The Jets found their new offensive coordinator this week, hiring former Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The move reunites Hackett with coach Robert Saleh, more than a half-decade after the two worked together with the Jaguars. But what does the staffing change mean for the Jets moving forward? Easy: a splashy quarterback change.
A known proponent of the Bill Walsh West Coast Offense, Hackett isn't entirely dissimilar to his Jets predecessor, Mike LaFleur, in terms of schematic approach. Both men have leaned on some of the same staples -- namely quick, horizontal-based passing, and zone-based run blocking. And Hackett found noticeably less success in 2022 despite having a future Hall of Fame candidate under center. So why is he, and not LaFleur, in charge of New York's offense going into 2023?
However promising his ground game may have become, the fact is LaFleur spearheaded an offensive staff that bought into Zach Wilson -- so much so that New York invested a No. 2 overall pick in the QB. LaFleur then spent two full seasons as Wilson's chief mentor, only for the young gunslinger to register as one of the NFL's least efficient signal-callers during that stretch. Wilson, of course, deserves some of the blame. But regardless of how much team brass trumpets the QB's remaining upside, this offseason was always going to be a natural stepping-off point in terms of commitment to the once-hyped prospect.
Benched multiple times in 2022, with his backup eliciting locker-room celebration upon entry into the lineup, Wilson may have a future in New York. But he is decidedly not the present, at least until the Jets can explore any and all potential upgrades. There's simply no other way to read the club's billionaire owner, Woody Johnson, recently calling QB "the missing piece" and vowing to spend lucrative money for a proven star. Or Saleh explicitly saying Thursday that offensive coordinator interviews included discussion of the club's internal mission at QB: "We're committed to finding a veteran."
Saleh's hope, previously, was that LaFleur and Wilson would grow into their roles together, per ESPN. Once the latter logged two injury- and mistake-riddled seasons, holding back an otherwise playoff-caliber roster, the necessity of their pairing quickly became moot. Hackett, again, isn't exactly entering on a bridge of sunshine and rainbows, going 4-11 and overseeing an even worse offense in Denver as a first-time head coach. But he's led top-10, playoff-bound offenses before. And, more importantly, he's a publicly adored friend and former colleague of maybe the biggest name on the 2023 QB market.
Longtime Packers star Aaron Rodgers was reportedly the apple of the Broncos' eye before the star QB agreed to stay in Green Bay last offseason. Denver later spent big to land Russell Wilson, but Hackett's hiring as Broncos head coach initially ignited speculation of a Rodgers move, thanks to Hackett serving as the Packers' OC from 2019-2021, when A-Rod won back-to-back MVP awards. Now, fresh off his 18th season, Rodgers is once again leaving the door open for a relocation, with the cap-strapped Packers potentially interested in a rebuild around Jordan Love.
Hello, New York.
Or at least that's surely what the Jets are hoping. Even before Hackett's arrival, Gang Green stood out as the most logical potential landing spot for Rodgers: the team is assembled for contention at basically every other position, Saleh is a respected voice who knows Rodgers well from the Packers' playoff battles with the 49ers, and Green Bay would be able to keep Rodgers out of the NFC. With Hackett onboard, the fit is doubly conceivable.
That's not to say the Jets wouldn't also entertain other possibilities: the 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo is precisely the kind of quick-strike passer who'd appeal to Hackett's scheme, and at a much more affordable price; the Raiders' Derek Carr would represent a more proven, serviceable starter; as would the Buccaneers' Tom Brady; and the Ravens' Lamar Jackson, should he become available amid failed contract talks with Baltimore, simply has too much electricity to ignore. But it's not hard to connect the dots to Rodgers because, well, they're screaming right at us.
Rest assured, one way or another, that the Jets' biggest change on offense won't just be at coordinator. Hackett's entry may be notable, but all signs suggest it is merely the first step toward a more colorful transition.