Now that fabled quarterback Aaron Rodgers has agreed to jump from the Green Bay Packers to the New York Jets, the football team’s faithful have a new mantra: Super Bowl or bust!
The Jets have been one of professional sports’ most cursed teams. Even the pitiful Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year-old championship drought in 2016 and the Boston Red Sox who last won in 2004 added three more championships. The Jets franchise has not won the Super Bowl since that glorious afternoon in Miami on Jan. 12, 1969, when Joe Namath led the 18 1/2 point underdogs to the promised land versus the Baltimore Colts. He famously said at a pre-game grid iron dinner, that he would “guarantee” that Jets would win Super Bowl III.
Enter Rodgers, who gives the Jets immediate credibility. He has won the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player award four times and now single-handedly elevates the Jets to the rarified air of Super Bowl contenders.
The Jets have not even appeared in the NFL playoffs in 12 seasons.
Rodgers is the best Jets quarterback since Namath more than five decades ago. The team’s ineptitude at football’s most important position is personified by Mark Sanchez’s “butt fumble” on Thanksgiving night in 2012. The Jets have not even appeared in an NFL playoff game in 12 seasons, the longest current drought in the league.
But now, Jets fans will no longer have an inferiority complex toward the powerful Buffalo Bills with star Josh Allen at QB or, especially, the New England Patriots, who have defeated the Jets in 12 games in a row and 22 of the last 24 meetings. The mastery continued even after Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay.
The Jets last year seemed to be putting together a solid foundation, albeit one that still was missing the key player in the key position. Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner was voted the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year in 2022 and wide receiver Garrett Wilson won the award for rookies on offense, even though the Jets’ quarterback situation was as chaotic as ever last season.
Public Relations Coup
For the Jets management, scooping up Rodgers also represents a brilliant public-relations victory. The crosstown Giants made the playoffs last season. They recently re-signed quarterback Daniel Jones. The team is poised to make a Super Bowl run of its own. Even before the deal to acquire Rodgers was official, the Jets took control of the back pages–and sometimes the front pages–of the city’s tabloids–a true sign of which team has the juice at any given time.
We can understand why Jets fans are ecstatic. But you have to wonder why Rodgers wanted to join the team, given its ghosts and record for incompetence. What’s in it for him, anyway?
There is an old saying that professional athletes are only as good as their last games. Rodgers, who suffered from a broken finger last season, has a lot to prove in a city that can be unforgiving if high priced talent fails to deliver.
The Packers missed the playoffs last season, a rarity for Rodgers. Plus, despite his brilliance, he has been dogged by a reputation for coming up short in the playoffs. After all, Rodgers has “only” won one Super Bowl ring, vs rival Tom Brady’s seven.
The Packers seemed only too eager to let Rodgers move to a new team, concluding he is the twilight of his great career and the Cheese heads needed to begin a new era.
Even with 39-year-old Rodgers lifting the Jets into the conversation for the big game, Gang Green is certainly not the favorite. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, led by all-world quarterback Patrick Mahomes, have gone to the big game in three of the past four seasons. The Chiefs are still young enough to win many more championship rings in the Mahomes era. He is only 27 years old, twelve years younger than Rogers.
For the New York media, Rodgers will be The Story heading into the start of the next NFL season. He is famously curmudgeonly and perplexing. Remember his unpopular public anti-vaccine stance during the height of the fears over Covid-19. I doubt that he would be fun to be around in tough times.
And one more historical note worth remembering. Rodgers is not the first Packers’ legendary quarterback to come to the Jets after the Packers signaled that they wanted to dump him. Favre played for the Jets in 2008 and became a footnote in the team’s bleak 21st century annals.
Will Rodgers fare better? Specifically, will he be able to do what the anxious fan base wants? As Rodgers once uttered during a Packers’ early-season slump, “R-E-L-A-X.”
While Jets fans await next season, there is plenty to keep all New York sports fans occupied in the next few weeks, even after the New York Mets suffered a soul crushing loss after ace closer Edwin Diaz went down for the season with a devastating knee injury. The Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Devils and (maybe) Islanders will be playing soon in the playoffs. The Yankees and Mets begin playing for keeps in late March.
For now, the Jets fans will be excited about beginning the 2023 season. And for once, they have a good reason to be excited.