Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett talks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers...

Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett talks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers before an NFL game against the Lions on Jan. 9, 2022, in Detroit. Credit: AP/Duane Burleson

If the mere act of hiring Nathaniel Hackett meant the certain and imminent arrival of Aaron Rodgers — the two men trotting in arm-in-arm with the MVP credentials and ready-made offensive production they built together in Green Bay, ready to salvage a desperate franchise — both of them probably still would be in Denver right now.

Hackett would be getting ready for his second season as a head coach rather than being hired as offensive coordinator of the Jets, as was announced Thursday.

Rodgers would be deciding how high to tie up his ponytail for the NFL Honors awards show rather than mulling his future as a Packer.

That’s if they weren’t practicing and preparing to play for the AFC championship this weekend.

The way things actually worked out was obviously far different for each of them than that multiverse fate in which they turned the Broncos into instant winners.

Hackett’s rookie season at the helm of a team turned disastrous when the Broncos had to settle for what certainly appeared to be their backup option at quarterback and brought in Russell Wilson. Hackett was fired before the year was out.

Rodgers, who remained in Green Bay, had an equally disappointing 2022 that left him and the Packers short of the playoffs.

It’s up to the Jets to make sure what happened in Denver does not happen here.

They can’t get skunked now.

They got Hackett. They must get his quarterback, too. Half of the combo does nothing for anyone. Certainly not if it’s the half they currently possess.

“The quarterback position with all the different interviews was the number one concern, and rightfully so,” Robert Saleh said of the conversations he had with more than a dozen candidates for the coordinator job. “It was simple: We’re committed to finding a veteran.”

Now it’s even more simple. It’s one veteran in particular.

Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo or any of the other passable passers out there on the radar suddenly are distant seconds to Rodgers. Even the Tom Brady pipe dream is less appealing than this. In the narrative of this offseason — in which the Jets are so focused on restoring their credibility as a franchise, in which the front office and coaching staff understand that their jobs are on the line — the next few weeks and months have now been defined, from a fan standpoint at least and quite possibly from the very tippy-top of the organization: It’s Rodgers or bust.

Of course, Saleh downplayed that. Tampering rules prohibit him from speaking directly about Rodgers because he remains under contract with the Packers, but even in the peripheral language he is allowed to deploy, he tried to distance the Jets from the obvious connection.

He called Hackett’s history with any particular quarterbacks “surface-level stuff.” He was asked if the Jets want to bring in a quarterback who has won in the postseason and said: “That’s something, for sure, but you have to look at the whole thing.” He spoke about the idea of the Jets having a strong running game to be able to compete in and possibly host cold-weather games in the playoffs. When he was asked if that means the Jets want a quarterback who has experience playing in, say, tundra-like conditions, he could only laugh.

“I don’t know about that one,” he said. “We’ll get into all of that.”

Rodgers’ relationship with Hackett goes beyond their on-field success during three seasons in Green Bay. Last offseason, when Hackett left for the Broncos, Rodgers was quoted as saying “I love him like a brother” and noted that Hackett is “an amazing, amazing guy.”

They speak the same West Coast offense language, too, which would be a benefit to both of them.

There still is some sprucing up to do around here to become a can’t-miss destination for Rodgers. The Jets have the championship-caliber defense and the explosive young offensive players, but they need to dramatically improve their offensive line personnel before they can really start wooing Rodgers. He’s not going to come here just to get pounded and beaten up.

Fix that, though, and all of it — plus having his guy Hackett — would make the Jets an attractive landing spot for Rodgers.

Now it’s just a matter of getting it done.

It certainly would cost the Jets a lot to trade for Rodgers. It might cost them more if they don’t. Hackett learned that in Denver last season. It’s a lesson he undoubtedly brings with him to the Jets.

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access