The New York Jets were poised for a new beginning, with the superstar signing of Aaron Rodgers, set to be the quarterback they had longed for – the one to end their 12-year NFL playoff drought. The hopes were high, perhaps even Super Bowl-contender high, with the arrival of the four-time NFL Most Valuable Player.
However, Rodgers’ debut with the Jets turned into a nightmare as he suffered a season-ending injury after just four snaps against the Buffalo Bills. The devastation on coach Robert Saleh’s face reflected the heartbreak felt by the Jets, who had pinned their hopes on Rodgers leading them to a championship this season.
Now, the Jets must grapple with the aftermath and plan for an uncertain future.
Rodgers Begins His Road to Recovery
An MRI scan confirmed that Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon in his left leg, an injury that typically requires surgery and nine to twelve months of recovery. Rodgers had signed a two-year deal with the Jets, which means he could potentially return for the 2024 season. However, his return is contingent on various factors, including his desire to continue playing and his physical condition.
Rodgers had not missed a game due to injury since 2017, and though he was named the league’s MVP for 2020 and 2021, his performance declined last season as he played with a thumb injury. Now, facing a torn Achilles and approaching 40 years old in December, Rodgers will need to contemplate his future once again.
While the allure of joining the elite group of quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl wins remains, Rodgers’ only NFL title came in 2011. The Jets still hold the potential to provide him with another shot at the title next season, as the core of the squad assembled for Rodgers remains under contract for 2024.
Who Will Step In for Rodgers at Quarterback?
Less than five minutes into the new season, the Jets found themselves relying on Zach Wilson, the quarterback they selected with the second overall pick in the 2021 draft. Wilson had been demoted to third-string last November and benched in December after a challenging rookie season.
Instead of being Rodgers’ understudy and learning from the future Hall of Famer, Wilson was thrust back into the spotlight. The 22-year-old has had a mixed start to his career, winning eight of his 22 games as a starter with 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
While his performance after replacing Rodgers on Monday was unremarkable, the Jets still managed to defeat Buffalo in overtime. Coach Saleh expressed confidence in Wilson, stating that “Zach is our quarterback.”
The Jets have also promoted Tim Boyle from the practice squad, but they are exploring other quarterback options. Mike White and Joe Flacco, both of whom started games for the Jets last season, are potential candidates. The Jets may also look at veteran free agents or explore trade possibilities.
Saleh emphasized that while they would consider various options, there is no competition for the starting quarterback position – it belongs to Zach Wilson.
Can the Jets Remain Competitive Without Rodgers?
Despite Rodgers’ early exit against Buffalo, the Jets pulled off an unexpected victory against a Super Bowl contender. Coach Saleh has transformed the Jets’ defense into one of the NFL’s best, as they demonstrated by sacking Josh Allen five times and forcing four turnovers.
Last season, the primary concern for the Jets was at quarterback, and while Wilson is back, he now has more offensive weapons at his disposal. The Jets’ receiving corps includes last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, Garrett Wilson, and the additions of Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard, who have prior connections with Rodgers, could prove valuable for Wilson.
Furthermore, the Jets acquired an elite running back in Dalvin Cook to complement Breece Hall, who returned impressively after a knee injury disrupted his rookie season.
The Jets may have also uncovered a game-changing special teams player in undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson, who delivered the third punt return in overtime to secure the win.
While the victory brought euphoria, the Jets recognize that this momentum will only carry them so far, especially with a formidable opponent like the Dallas Cowboys awaiting them. The win against Buffalo may have provided a blueprint for success, emphasizing a safety-first approach with screen passes and a strong running game to support Wilson.
The Jets aim to continue grinding out wins and keep their playoff dreams alive in the absence of Aaron Rodgers.