The New York Jets have always been the embodiment of Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will.
It rarely mattered what decade you were in, who the opponent was, or how favorable things looked for Gang Green. It more often than not went wrong, feeding more fuel to the conspiracy theorists out there who believed Joe Namath might have sold his and the Jets’ souls to the devil for that famous Super Bowl III win.
The green side of MetLife Stadium has been waiting for a Super Bowl title — heck, even a Super Bowl appearance — for 54 years. They’ve been the butt of jokes around the NFL throughout that entire time, including this most recent stretch in which they haven’t made the playoffs in 12 years.
There’s been the butt fumble, the heinous whiffs of draft picks that could have seen them bring on the likes of Dan Marino or Jerry Rice or Warren Sapp or Anthony Munoz or Art Monk, the single-handed sparking of the Tom Brady New England Patriots dynasty, and the inability to develop a franchise quarterback since Namath.
Over the last decade alone the Jets were unable to find a legitimate passer despite spending top draft capital on the position. Mark Sanchez never panned out. Neither did Geno Smith, Christian Hackenberg, Sam Darnold, or at least for two years, Zach Wilson.
But one move can change everything — wipe away decades of despair and incompetence to provide a legitimate light at the end of what has felt to a lot of Jets fans like a ceaseless tunnel.
Aaron Rodgers is here and at 39 years old, is prepared to take Gang Green to new heights in 2023 while helping change the culture that had been so rotten for so long.
The four-time MVP doesn’t necessarily have to play like he did when he was five, eight, or 12 years younger when he was racking up hardware with the Green Bay Packers. At his age, that doesn’t seem to be fair. But even a sliver of Rodgers is better than what the Jets have seen in decades.
After all, he is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro, throwing for 3,695 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Yet, if he were wearing a Jets uniform in 2022, he’d have been just the second quarterback in franchise history with a season of 3,600-plus yards with 25 or more touchdowns and 12 or fewer interceptions. Ken O’Brien threw for 3,888 yards with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 1985.
That’s how rare competency at the quarterback position has been for the Jets.
General manager Joe Douglas has done his best to surround Rodgers with weapons that he so sorely lacked in his final years in Green Bay.
Garrett Wilson is developing into one of the best young wide receivers in the game. He’ll be flanked and nurtured by some of Rodgers’ favorite targets from his Packers days as New York brought in Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. They also brought in former Kansas City Chiefs speedster Mecole Hardman to provide a burner on the outside.
In the backfield, Breece Hall looks to shake off injury concerns and begin developing into the bell-cow back for the Jets. But insurance was brought in in a big way with the signing of former Minnesota Vikings star Dalvin Cook.
A solid offense will make the Jets a playoff team considering their defense was one of the best in football last season and projects to be the very same again in 2023. A devastating defensive front got a little stronger with the drafting of Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV, who will provide depth behind edge rushers Bryce Huff and Carl Lawson. Meanwhile, Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers represent one of the more imposing interiors in the NFL. The secondary is also projected to be elite, led by reigning defensive rookie of the year Sauce Gardner, who is already deemed a top corner in the game.
Considering where they are in the NFC East where they’ll be battling the Buffalo Bills for supremacy, the Jets still have to learn how to legitimately contend. Whether that’s too big of a jump for 2023 remains to be seen — so Super Bowl talk should be filled with caution — but this is a new version of the Jets.
And it’s going to be a good one.