Discover more from Just Jets
Five Seconds to Turbulence: Processing the Aaron Rodgers injury as a Jets fan
Jets fans dared to dream again – and then Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles.
Those were the only two words that Aaron Rodgers was able to get out when he saw Garrett Wilson at halftime of the Jets’ Week 1 match-up against the Bills. By then Rodgers already knew – his season was over.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. After feeling like the fool for so long, playing the role of Charlie Brown trying to kick that damn football just one time, Jets fans finally began to believe that the 2023-24 season was going to be the one that was different.
After years and years and years of their franchise quarterback search going unfulfilled and unrequited, they finally found their man. A Hall of Fame quarterback with a lot left to give in Rodgers and unlike Brett Favre, he chose the Jets. He wanted to be here. And it was clear from day one that he fully bought into being The Man for this woebegone franchise.
Suddenly there were no quarterback questions entering training camp, no tweets about a practice-time screen pass going 10 yards over the receivers head. ‘Hard Knocks’ sought after the Jets – not the other way around. This team was talking the talk and it genuinely felt like they were, in fact, going to walk the walk.
Their season opener was the highest anticipated Week 1 game for the Jets that I can ever remember. The excitement was palpable, the hype tangible. It was like a party at MetLife stadium prior to the game and the entire work day that led up to kick-off was full of confidence and anticipation.
After all that build-up, it was finally here. Jets vs Bills on Monday Night Football to kick-off the season, on the 22nd anniversary of 9/11. There was Aaron Rodgers, the savior who embraced that role, running out onto the turf wielding the American flag to an uproarious ovation. This was it. It was real. This is happening.
After a stop by the Jets defense on the first drive, Rodgers stepped onto the field for real this time, and every single fan of this football team was glued to their seats. And in just a matter of moments, it was all over.
On the fourth play of his Jets career, on a three-step drop, Rodgers was sacked and struggled to get up. When he sat back down onto the turf, the hearts of every Jets fan sank to depths that we never once knew were possible. In our hearts we knew right away that everything had changed. Three steps, five seconds, one sack and – poof – just like that it was all just… gone.
“We as Jets fans know we’re not allowed to have hope for very long,” Jets fan and NFL broadcaster Rich Eisen said on Tuesday.
It’s the feeling many of us still have at the end of this week that once began with so much promise. And honestly, that’s the strangest part about this entire thing. When it comes to this franchise and being a fan of the Jets, the worst is not only expected but it’s assumed. But even then, for this to happen and as fast as it did… it almost feels too on the nose by the Football Gods. It is so shocking in that it isn’t shocking at all – only the fans of a franchise such as this one can even begin to comprehend that feeling.
No one wants to be the “woe is me” fan, but it’s hard not to look toward the heavens (or your television) and just ask “why?”
Why does this keep happening? Why can’t we have nice things? Why do Jets fans deserve this after so many years in the darkness? Rodgers was supposed to take this Jets franchise out of that darkness as soon as he exited his, and yet here we stand still searching for a night light and a glimmer of hope.
In the days attempting to process this news, it still has yet to set in that so many weeks and months of build-up can be taken away as instantaneously as this was, on a play so ordinary that it could happen to anyone at any time. There is a cruelty to it that a lot us have yet to get past. Hell, even acknowledging that the devastation felt here is only devastating in a sports lens, the Rodgers injury even came up in my therapy session this week (even if it was in a half-hearted attempt to laugh off the situation).
None of this is a reflection on what myself or some others believe will happen for the remainder of this season. There are 16 games to go, and the Jets are 1-0 even though it may not feel that way right now. The season is far from over, but it has changed in an irreparable way, and we are all tasked with trying to pivot our expectations on the fly and find a newfound joy in whatever may happen next.
The hope is that Rodgers sticks around and helps mentor Zach Wilson, and beyond this year that he returns to the Jets in 2024 ready to show the league that he isn’t done just yet.
“The night is darkest before the dawn,” Rodgers said in his first public statement since the injury. “And I shall rise yet again.”
As Jets fans we can only hope for that to be true, and for this still highly talented roster to be able to put together a good season. At that same end, this fan base has once again been reminded just how elusive and dangerous hope can be.
This weekend, we will move on to the rest of this season. I look forward to seeing what this team can still do and think there will be plenty of fun moments to be had. But there will always be a little voice in the back our heads wondering, “what if?”
Our weekly newsletters will kick-off this weekend on Sunday (pregame) and Monday (postgame) mornings!