Fifteen years ago, the New York Jets made the splashiest trade in franchise history, acquiring a legendary, late-30s quarterback from the Green Bay Packers with the hope of energizing the franchise, saving a third-year coach from doom and satisfying a success-starved owner. Brett Favre led them to an 8-3 start in 2008, but he hurt his arm and the whole season fell apart.
The 2023 Jets are in a similar situation. This time, the third-year coach is Robert Saleh, but the success-starved owner hasn't changed (Woody Johnson) and neither has the decades-old quest to find the "missing piece," as Johnson called it recently. Which leads us to Aaron Rodgers, the Packers' current late-30s quarterback who may or may not be traded this offseason.
As Rodgers mulls his future, and as the Packers decide on a direction for the organization, the trade speculation is rampant. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported last weekend that a Rodgers trade is "a real possibility," causing Jets fans on social media to hyperventilate. The excitement climbed to a new level Thursday with the news that one of Rodgers’ former offensive coordinators, Nathaniel Hackett, had been hired by the Jets. Heck, even former Jets great Joe Namath, in a radio interview, said he'd be willing to let Rodgers wear his famous No. 12, which has long been retired.
It would be the ultimate Super Bowl-or-bust move for a franchise that hasn't been there in 54 years. The Jets ended the season on a six-game losing streak, ready to replace Zach Wilson as their starter. There will be other veteran options in the quarterback market, perhaps Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo, but Rodgers, 39, is an all-time great (career record: 139-66-1) with tremendous box-office appeal.
The Jets had the same feelings about Favre, who was acquired for a third-round pick in training camp. Then-coach Eric Mangini, who had his own six-game losing streak the previous year, was so giddy with Favre's arrival that he named his third son after him -- Zack Brett Mangini, born Oct. 10, 2008, Favre's 39th birthday. The stars appeared aligned, but the team skidded to a 9-7 finish, Mangini was fired and Favre was done in New York after just one season.
Will history repeat? Will Saleh have an eighth child and name him Aaron? (Or, if it's a girl, Erin?) From a Jets perspective, let's analyze the pros and cons of a potential Rodgers trade.
Hello? He's a four-time NFL MVP: Rodgers would make them better the moment he steps foot in the building. The Jets haven't had a player of his stature since ... well, Favre. He'd provide instant credibility and leadership, qualities they've lacked at the quarterback position. He'd demand total commitment from everybody, especially the wide receiver room, which experienced dysfunction last season. (See: trade requests by Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims.)
Rodgers, appearing Tuesday on The Pat McAfee Show, got into a discussion about Wilson and the Jets, and he sounded impressed by their skill-position talent. Unsolicited, without naming names, he made complimentary references to wide receiver Garrett Wilson, running back Breece Hall and tight end C.J. Uzomah.