Green Bay Packers

Is This the End For Aaron Rodgers?

Photo credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-The Record via USA TODAY Sports

You just can’t make it up. One minute, you see Aaron Rodgers leading his new team out of the tunnel, American flag in hand, ready to usher in a new era of New York Jets football on the anniversary of 9/11. Moments later, he’s on his back, carted off the field, and his season is over practically before it even started.

Let me get this out of the way first. There is not one molecule in my body that is anything but sad and profoundly disappointed by this development. Moments after Rodgers was ruled out, I heard from the trolls on X. They immediately had to point out that Rodgers’ injury meant the Green Bay Packers would no longer receive a No. 1 pick in the ’24 draft and would have to settle for a No. 2.

How about stepping back and being a human being for a moment? We all have our thoughts about Rodgers as a player and as a man with polarizing opinions. Packer fans were split after last season. Many wanted the team to move on to Jordan Love, and just as many wanted to see him retire as a Packer.

Once he made his preference known – that after pondering retirement, he wanted to be traded to the Jets – we knew it would eventually happen. And once Green Bay and New York consummated the deal, Rodgers and the Jets became the NFL’s biggest 2023 storyline.

We watched Hard Knocks and understood what his new coaches and teammates were smiling about as they pinched themselves daily to ensure he was their guy. He was going to lift the Jets out of NFL obscurity. He was going to end the longest playoff drought in American sports.

And the league couldn’t get enough. The Jets were going to be must-see TV, with the maximum prime time, late afternoon, and standalone games they could possibly schedule. And now we’re all going to see a whole lot more of Zach Wilson than we bargained for – unless Tom Brady decides to ride in to save the league, I mean, to save the day.

Everyone loses here. New York’s players and coaches will be denied having an all-time great lead their team. After months of unprecedented excitement, Jets fans have seen their team’s newfound relevance and Super Bowl dreams likely dashed. NFL fans across the world will miss out on watching a Hall of Famer try to lift a moribund franchise. Would Rodgers have written a storybook ending to his career in the Big Apple? Now we may never know.

Because no one loses more than Rodgers, obviously, who will turn 40 in a few months and faces rigorous rehabilitation. It’s not easy for athletes 15 years younger to come back from a torn Achilles. Is Rodgers up for it? He’s just a few months removed from being 90% certain that he was going to retire. Sure, he has 38 million reasons to come back, but money is no longer the driving motivation for a guy like him.

The easy joke here is to say he may need another darkness retreat to decide whether he wants to put in the hard work to try to come back in 2024. But I’m not in the mood to make light of this situation.

For us Packer fans, Rodgers authored a remarkable story that spanned 18 years.

He began as an unwitting villain who was replacing a legend. But after enough plot twists to make Stephen King proud, he ultimately surpassed that legend and delivered 15 years of mostly exceptional play, providing us fans with the ultimate gift. He gave our team a chance to win every week, no matter the opponent.

Selfishly, I hope he comes back next year and once again becomes the NFL’s most intriguing storyline. The game is more interesting and more fun to watch when Aaron Rodgers is playing.

No matter which uniform he is wearing.

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