Can we be straightforward and cut through the mess as it pertains to the Jets’ quarterback situation? There is no circumstance under which Aaron Rodgers coming back to play for the Jets this season makes any sense for their present or future circumstances.
It’s undeniably hard to watch a team with a defense that is championship-ready play offense 3 yards at a time, but unfortunately that’s the reality for the Jets this season. No matter how many times Rodgers says to players on the field that he will be back in a few weeks, or “corrects” himself by saying he’s “a few fortnights” away from returning, creating the illusion that he’s close to playing serves no purpose.
As all football-watchers know, Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon four plays into the Jets’ season opener against the Bills, a game they ended up winning due to stingy defense and an overtime punt return for a TD. That performance, to a degree, kicked off the theme of the Jets’ season: a continuous question to the football gods of “what if?” What if Rodgers was able to come back? What if the Jets didn’t have to waste a championship-caliber defense on Zach Wilson? What if this team had just average quarterback play?
It’s a tantalizing alternate reality, but that’s all it is — an alternate reality that has no bearing on the current events that have led Rodgers and the Jets to this point. Rodgers returning at this rate of speed would be unprecedented. It has been just about two months since Rodgers tore his Achilles. This would be a level of recovery that hasn’t been seen at the NFL level before. The closest comparison to this would be current Vikings running back Cam Akers, who first tore his Achilles in July 2021. Akers returned in record time and was able to join the active roster in time for the Rams’ run to a Super Bowl championship.
While that was a miraculous recovery, Akers has not been the same player since he zoomed through his injury. Since 2022, Akers has mustered only 3.8 yards per carry, and averaged 1.3 yards per carry with the Rams this season before he was eventually traded to the Vikings. Unfortunately for Akers, he suffered another Achilles tear this past weekend against the Falcons that will sideline him for the rest of the season.
Akers was 22 the first time he tore his Achilles. Rodgers turns 40 next month. A 40-year-old man not just recovering from an Achilles tear, but having the strength and dexterity to protect himself on an NFL field behind a struggling offensive line defies anything that has previously been known as possible. That’s exactly why it’s not likely to happen. Akers even had about six weeks’ worth of recovery time before the regular season even kicked off. Rodgers’ injury happened during the Jets’ first game.
The next question surrounding Rodgers’ flirting with return is a simple one: Why?
Being able to gingerly throw against air before a game doesn’t have a strong bearing on if he’ll be able to suit up before the season is over. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that Rodgers may want to play because he’s at the end of his career, but that doesn’t mean that he should play. The Jets’ current offensive supporting cast might not even be able to protect and shield a player who is fresh off an Achilles tear.
Of course, none of this will matter if the Jets fail to make the playoffs this season with Wilson as their quarterback. The Jets currently have the 11th seed in the AFC and will need to keep pace with the Bills, Texans, Chargers and most of the AFC North. It’s not impossible given the quality of their defense, but it is extremely difficult to win with an offense that’s as bad as the Jets’ unit is. This may be much ado about nothing in a few weeks because there’s absolutely no reason for Rodgers to return if the Jets are out of playoff contention.
No one would even be talking about this if Rodgers himself didn’t keep insinuating that he was going to return this season. This doesn’t have to be a modern medicinal miracle that defies everything previously known about Achilles tears in the NFL — just wait until next year and see if Rodgers can return to form once he’s truly at full strength.