FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — For all the drama and rumors that swirled over the last few weeks, Wednesday afternoon felt like the culmination of a fever dream for both the New York Jets and Aaron Rodgers.
After years of whiffing on top draft picks, the team looked to bring in a veteran option to run the show. In the end, they acquired one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
“This is a surreal day for me,” Rodgers said. “After spending 18 years in the same city…I’m here because I believe in this team and I believe in coach [Robert] Saleh.AP Photos
At the front of an auditorium full of reporters, Jets coaches, and past greats, Rodgers was introduced as the newest member of Gang Green. It appears that from the get-go, he understands the expectations that come with entering a major market like New York City and for a championship-starved team like the Jets.
“I noticed walking in here that the Super Bowl III trophy looks a little lonely,” Rodgers said.
Jokes aside, those are the aspirations that come from having a former Super Bowl MVP and four-time NFL MVP at your disposal.
The acquisition of Rodgers doesn’t come very easily though. After a disappointing 7-10 season that saw first-round pick Zach Wilson benched multiple times, general manager Joe Douglas and the front office vowed to bring in an upgrade.
But it was Saleh and his newly hired offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, that helped coax the future Hall-of-Famer into joining New York.
“The opportunity to work with Hackett again and Robert, I think the excitement of a new chapter has been fueling my offseason workout,” Rodgers said.
With Rodgers, the Jets enter the 2023 season as a true title contender. With a strong core of young players led by First-Team All-Pro Quinnen Williams and the reigning offensive and defensive Rookies of the Year, New York certainly seems ready to compete with the AFC’s best. The team itself had plenty of talent that Rodgers had a first-hand look at last year when New York beat the Packers back in October.
“They smoked us last year so I knew they had a good team,” Rodgers said. “I just had a feel of all those guys [in the Jets front office]. I just believe this is where I’m supposed to be.”
But even with all the excitement and expectations coming to New York, there’s no guarantee that he’ll return for a second season. Rodgers was noncommittal for the 2024 campaign citing his age. But after some prying after the initial news conference, the former Packers star left no doubt.
“This isn’t a one-and-done in my mind,” he said. “This is a commitment.”
Even before his final remarks, there wasn’t any concern from the Jets’ front office about whether their new quarterback would stay for another year.
“That’s the way it goes. I felt very comfortable with what he was saying. He’s an experienced player so we’re good with whatever he wants to do,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said with a smile. “This is a very happy day.”
Happy days can end very quickly for the Jets as they have had in recent history though. For New York to return to the promised lands — a place they haven’t been in over 50 years — the youthful enthusiasm will have to blend well with Rodgers’ top talent.
And the good news for New York is that while Rodgers said he wouldn’t be there for every practice, he would try to be involved as much as possible in voluntary OTAs beginning in the next few months.
Rodgers’ commitment to the Jets should go a long way toward easing the concerns of those wary of how the season could go for a player coming off a down year in terms of overall production. But with the talent level better than anything the Jets have had in recent memory, only a championship will suffice now for the entire organization.