Aaron Rodgers’ Jets reset a welcome change from his endless cycle of near-misses with Packers


The greatest thing about the NFL is Aaron Rodgers did not need to leave the smallest market in American major-league sports for the nation’s biggest city in order to become rich, famous or successful. He has been a Super Bowl champion, a spokesperson for the nation’s largest insurance company and beneficiary of a contract that was to pay him an average of $50 million per year to play quarterback.

All of that was in Green Bay, population 320,000, roughly the size of Midtown Manhattan alone.

Rodgers, in fact, will make considerably less money playing for the New York Jets. He needs to be here, though, or somewhere else – anywhere but in Green Bay. Because the Aaron Rodgers story needed a reboot more desperately than the “Real Housewives”.

Rodgers’ narrative was so tired he managed to be boring even while advocating for legalization of magic mushrooms and psychedelic tea, embarking on a “darkness retreat”, ritually breaking up with celebrities and growing his hair to look as though he planned to play “MMMBop” in a Hanson cover band.

Packers were on repeat with Aaron Rodgers

Every Packers season for years had been the same. Rodgers complained about the weapons his offense allowed to leave for elsewhere and failed to adequately replace. Rodgers complained about his coaches. Rodgers and his undesirable coaches and less capable teammates managed to win more than 75 percent of their regular season games. Rodgers failed to make the necessary plays to lead the Packers back to the Super Bowl.

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He’s been there one time, man. Imagine that. The guy with that arm and those legs has started in the Super Bowl the same number of times as Jake Delhomme, Chris Chandler and Neil O’Donnell.

Rodgers ranks in the top 10 all-time in passing yards, just a few games short of the 60,000 mark. He is the best ever at avoiding interceptions, with only 1.4 given away for every 100 passes he throws. Only two of the top 20 leaders in yardage completed a greater percentage of their passes. Rodgers is tied for seventh in career victories among quarterbacks, and he’ll easily pass Dan Marino and John Elway to stand alone at No. 6 by the end of this season.

In 15 seasons as a fulltime starter, though, with all but three of those including a playoff appearance, in an era when there are four rounds required for most of the field, he has won 11 postseason games. That’s more than all but seven other quarterbacks, which seems great, but one of those ahead of him is six-year starter Patrick Mahomes, whose degree of success always has seemed within Rodgers’ reach. Not his grasp, though.

Things will be different with the Jets. Not necessarily better on the field, although some are predicting an immediate trek to the Super Bowl and the top of its trophy stand. But the mere removal of Rodgers from the predictable cycle of persistent complaint, near-term success, ultimate failure and unyielding regret is a boon to all who follow the NFL for what happens on the field and not the opera beyond that rectangle.

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Energized Jets fan base ready for Rodgers

Jets fans are so thrilled they’ve helped make Rodgers-branded gear the No. 2 seller in NFL player merchandise, behind only Mahomes. Moving to New York offers Rodgers a stage that can fade the memories of so much that has happened before.

Merely winning seven times in a 17-game season last autumn caused excitement among Jets fans, because they’d only beaten that figure once in the previous decade. They haven’t appeared in the playoffs since losing the 2010 AFC Championship game to the Steelers. They haven’t appeared in the Super Bowl in 55 years, since Joe Namath was running things.

They’ve drafted Zach Wilson, Sam Darnold, Geno Smith, Chad Pennington, Ken O’Brien and Richard Todd in the fruitless search for another Namath, in the process passing over such quarterbacks as Dan Marino, Josh Allen and Justin Fields and such players as Brian Orakpo, Travis Kelce, Ja’Marr Chase and Micah Parsons.

They paid a meager price in the trade to bring them the Aaron Rodgers seasons that will mark his 39th, 40th and 41st birthdays: just a pick swap in the 2023 first round that cost them two spots, a 2024 first-rounder if he stays reasonably healthy, and second- and sixth-rounders the Pack spent on a tight end and kicker. The Jets’ draft history suggests they could have done a lot worse.

NFL legend Tom Brady said on his weekly podcast, “Lets Go!”, he perceives Rodgers to be “invigorated” and expects an outstanding season from him. “Well, it’s just there’s a different energy about it,” Brady said. “It’s a fresh start to try to take where you’ve been – to bring all the good and then not bring the tough lessons.”

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Rodgers’ unrelenting public buffoonery, such as the public statement he’d been “immunized” against COVID-19 when he actually had rejected vaccination – that led the NFL to fine him $14,650 and the Pack a whopping $300K – did not officially cost him his State Farm endorsement. But vaxxed (and boosted) Patrick Mahomes still is doing commercials.

Jets fans won’t care, though, if they can see consistent success at Met Life Stadium (and beyond) this season. Their team has been mostly dreadful for a very long time. That’s life in the NFL. One can be one of the league’s biggest stars in a mid-sized Midwestern town or among the league’s worst teams in the nation’s Biggest Apple.

Rodgers didn’t have to leave Green Bay to win. He had to leave Green Bay to start over, to write a story for himself that no longer feels stale. The Jets provide the perfect blank canvas.

MORE: Why the Jets are Sporting News’ pick to win Super Bowl 58

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