When You’re Not A Jet, You’re A Jet

The New York Jets are now 30 per cent through their sixth decade without a title.  Their only and previous one predates the NFL-AFL merger.  They’ve had a history of bad trades, bad luck, bad drafting and unfulfilled promises for their fan base, which somehow continues to have faith that somehow, some day, before their time on Earth ends, they will return to glory.

Last season, the Jets were moderately competitive, with some breakthrough rookie talent in running back Breece Hall, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and cornerback Sauce Gardner.  Quarterback Zach Wilson regressed, ultimately was injured, and when he recovered was an absolute train wreck.  All they needed was a better quarterback.  Plenty of options were once available.

If this sounds a lot like the situation the Jets were in 15 years ago, you wouldn’t be far off.  The 2007 Jets had just drafted a promising secondary player, Darrelle Revis, just inducted into the Hall of Fame.  They had regressed from a 10-6 season to 4-12, and veteran quarterback Chad Pennington was regressing.  They had some talent at other positions, and drafted well, and were poised to make a run at the playoffs.  But at the time we learned that owner Woody Johnson values celebrity status and the ability to sell tickets and merch above all else.  And so the Jets coaxed a reticent Green Bay Packers veteran who had won a Super Bowl as their quarterback to come to New Jersey, and with that Brett Favre traded in one shade of green for another and came to New York.

As any Jets fan knows too well, the first two-thirds of the 2008 season were tantalizingly positive.  The Jets won eight of their first 11 games and were neck-and-neck with the Patriots.  In that eighth win, the Jets upended a previously unbeaten Tennessee Titans team in Nashville, and Favre was in the lead for the league MVP.  Then as The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz recounted five years ago, Favre was touched by the inevitable Jet aura:

During the final stretch of the season, Favre tore a tendon in his biceps that turned his rocket arm into a noodle. With his legendary consecutive-starts streak still intact, Favre kept playing, but he underthrew receivers regularly and racked up nine interceptions and just two touchdowns to go with a 55.2 quarterback rating in his final five games. A 13-3 loss in a snowy Week 16 game against an underperforming Seattle team was the low point. After going 8-3 through 12 weeks, the Jets dropped three of their next four games and lost control of the AFC East as Favre’s play plummeted. Years later, at his Hall of Fame induction in 2016, Favre told the Newsday that he “was doing more harm than good” for the team and that he should have sat rather than continue his consecutive-starts streak.

And now flash forward to present day, and the Jets, with options including lesser known free agents and potential top draft choices, have gone all in once again on another aging Packer and Super Bowl champion.  They have all but announced that Rodgers will be their 2023 quarterback, and two weeks ago Rodgers took to the internet and via Pat McAfee’s podcast announced that after a couple of days of self-imposed isolation, he decided that “his intention is to be the Jets’ next quarterback”.  The Jets have done everything but change their shade of green to accommodate him, having hired his former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, signed one of his Packer receivers, Allen Lazard, as a free agent and traded a promising young receiver from their current squad, Elijah Moore, to Cleveland, in exchange for draft choices they hope will be enticing enough to Packer management to actually complete the deal.

And so far, all of that ring-kissing has gone for naught, because as of this writing, Aaron Rodgers is NOT a New York Jet.  And the Packers, who already have his backup and apparent replacement, Jordan Love, in their employ, are set to start spring drills and OTAs, and have zero financial urgency to actually make a deal until June, or even September 1st.

As the NFL owners meetings unfolded earlier today, more revelations on the stalemate were announced.  The New York Post’s Joseph Staszewski reported that, from Green Bay’s side, they are effextively following Rodgers’ mantra of “R-E-L-A-X”:

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst shed some more light on the team’s attempt to trade Aaron Rodgers to the Jets.  Much of the reported hold-up around the deal has been about Green Bay wanting to get a first-round pick in return, but Gutekunst said that getting one isnt “necessary” to a potential deal. Gutekunst stated that the four-time MVP ending up back with the Packers is not trending that way but “all options are on the table.” 

Gutekunst claimed to reporters that he was not able to talk to Rodgers despite attempting “many times.”

He was unsure if that would have changed anything, but would have liked the opportunity to talk with Rodgers.

