Proximity to Aaron Rodgers once again working in Nathaniel Hackett’s favor

Proximity to Aaron Rodgers once again working in Nathaniel Hackett’s favor

The great thing about fall guys in the NFL is they’re interchangeable. It could be a quarterback, a coordinator, a distraction, the head coach, the owner, or Roger Goodell, and usually there’s enough vitriol to spread around. Take the New York Jets for example. They’re one of the most scrutinized franchises in the NFL despite giving the media no reason to expect competence.

Normally, in a year like this, even the strength and conditioning guy catches a stray. At 4-7, and firmly in the Tim Boyle portion on the calendar, the 2023 Jets appear to be an abject failure. The injury to Aaron Rodgers is to blame for sure, then there’s Zach Wilson, and so on down the list.

So surely a few writers will throw a couple jabs Nathaniel Hackett’s way, right? Columnists at The Denver Post took turns whacking at the Hackett pinata a season ago. Quick, somebody blindfold Phil Mushnick and have him dictate 700 words. (But, Sean, how does that vary from his current writing process? I don’t know, inner monologue, I don’t know.)

It doesn’t take a moron to figure out why there’s not equal disdain for bumbling QB and coordinator alike. While I can’t say anyone expected much out of Randall Cobb this year, Allen Lazard is on the right side of 30, and played under Hackett in Green Bay. The latter is averaging two catches per game, and the former has three receptions all season.

I understand that these additions are more valuable with a healthy Rodgers, and you can’t judge every acquisition in a vacuum. I’ll ask this though: Remove the anti-vaxxer, and how happy would you be about any of those three pickups? (Boyle technically counts as a fourth FOA if you want to nitpick.)

Bringing on Hackett was akin to the Giants hiring Jason Garrett after he was ousted in Dallas, and it’s debatably worse considering the plethora of low lights out of Mile High a year ago. However, it takes several failings, independent of franchise QBs, for NFL front offices to figure out who is and is not a good coach.

Nothing about Russell Wilson and the Broncos last season made people believe Hack-Man should be in charge of an NFL offense. The former Denver head coach only lasted four games longer than Frank Reich did in Carolina this year, and meanwhile, it took all of six outings for Sean Payton to perform an exorcism on DangeRuss.

In 2022, Hack’s Broncos averaged 5.1 yards per play, good for 23rd in the NFL. This season, the Jets are at 4.4, which puts them at 30th, only ahead of the Giants and Panthers. Those are the sorts of stats that hot-take artists use to bury the designated scapegoat.

The Rodgers trade took a little focus off the offensive line, which again could’ve been offset by the four-time MVP. So the big uglies might be a reason the running game is bottom five, but it also could be scheme. Dalvin Cook is almost a yard and a half below his career per-carry average, and despite coming back from an ACL injury, Breece Hall is back to full speed. Mix in Garrett Wilson, and it takes real effort to be this impotent.

This is in no way a defense of Zach Wilson. It was in the stars that his upbringing/fall out of the league should feature a season of tutelage under Hackett. They were meant to share a headset, but apparently not the cocoon of protection. That’s only afforded to Rodgers’ inner circle.

Where is the outrage, New York? Who are you afraid of? I mean, my god, the guy’s only played four snaps for gangrene, and you’d think half of Milwaukee migrated to Manhattan. It’s going to be fun when No. 8 returns in body only, and Jets fans have to find another person to pin it on. Will it be Robert Saleh, or Hackett?

Stay tuned to find out, or wait until this fraught experiment predictably deteriorates into a 30 for 30

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.