Nathaniel Hackett fielded several questions about his future as the Jets offensive coordinator during his media availability before Thursday's practice. He postponed getting too heavily into what the coming months look like for him and the offense, soon again to be led by QB Aaron Rodgers.
"Right now I'm getting ready for New England," Hackett said before taking a brief look into his offseason crystal ball. "I think it'll be great to evaluate everything. We've had so many changes. I look at our offense as we missed some opportunities, we've had some inconsistencies, and we've had self-inflicted wounds and all those things. We have to buckle down and fix those, and it starts with me. So I think it'll be good to kind of sit back and reevaluate everything."
But one element of Hackett's current unit, which will be wrapping up their fractured season against the Patriots, that he didn't need to reevaluate was the young talent on the roster that he inherited in his first season as the OC.
The questions kicked off with an analysis of RB Breece Hall's impact.
"I think you look back at that first game and he came out and exploded," Hackett said of the opening-night win over Buffalo when Hall racked up 127 yards on 10 carries. "I think that there was a transition for him getting into football shape, missing all of OTAs, all of training camp, when you could see how dynamic he was going to be. But I don't think I was ready for him to be as productive as he was in the pass game.
"That checkdown he caught versus the Giants was unbelievable," Hackett said about Hall's 50-yard catch-and-run TD in Game 7. "It really stood out that it wasn't just checkdowns that you wanted to get to, but you wanted to really try to game-plan and get him the ball from the backfield. I think he's done a very good job this year and I'm excited for the future for him."
Hackett has similar feelings about his other explosive, versatile and adaptable second-year playmaker, WR Garrett Wilson.
"Somebody told me seven quarterbacks have thrown Garrett a pass in only two years," he said. "It's a credit for him to be able to separate and be able to make himself available for the quarterback. It's somebody that we've been able to lean on and try to get the ball to at times and he's come up big. We just need to find more ways to be able to get him the ball, be more creative."
Xavier Gipson is even younger and less heralded, as an undrafted rookie, than Hall and Wilson, and X has done some promising work as a wideout as well as returning virtually all the Jets' kicks and punts. "Watching Zay, the things he's been able to offer, he's done a good job. The more experience you can give any player, the better it's going to help at the moment and in the future."
The coordinator saved some of his most glowing scouting reports for another rookie who at first slowly and then boldly strode from the outside as a backup O-lineman to the center of the action. That of course is second-rounder Joe Tippmann.
"You look at Tip — he's gotten so much work," Hackett said of the Green & White's starting center for the last nine games, during which he has averaged almost 68 snaps/game. "He wasn't even starting in the beginning of the year, he had to play right guard [after Alijah Vera-Tucker's season-ending injury], so he got valuable experience there. Now he's gotten a ton of valuable experience at center. You see him slowly improve every single game and I think that's all you can ask for, for the future and just for now, so that's been great."
Hackett isn't overlooking the offense's inconsistencies and foot shootings over the course of the season. But it feels as if once the Patriots game is concluded, it won't take long for him to get started on next season, working not only with Rodgers again but also with the young players he mentioned plus a number more who are or will be on the roster in '24.
"I owe it to the fans, to the organization," he said. "Whether it's work harder, work more efficiently, it's to make sure that we're better. We need to put a better product out there and we all know that."