The San Juan Daily Star
On his first day as a Jet, Rodgers says the team can win it all
By Emmanuel Morgan
Aaron Rodgers walked into the New York Jets’ facility in Florham Park, New Jersey earlier this week for his introductory news conference to applause from staffers after they watched a montage of his highlights from his 18-year tenure with the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers, the quarterback for whom the Jets traded this week after a lengthy negotiation process, had landed in New Jersey the night before. On Wednesday morning, he attended meetings with Jets officials while barefoot, coach Robert Saleh said. Rodgers also walked past a case holding the team’s only Super Bowl trophy, which the Jets won in the 1968 season, and said he noticed it was “getting lonely.”
Rodgers appeared relaxed and at home during his first official day as a Jet, bringing optimism that one of the greatest quarterbacks of the modern era can restore success to a franchise in the NFL’s largest market. The Jets have not made the playoffs since 2010, owning the longest postseason drought in major North American men’s professional sports, but the team and Rodgers hope that his arrival — even toward the end of his career — will end that streak.
“I’m an old guy, so I want to be part of a team that can win it all, and I believe that this is a place where we get that done,” the 39-year-old Rodgers said.
The Jets and Packers officially agreed to trade terms Wednesday after news of the deal broke Monday. The Jets sent the No. 13 overall pick in this year’s draft, as well as two later-round picks and a conditional second-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft, in exchange for Rodgers, the No. 15 pick and a later-round pick in this year’s draft. The first round began Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri.
Rodgers won a Super Bowl, appeared in four other NFC championship games and won the MVP award four times while with the Packers. But he grew disgruntled with the franchise over the past two seasons because of a perceived lack of input over personnel decisions, among other grievances. Rodgers alluded to his strained relationship with the Packers on Wednesday when he blamed poor cellphone reception at his home as a reason he had not communicated with Green Bay officials this offseason.
After the Packers finished 8-9 last season and missed the playoffs, Rodgers contemplated retiring. A cadre of Jets executives in March — including Saleh, team owner Woody Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas — visited Rodgers in Malibu, California, and that conversation helped sway Rodgers to join the Jets, he said.
“At that point, I felt like this is where I was supposed to be,” Rodgers said. “I really try and listen to the signs and synchronicities that the universe puts in our face every day, and this was basically the direction that everything was pointing.”
Later in March, Rodgers appeared on former NFL punter Pat McAfee’s show and said he intended to play for the Jets. In the weeks after, Douglas and Brian Gutekunst, the Packers’ general manager, publicly said they wanted to finalize a deal, but negotiations stretched over six weeks as the teams’ front offices stalemated over compensation. Rodgers, though, said he was confident the trade would get done.
“I believed it was going to happen the entire time. It was just a matter of, I think, waiting each other out,” Rodgers said. He added: “I believe there was some major synchronization to make this happen, but I’m excited about the opportunity here.”
Rodgers played under Nathaniel Hackett, who was hired as the Jets’ offensive coordinator in January, for three seasons in Green Bay, and he said their strong bond was another selling point for joining the Jets.
The Jets’ roster also includes last season’s offensive rookie of the year, receiver Garrett Wilson, and the defensive rookie of the year, cornerback Sauce Gardner — two players who had openly recruited Rodgers. Gardner and other players changed their social media profile pictures to a photo of Rodgers in college, and Gardner also videotaped himself burning a Packers cheesehead hat in Rodgers’ honor.
The Jets’ 2022 season started promisingly at 6-3, behind a stout running game and one of the league’s best defenses. But inefficient play from quarterback Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, caused Saleh to bench him with seven games left in the season. With that instability under center and significant injuries, most notably to rookie running back Breece Hall, the Jets finished 7-10 and missed the playoffs.
Rodgers said he hopes to be a mentor to Zach Wilson, with whom he had a previous friendship, and to be a leader in the locker room. Saleh said that Rodgers should be a stabilizing presence and that his choice of the Jets was validation that the franchise is successfully rebuilding itself.
“Obviously you can argue that our arrow’s pointing up,” Saleh said.
Rodgers said he envisioned being with the Jets past this season but said he did not want to focus on the future. His agent, David Dunn, attended the news conference, and Rodgers said he and the Jets would restructure his contract. But for however long Rodgers stays a Jet, Johnson said he would be content.
“With whatever he wants to do, we’re good,” Johnson said. “We’re so happy he’s here. This is transformative.”