A quibble after spending an hour in Pat McAfee’s virtual restaurant listening to the couple at the next table over end their long-term relationship:
It would have been nice if, on the day that elevated the Jets one step closer to being top-tier contenders and brought so much euphoria and optimism and in some cases tears of joy to the long-suffering fan base, Aaron Rodgers at some point simply said he wanted to come to the Jets because of something Jets-related.
He didn’t have to promise a Super Bowl to his soon-to-be team even if his eventual arrival will set the bar that high when it comes to gauging his tenure in New York, not to mention those of the coach and general manager who are handling the mechanics of bringing him here plus the legacy of the owner who has been pushing for this outcome for several months. It could have been that their young roster intrigues him or perhaps a line that Robert Saleh dropped during their four-hour Malibu meeting last week that had him ready to run through one of his walls. Heck, he could have been jazzed about not needing to change his lucky cleats since the green ones from Green Bay will still work for him in the 2023 season.
Maybe he’ll come up with it eventually. If there was one personality takeaway from his chat on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Wednesday afternoon, it’s that Rodgers sticks to what he wants to say and doesn’t veer off into other matters. He did throw a few sprinkles of praise at offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, and got angry at the idea the Jets had hired him to lure Rodgers to New York, but that was about it.
So while he opened up about everything from pooping during his recent darkness retreat to his increased taste for Wisconsin-based Indian food, any time the Jets came up it was brushed off for a later time and place by the quarterback, saved, he said several times, for a future conversation. Perhaps a relatively soon introductory news conference.
For now, all we have been given by the great purveyor of information were two basic nuggets:
1) Rodgers wants to play for the Jets.
2) And he wants to do it in order to stick it to the Packers.
If that brings a trophy to Florham Park, who really cares what his motivations are? There have been plenty of great accomplishments in sports, or otherwise, driven by spite. Michael Jordan carved out a 15-season career — plus a 10-part documentary — from that very emotion. If chips were made of protective plastic the NFL could do away with shoulder pads. Everyone wants to prove the haters and the doubters wrong, even if they have to make them up to do it.
Still, amid the phrases we have all been waiting these past few days and weeks to hear, most notable among them the very direct decision that Rodgers “made it clear that my intention was to play and my intention was to play for the New York Jets,” there were warning sirens going off in the background.
He noted several times he was “90%” sure he would retire after last season, that he went into his black hole in Oregon thinking that way, and suggested he emerged from the darkness feeling comfortable with that outcome until he checked his phone and saw signs that the Packers were getting antsy waiting for his decision. Had Green Bay been a little more patient, would he have walked away from the sport? It sure sounded like that on this day.
Bill Parcells once famously said: “If you are thinking about retirement, you are retired.”
That was a long time ago and since then there have been plenty who have announced and then reneged on the ends of their careers. Tom Brady has already done it once and there are many who still believe he could do it again. Hey, Parcells himself collected several gold watches from various stops around the NFL.
Rodgers is different from them or anyone else, that’s for sure, but the Jets need to go into this relationship fully aware of its parameters. They need to realize the guy they have been 100% committed to acquiring this offseason is really only 10% into them.
If things start to go south or even hint at difficult times, that other 90% could start to look pretty inviting. If things go exceptionally well, that too could hasten the end of Rodgers’ career. He even mentioned at one point his ideal of winning the Super Bowl in any of the past three seasons and walking away.
Ultimately, the best way this works out for the Jets is the way it did for the 2020 Buccaneers and the 2021 Rams, two of the last three Super Bowl champs who won it all by adding a stellar veteran to an otherwise able roster that had been unable to accomplish much until their quarterback messiah arrived. Make no mistake, that would be awesome. But taking a look at the state of the 2023 Bucs and the 2023 Rams should be a reminder of the costs that such “win now” decisions can incur. Pretty soon the Jets will be the ones at the table where the breakup is taking place, not eavesdropping on the drama.
As they watched Rodgers’ hour-long uncoupling from the Packers on Wednesday, the Jets and their fans had every right to be excited that they will be next to receive his services as a four-time MVP quarterback and future Hall of Famer.
They just need to realize while he may physically be coming to play for them, he’s not leaving Green Bay for the Jets. He’s leaving Green Bay for Green Bay . . . and for himself.