The New York Jets acquired future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers in April for one reason. To snap the franchise's 12-year playoff drought, which is the longest in North American professional sports.
"He's not very far removed from back-to-back MVPs," Jets General Manager Joe Douglas told newyorkjets.com. "You still have someone that maybe didn't play at 100 percent throughout the year (2022) but still performed at a high level."
Rodgers started 17 games for the Green Bay Packers last season despite a myriad of injuries, including a fractured thumb. He threw for 3,695 yards with 26 touchdowns and will be reunited with new Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
The four-time NFL Most Valuable Player earned back-to-back MVP awards and tallied 111 scoring passes and 13 interceptions when Hackett called the plays for the Packers from 2019-21. The duo have a special friendship that could pay huge dividends for New York this upcoming season.
"He's become such a close confidant and friend, besides a fantastic coach," Rodgers described Hackett four years ago. "And I just really, really can't express enough how important he is to our team in so many ways. He's incredible in front of a room, and he brings a lot of great energy that's really important to not just meetings that can sometimes, without the energy, the energy he infuses, maybe get long at times.
The Jets will surround Rodgers with an array of talented playmakers on both sides of the ball. New York landed three players on NFL.com's 'All-Under-25' team, including reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner. The 22-year-old became the first rookie cornerback since Ronnie Lott in 1981 to earn first-team All-Pro honors.
Running back Breece Hall and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker were also named to Nick Shook's stellar squad. Hall was an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate before an ACL injury ended his season in Week 7. Vera-Tucker, a 2021 first-round pick, enjoyed a Pro Bowl-caliber campaign before suffering a season-ending triceps tear.
Rodgers will be tossing passes to one of the league's dynamic young wideouts, Garrett Wilson. Last year's top offensive rookie reeled in 83 catches for 1,103 receiving yards and four touchdowns while setting franchise single-season rookie records for receptions and receiving yards.
"I love Garrett—I mean, awesome, awesome young kid. The whole world is in front of him. He's got all the talent and ability," Rodgers said after attending the team's organized activities. "You need your best players to be the best people on your team. He's definitely one of them."
A year ago, New York's fourth-ranked defensive unit was led by first-team All-Pro defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The third overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the former unanimous All-American recorded a career-high 12 sacks in 2022.
The Jets have a loaded roster but must navigate the rugged AFC East division, which boasts the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and the New England Patriots. The franchise has not won a division title since 2002 but feels that Rodgers is the final piece to a Super Bowl contender.
"We're loaded with young talent. The quarterback spot was a unique process," said Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh in a Flight 23: Ascension video in May. "Quarterback is the most important position on a football team. With this roster, we want to try to put it in the hands of a veteran in the fourth quarter. To have a veteran put us over the top, we felt, was the right thing to do. There's a lot of promise and a lot of excitement leading into the 2023 season."
If the 39-year-old quarterback can avoid injury in his maiden season with the Gang Green, the Jets' NFL odds of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2010 have never been better.