The Jets are just a quarterback away was a very common refrain this offseason, both before and after the team traded for Aaron Rodgers, paying a hefty price to secure the services of the former Packers quarterback. The hype built throughout the offseason, growing even louder during an extremely fascinating season of “Hard Knocks” and finally crescendoing with Rodgers running on the field at MetLife Stadium holding an American flag 22 years after 9/11.
It was an electric moment, but it didn’t last long as Rodgers left the game just four snaps into his Jets career. Rodgers was sacked by Leonard Floyd, had his left foot rolled up underneath him, stood up awkwardly, limped a bit and then dropped back to the ground. He would eventually be helped off the field, go to the medical tent and get carted off.
Energy inside the stadium understandably evaporated to the point Jets fans were flipping off the camera or the Bills or The Football Gods or someone. Somehow, someway, the Jets won the game anyway, in extremely improbable fashion.
Rodgers’ injury — which flat-out sucks — more than likely sends the Jets season into a spiral. And if that happens, it’s a pretty exact showcase of why the trade for Rodgers was risky when the Jets made it. This is not a 20/20 hindsight claim, so save your angry tweets for someone else.
When the Jets traded for Rodgers, their season win total was set at 9.5 with the over juiced slightly (-120). Despite that offseason of hype, and buddy was there a ton of Jets/Rodgers hype, the number never even budged once. Rodgers looked outstanding during the offseason activities and was playing the role of leader. The Jets got promising news on Breece Hall’s return from a 2022 injury, They even signed Dalvin Cook, in addition to Packers stalwarts Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Garrett Wilson looked like he might be Davante Adams 2.0. The defense looked filthy and a Quinnen Williams extension only fortified everyone’s happy return to New York in 2023.
And, again, the line didn’t budge. Not once. It was weird. Because at the end of the day, there were a handful of concerns about the Jets.
First, Rodgers was on a new team. Even with Nathaniel Hackett at OC and Cobb/Lazard providing continuity for the ex-Packers QB and future Hall of Famer, he was dealing with a new team in a new city. Rodgers looked re-energized but history was actually against him in terms of.
Secondly, the AFC was freaking loaded. The Jets could win 10 games this year with Rodgers playing high-level football and still miss the playoffs. That’s a pretty well-accepted truth about the NFL in 2023 (although the Chiefs, Bills and Bengals are all 0-1 after Week 1, which makes the Jets’ win on Monday night so exceptionally pyrrhic).
Thirdly, Rodgers’ age had to be a legitimate concern. He’d only really missed time two years previously but at 39, every snap he takes is stealing from Father Time. Not everyone can nor will they be Tom Brady and Rodgers already played a lot longer than most quarterbacks would expect to play, even if modern medicine has dramatically changed things.
And finally, the Jets offensive line was a concern. It was the one red flag on the Jets with which we could push back on the “the Jets are a quarterback away” narrative. And it showed up in a big way during Rodgers’ four snaps. Hall ripped off a long run on the Jets’ first play of the night, Rodgers got pressure in his face the next two plays (one was a defensive penalty) and then on his fourth snap Floyd got behind the line of scrimmage and took Rodgers down. He dropped back three times and was hit all three times.
You could throw the turf into the mix here too — Rodgers’ former teammate David Bahktiari said they would vastly prefer grass to turf (Hall busted his knee up on turf). We’ve seen a LOT of injuries at MetLife over the past few years and it’s concern is far from anecdotal.and after the game, plenty of players, including Hall,
Putting a 39-year-old quarterback behind a questionable offensive line with a questionable home stadium surface (one which was slippery due to rain earlier in the evening no less) and there’s serious risk involved.
Four snaps, a single possession … all that build up for almost nothing. Again: it completely sucks. Rodgers coming to the Jets was ~the~ storyline of this offseason. Clearly the Jets defense is capable of keeping them in any possible AFC matchup. They beat the Bills without Rodgers.
But now the Jets have to run a gauntlet of games without Rodgers — the Cowboys, Patriots, Chiefs, Broncos and Eagles are on deck ahead of New York’s Week 7 bye. It wasn’t going to be easy with Rodgers and even with the optimism surrounding the team after Week 1’s win, the reality is the Jets face a massive uphill battle.
SportsLine’s projection model moves the Jets from roughly a 60 percent chance to make the playoffs to just under five percent.
That dropoff might be too pessimistic even for my tastes, but even if Wilson dramatically improves from his 2022 performance he still has to battle offensive line issues as well. The former No. 2 pick was under immense pressure even after Rodgers left and only was able to run his way out of trouble thanks to his youth and athleticism.
New York’s defense is elite, but Josh Allen gifted the Jets four turnovers. It’s unlikely they’re going to get that every single week even as good as the defense might be this year.
The Jets took a massive swing this offseason. It was a no-brainer, shoving all in with a Hall of Fame quarterback to try and win a Super Bowl. We’d seen it work with Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford, before it failed with Russell Wilson last year.
But there was always a lot more risk in the trade than most people were willing to acknowledge. Unfortunately that risk is now reality.