Jets Face Decision on Aaron Rodgers’ Potential Return
Franchise Contemplates Handling of Star Quarterback’s Arrival
In a season filled with unexpected twists, the potential return of Aaron Rodgers as the Jets’ quarterback in December feels like a plot twist straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. The franchise now faces a fascinating decision on how to handle his arrival.
Coach Robert Saleh made it clear on Wednesday that the Jets won’t stand in Rodgers’ way if he is cleared by doctors and ready to play. “Aaron’s a big boy, a grown man,” Saleh said. “No one’s going to know Aaron’s body like Aaron knows his body. If he feels that after all the doctors clear him… if Aaron says he wants to play, he’s going to play.”
However, the situation is not as simple as it seems. The Jets find themselves in a precarious position when it comes to a potential Rodgers return, starting with their current standings. Rodgers recently reiterated that the Jets “gotta be in the mix” for him to consider a return. But defining what it means to be “in the mix” in a highly competitive AFC poses a challenge.
Currently, there are eight teams in the AFC with either four or five wins. The Jets currently sit in 13th place but are only one game behind the Texans, who would secure the last wild card spot if the playoffs started this week. The question remains: Are the Jets truly in contention?
This situation brings to mind the baseball trading deadline, where the line between being a buyer or a seller is often subjective. The Jets must carefully consider their position. Let’s assume Rodgers targets a return for the December 24th game against the Commanders. With five games before then, a generous 3-2 record would put the Jets at 7-7 entering that Christmas Eve matchup. However, they would likely still have several teams ahead of them in the race for the final playoff spot, requiring them to win their last three games to secure a 10-7 record.
Considering these circumstances, is it worth bringing back a 40-year-old quarterback from a torn Achilles faster than anyone in history? While Rodgers may find a doctor to clear him, the Jets need to consider more than just his medical clearance. This decision should encompass both the present and the future, weighing the risk of reinjury against the potential benefits.
Furthermore, the Jets must evaluate whether they truly see themselves as a Super Bowl team with Rodgers. Simply making the playoffs should not be the ultimate goal; winning the Super Bowl should be. Anything short of that may not justify the risk involved. Can Rodgers address the issues plaguing the Jets’ offense beyond quarterback play? Can he fix an injured offensive line and create opportunities for receivers other than Garrett Wilson?
The answer to these questions may very well be yes. Rodgers is undeniably talented. However, he will also be rusty after three months of rehab and, in the best-case scenario, only three weeks of practice before playing.
One must wonder if the Jets will even ask these critical questions if Rodgers expresses his desire to play. Saleh’s indication that they won’t, coupled with the typical mindset of coaches focused on the next game, suggests a strong desire to have Rodgers on the field. Is there another voice within the organization that will challenge this decision? The Jets have been unable to say “no” to Rodgers since their courtship began in late February, leading to the current situation where Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are their second and third receiving options.
Adding to the complexity is the cloud of a playoff drought hanging over the franchise. Rodgers was expected to end the Jets’ streak without a playoff appearance, but now it seems that the drought could extend to 13 years. Is owner Woody Johnson desperate enough to end the drought that he would risk Rodgers’ status for the 2024 season?
Aaron Rodgers could be the beacon of hope for the Jets in the 2023 season, or he could be the train hurtling towards them. The franchise now faces a pivotal decision that will shape not only their immediate future but also their long-term plans.