“We were gonna have some follow-up conversations and our inability to reach him or for him to respond in anyway,” Gutekunst said. “I think at that point I had to do my job and kind of reach out and understanding that a trade could be possible and see who was interested. Shopping was never really part of that.”

I know a dog whistle when I see or hear one, and this one’s a gosh-dern St. Bernard in heat.

But compliant Jets GM Joe Douglas is apparently willing to go along with this non-timetable, and took the occasion of the owners’ meeting to triple down–despite the potential of a possible younger option still being out there.  It seems that Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had indeed asked his team for a trade, five days before the Ravens stuck a franchise tag on him that still gives him, as his own agent, the right to pursue a deal.

If someone treated me with the kind of disdain and mockery that the Packers are treating Douglas and the Jets, I might at least explore other options, if for no other reason that getting some shred of leverage.  But Douglas took to the microphones and, as Myles Simmons of NBC Sports reported, took off the table any possibility that the Jets would even consider that conversation:

…(W)hile teams may sign Lamar Jackson to an offer sheet and the quarterback revealed publicly on Monday that he’s requested a trade, the Jets don’t have any plans to go after the 2019 MVP.

“First of all, Lamar Jackson’s a fantastic player,” Douglas said, via SNY. “But where we stand is, it would be disingenuous and negotiating in bad faith if we went down that path. So, right now, we have our plan, we have our process and we’re sticking to that.”

As far as Rodgers, Douglas noted that there isn’t much urgency on getting the deal done now. But the Jets remain optimistic that it will happen eventually.

That’s one fewer suitor possible for Jackson, who remains available to sign an offer sheet — though it’s likely the Ravens would match it.

Joe Douglas was once a Ravens’ front office executive.  He, better than many others now contending for Jackson’s services, could have easily found a way to open discussions.  But Douglas bow works for the Johnsons, who made their family money in part by selling Band-Aids, and appear fixated on using an aging Packer quarterback with notoriety as the Jets.

And yet, rabid Jet fans remain as resolute as Douglas that Rodgers IS the savoir that will lead the team to the promised land.  Were they getting the version of Rodgers that played in 2020 and 2021 at MVP levels at an advanced age that rivaled the renaissance of Tom Brady, perhaps they’d be justified.  But the 2022 Rodgers looked mortal, the Packers finished 7-10–the same record as the Jets–and were only in playoff contention because they played in one of the weakest divisions in modern NFL history.

Rodgers has more than enough money to be set for life, and the Packers don’t appear the least bit motivated to not pay him regardless of where or if he suits up in 2023.  But the Jets need him in camp to learn their system (or at least relearn what Hackett employed while in Green Bay), and to at least try and figure out a chemistry with Garrett Wilson.  Rodgers’ history is to favor receivers he knows, and Lazard has that incumbency.  Reportedly, Rodgers has also requested the Jets pursue older free agents Randall Cobb and Odell Beckham, Junior, and the Jets have already signed Chiefs’ free agent Mecole Hardman as well.

Do you think the chance that Wilson might lose some presence in a Rodgers-run offense is possible?  Do you think he might become disenchanted?  He is 17 years younger than Rodgers.  Jackson has 14 years on him.  I would like to believe that Jets fans might want a combination like that more than they’d want the offense that produced the same record the Jets achieved last season in a weaker conference.

Nah.  Jets fans want to believe he is the second coming of Brady, or even Joe Namath.  Joe has even signed off on Rodgers wearing his storied #12.  But Joe’s a Pennsylvania native pushing 80, and we know all too well how and why people like that think (just ask any Democrat).

I can’t help but love the Jets, and I’m hoping against hope that their obsession with Rodgers is worth it.   But the similarlities between he and Favre are undeniable, and their respective track records are not very good.  It appears that if Jackson is heading anywhere, it will be to Indianapolis, where he can revive a Colts franchise still reeling from the loss of Andrew Luck, and who still yearns for a younger Peyton Manning.

To Jets fans who will disagree, all I can say is–at least I hope Rodgers shows more discretion in who or how he shares any dick pics, or whom he chooses to accept money from, than Favre did.   Don’t expect much more.  And if we happen to see Jackson and Colts in a Super Bowl before we make one, I’ll do my best not to smirk.

R-E-L-A-X?  Jets’ fans?!?!?  Puh-leese.




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