

“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.”

Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XLVIII champion, had a career-worst season in his first year in Denver, finishing with 16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and only 3,524 yards passing.

“That was the parents who allowed it (to happen),” Payton added. “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.”

CNN has reached out to the Broncos for comment.

Payton’s sharp commentary of a fellow NFL coach is uncommon among the league’s coaching fraternity.

He took aim at Hackett’s new employer, the New York Jets, who hired him as the offensive coordinator this past offseason. The Jets had a big offseason after trading for four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and were recently named the participant in HBO and NFL Films’ five-part docuseries “Hard Knocks.”

Despite the big acquisitions and big media hype around the Jets, Payton feels the team will fail to live up to expectations.

“We’re not doing any of that,” Payton said. “The Jets did that this year. You watch. ‘Hard Knocks,’ all of it. I can see it coming.”

Jets head coach Robert Saleh addressed the comments while talking to reporters during training camp on Thursday. Saleh said Payton can say “whatever the hell he wants.”

“I kind of live by a saying: ‘If you ain’t got no haters, you ain’t popping.’ So hate away,” Saleh said. “Obviously, we’re doing something right if you’ve gotta talk about us when we don’t play you until week 4 and I’m good with it. The guys in the locker room, they’ve earned everything that’s coming to them and really excited about what’s going on.”

The Jets are scheduled to play the Broncos in Denver in week 5.

Saleh was also complimentary of the job Hackett has been doing with the Jets so far, calling him “phenomenal.”

“We are focused on us. I get it, there’s a lot of external noise, there’s a lot of people who are hating on us. There are a lot of people looking at us to fail,” Saleh continued. “There’s a lot of crows pecking at our neck but all you could do is spread your wings and keep flying high until those crows fall off and suffocate from the inability to breathe.”

Payton has had plenty of success in the NFL, coaching the New Orleans Saints for 15 years. He led the franchise to the playoffs nine times and won the Super Bowl in 2010.

Following the 2021 season, Payton stepped down as head coach in New Orleans and worked as a broadcaster last season. The Broncos hired him in February after a disappointing 5-12 season.

In 2012, Payton was suspended without pay for the entire NFL season after a league investigation found the Saints had an “active bounty program” during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. “Bounty” payments were given to players for hits that hurt opponents and knocked them out of the game.

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