FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets ended their two-week search for an offensive coordinator, hiring former Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett on Thursday -- a move that adds to the already intense speculation about a potential Aaron Rodgers trade.
Coach Robert Saleh said Hackett is a "home run" hire for the Jets. Rodgers could make it a grand slam.
Hackett, who replaces Mike LaFleur, developed a good relationship with Rodgers while serving as the Green Bay Packers' coordinator from 2019 to 2021. Rodgers' future in Green Bay is uncertain and the Jets are "committed" to acquiring a veteran quarterback, Saleh told reporters.
It's not hard to connect the dots, though Saleh claimed he didn't discuss Rodgers -- or any available quarterbacks -- in his interview with Hackett. That process begins next week, he said.
"It's all surface-level stuff because it doesn't matter what the connections are," Saleh said. "Everybody has a connection to everybody in this league."
Saleh interviewed more than 15 candidates for the position, opting for Hackett because he's a seasoned coordinator and playcaller whom he knows from their two years together on the Jacksonville Jaguars' staff (2015-2016). Saleh said he preferred an experienced playcaller; LaFleur was a first-timer when he was hired in 2021. Hackett inherits an offense that failed to score a touchdown in the final three games.
Hackett is a polarizing hire because he's coming off an abbreviated and disastrous run as the Broncos' head coach.
He didn't make it through one season, as he was fired Dec. 26 with a 4-11 record. Under Hackett, the Broncos averaged only 15.5 points per game, their lowest total since 1966. His brief tenure was marked by the sharp decline of quarterback Russell Wilson and criticism for his game-management decisions. Late in the year, he yielded the playcalling to quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak, who also interviewed for the Jets' vacancy.
"You have to own it," Saleh said of Hackett's time in Denver. "It's part of the résumé and I get it. But you have to have the discipline to look past recency bias. You have to be able to look past whatever you want to call Denver. But the fact of the matter is, he got to Denver -- and he had that opportunity -- because of his life's work as an offensive coordinator."
Prior to Denver and Green Bay, where he wasn't the playcaller, Hackett was the offensive coordinator for the Jaguars (2017-2018) and the Buffalo Bills (2013-2014). In six seasons as a playcaller, only once did he have a top-10 offense -- the 2017 Jaguars, with Blake Bortles at quarterback. He was the coordinator on four playoff teams, including three with the Packers.
Hackett has a distant connection to the Jets. His father, Paul, was the offensive coordinator from 2001 to 2004, a period in which he was the target of fan and media criticism. Like his dad, Nathaniel runs the West Coast offense, as did LaFleur.
Hackett took a few days to mull the Jets' vacancy. There was some hesitancy, sources said, because of the unsettled quarterback situation, with questions about quarterback Zach Wilson, and the long-term job security of Saleh, who is 11-23. Hackett still has four years remaining on his contract with the Broncos.
"He could've sat on a couch for four years," said Saleh, making the point that Hackett is excited about the opportunity with the Jets. He inherits an offense that ranked 29th in scoring and 25th in total yards. The Jets scored only four touchdowns in the last six games -- all losses -- leading to LaFleur's departure. Saleh said they plan to revamp their offensive line and acquire an experienced quarterback to replace Wilson, who appears headed for a backup after being picked No. 2 overall in 2021.
"We're committed to finding a veteran," Saleh said. "We didn't get into names. I don't think [Hackett] has studied those guys yet. He's going to start next week. We didn't get into specific names, but it was talked about that we do plan to bring in a veteran quarterback if we can."
The Jets also hired former Tennessee Titans offensive line coach Keith Carter, who was fired at the end of the season. His title will be line coach/running game coordinator. He replaces John Benton, who was fired.
Hackett will help fill out the coaching staff. The team is still looking for a wide receivers coach and a senior offensive assistant.