ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton has said he doesn't want his team to look in the rearview mirror, but Payton took a long gaze back in an interview with USA Today Sports that posted Thursday.
In an expansive mood, Payton called the work Nathaniel Hackett and his staff did with the 2022 Broncos "one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL" and said there were "20 dirty hands" around quarterback Russell Wilson's career-worst season that included just 16 touchdown passes and a league-high 55 sacks.
Ultimately, Payton summed it up with "everything I heard about last season, we're doing the opposite."
Payton also took aim at Hackett's new employer -- the New York Jets -- where Hackett is offensive coordinator and the team traded for a high-profile quarterback in Aaron Rodgers much like the Broncos had traded for Wilson last year.
"It doesn't happen often where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed," Payton told USA Today. "And that happened here. Part of it was their own fault, relative to spending so much [expletive] time trying to win the offseason -- the PR, the pomp and circumstance, marching people around and all this stuff.
"We're not doing any of that. The Jets did that this year. You watch. 'Hard Knocks,' all of it. I can see it coming. Remember when [former Washington owner] Dan Snyder put that Dream Team together? I was at the Giants [in 2000]. I was a young coach. I thought, 'How are we going to compete with them? Deion [Sanders is] there now.' That team won eight games or whatever. So, listen ... just put the work in."
The Broncos will play the Jets in Week 5, hosting Hackett's new team on Oct. 8.
"I'm not going acknowledge Sean. He's been in the league for a while, he can say whatever the hell he wants," Jets coach Robert Saleh said Thursday. "As far as what we have going on here, I kind of live by the saying, 'If you ain't got no haters, you ain't popping.' So hate away."
"Obviously, we're doing something right if you've got to talk about us when we don't play you until [Week 5]. And I'm good with it, but the guys in our locker room, they've earned everything that's coming to them. I'm really excited about what's going on. I think Hackett is doing a phenomenal job here and the coaching staff is doing a phenomenal job. We're focused on us. I get it. There's a lot of external noise. There's a lot of people hating on us. There's a lot of people looking for us to fail. There's a lot of crows pecking at our neck. All you can do is spread your wings and keep flying high until those crows fall off and suffocate from the inability to breathe."
Payton has been offered plenty of opportunities to talk about Wilson's and the Broncos' performance multiple times locally. The strongest comments he had made were that the offense as well as the team's play overall in the 5-12 season was "hard to watch" and that Wilson would not be allowed to have a personal quarterback coach or other support staff of his own in the team's complex.
Payton also made his comments to USA Today after he had deflected multiple questions about Wilson to more than 50 members of local media just minutes before. Payton is not scheduled to speak after Thursday's practice but will after Friday's session.
Payton has supported Wilson throughout the offseason and has offered that more structure and a better "vision" on offense will help the 12th-year veteran return to form. He told USA Today that Wilson "has plenty of gas left in the tank" and added:
"Man, we ran that kid through the car wash a hundred times now. But that's a storyline, though. How is this going to look? How's it going to work? You know what? We're fixing to find out, as Bill [Parcells] would say."
And on Hackett's and general manager George Paton's treatment of Wilson, Payton told USA Today:
"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," Payton added. "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."
Asked by ESPN's Dianna Russini whether he wanted to clarify any of his comments, Payton said he is just sticking up for his players, who he believes deserved better.
ESPN's Rich Cimini contributed to this report.