Last week, the Jets hired Nathaniel Hackett as their new offensive coordinator after parting ways with Mike LaFleur after two seasons. Hackett’s hiring should bring cautious optimism to the Jets moving forward for several reasons.
While Hackett failed miserably as the head coach of the Broncos in 2022, becoming only the fifth head coach since 1970 to be fired before finishing his first season, it’s important to remember that a bad head coach does not mean a bad coordinator. Countless coordinators failed as head coaches and returned to being top coordinators after their stints.
Head coach Robert Saleh is pinning his hope that Hackett brings stability and experience to the role that LaFleur didn’t have. As a franchise, the Jets have had seven offensive coordinators since 2012, with none of the coaches lasting longer than two seasons. The constant turnover has made it difficult for any consistency in offensive strategy.
One source of optimism that Hackett brings to New York is his prior experience working with quarterbacks. Twenty-one of the offensive coordinators or play-callers last season had prior experience as an NFL quarterbacks coach, and Hackett’s hiring returns the Jets to this league-wide trend. It is a quarterback-driven league, and the Jets have struggled to find a franchise quarterback. Whoever is the starter next year will have a more experienced coaching staff working with him than Zach Wilson had in 2022.
Hackett has also worked in a variety of systems with quarterbacks of varying caliber and has coached successful offenses in multiple stops. Hackett’s roster of quarterbacks he has worked with in his career is headlined by Aaron Rodgers, the future hall of famer who may be available via trade this offseason. Beyond him, he also worked with Blake Bortles as he started his career in Jacksonville, plus a whole stable of quarterbacks during his stint in Buffalo.
The wide-ranging skills of his quarterbacks have led to him coordinating a variety of systems, from the top-ranked running offense in 2017 to the top-ranked scoring offense in 2020 with the Packers. The offensive talent at his disposal in New York could lead to innovative systems. Behind Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Garrett Wilson at wide receiver to running back Breece Hall, the weapons are there if they can settle the quarterback debate.
However, that debate is the key question to the Jets 2023 season. Who will start at quarterback? If they had average quarterback play in 2022, the Jets would have been competing in the playoffs. If they can find a solution, whether short-term or long-term, they could set themselves up to be a force to be reckoned with in 2023 and beyond.