Nathaniel Hackett lasted 16 weeks as head coach of the...

Nathaniel Hackett lasted 16 weeks as head coach of the Denver Broncos this season. Credit: Getty Images/Greg Fiume

Robert Saleh picked his new offensive coordinator, and it’s someone with strong ties to Aaron Rodgers.

The Jets hired former Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett to be their offensive coordinator. Hackett spent three years as the Packers’ offensive coordinator and has a tight relationship with Rodgers, who could be traded by Green Bay this offseason.

Saleh said Thursday that the Jets are “committed” to acquiring a veteran quarterback. Rodgers had been linked to the Jets even before they hired Hackett. Those rumblings will grow even louder now.

“That’s all surface-level stuff,” Saleh said during a Zoom call. “It doesn’t matter what the connections are. Everyone’s got a connection to everybody in this league. The most important thing was finding a guy who we felt could continue developing our young guys at a very high level, a guy who’s done it before and a guy who’s had success in this league with a variety of different quarterbacks.”

Saleh said it was important to hire someone with experience to replace Mike LaFleur. He interviewed more than 15 candidates, including coaches in college, and said he kept “circling back” to Hackett, whose father, Paul, was the Jets’ offensive coordinator from 2001-04 under Herman Edwards.

“He checks every box that we’re looking for,” Saleh said.

This was a critical hire for a head coach who probably needs to make the playoffs next season to keep his job. The Jets have talent on offense, but they didn’t score a touchdown in their final three games and didn’t have a passing touchdown in 10 games this season.

The fact that Hackett has eight years of experience as a coordinator, runs the same West Coast offense the Jets do, knows how to build a running game and has “a proven track record of tremendous relationships” with his quarterbacks made him Saleh’s choice.

“He’s got a laundry list of stuff we’re really, really excited about,” Saleh said.

During the interview process, Saleh said he told every candidate that the Jets will look to add a proven quarterback. Hackett will have input in that. The Jets still want to develop Zach Wilson, but it’s clear they need a veteran who can help them end their 12-year playoff drought.

“We’re committed to finding a veteran,” Saleh said. “We didn’t get into names. He hasn’t studied those guys yet, which he’s going to start next week. We didn’t get into specifics on names, but it was talked about that we do plan on bringing in a veteran quarterback if we can.”

Those names likely are Rodgers, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Lamar Jackson. With Hackett on board, the speculation about Rodgers coming to the Jets will only increase.

Hackett worked closely with Rodgers in Green Bay, although head coach Matt LaFleur called the plays. LaFleur and Saleh are close friends. Rodgers also has been very complimentary of Saleh in the past. This week, Rodgers spoke highly of the Jets’ skill players and Wilson on “The Pat McAfee Show.”

As for his own future and a possible trade, Rodgers said, “That’s all conjecture until I decide what I want to do moving forward for myself.”

Rodgers is due to make $59.465 million guaranteed in 2023. Jets owner Woody Johnson has said he “absolutely” would be willing to spend on a veteran quarterback.

Saleh and Hackett worked together on the Jaguars’ staff in 2015 and 2016. Saleh was the linebackers coach and Hackett the quarterbacks coach. He later became offensive coordinator.

In 2017, the Jaguars led the NFL in rushing, were a top-five offense and reached the AFC Championship Game with Blake Bortles as quarterback. The Packers were a top 10 offense twice in Hackett’s three years and led the NFL in scoring in 2020.

Hackett had an awful first year as a head coach in Denver. He went 4-11 and was fired after a 37-point loss to the Rams on Christmas Day. Saleh said he didn’t let “recency bias” affect his decision.

“This is a really, really good hire and really excited about the direction that we’re going to be able to go,” said Saleh, who still plans to hire a senior offensive assistant.

The Jets also hired Keith Carter as offensive line coach/running game coordinator, replacing John Benton. Carter spent five seasons as the Tennessee Titans’ O-line coach. They finished in the top five in rushing three times in the last four years. Saleh, who worked with Carter on Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle, said he was “shocked” that Carter was let go by Tennessee.

He said he believes the Jets “paired up the perfect team” in Hackett and Carter and that they “hit a home run” with those hires.

How Nathaniel Hackett-run offenses performed when he was the team's primary play-caller:

Season, team   Yds. per game (rank)   Pts. per game (rank)

2013, Bills         338.1 (19)                     21.2 (22)

2014, Bills         318.5 (26)                     21.4 (18)

2016, Jaguars   334.9 (23)                    19.9 (25)

2017, Jaguars   365.9 (6)                      26.1 (5)

2018, Jaguars   302.0 (27)                    15.3 (31)

2022, Broncos   325.1 (21)                   16.9 (32)

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