Mike Lupica: We need to slow the Super Bowl talk if desperate Jets land desperate Aaron Rodgers
By now, we know all of the reasons why the Jets have to take this big swing with Aaron Rodgers. They’re hoping that he can do for them what Tom Brady did for the Bucs. And what Matthew Stafford did for the Rams. They know he has a lot more left than Peyton Manning did when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl since John Elway, even if Peyton didn’t have a whole lot to do with that by the end.
At this point, even people in outer space know why the Jets are doing this, why they have to do it, as they attempt to become something more than a football irrelevancy, not just in the league, but just around here.
But the adolescent idea that this is suddenly Super Bowl or bust for this particular Jets team just happens to be bananas, whether Rodgers is here for a year or two or even more than that.
Start here, because it’s as good a place to start as any:
Since Rodgers played in his one and only Super Bowl 12 years ago, he has gone 0-for-4 in NFC championship games, against Seattle and Atlanta and San Francisco and Tampa Bay. And the Jets? Since they won their one and only Super Bowl 1,200 years ago, they happened to have gone 0-for-4 in AFC championship games, against the Dolphins in the mud, against John Elway one time in Denver, against the Colts and the Steelers when Rex Ryan was the coach. In the case of Rodgers and the Jets, it might end up being the one about the irresistible force and the immovable object. Unless they’re both the immovable object. And that object is history. His and theirs.
Don’t get me wrong: I want this to happen, and not just for Jets fans, just for the entertainment it’s going to provide, and the must-see-ness of it all. I want it to happen even though it still might not. There’s always one big qualifier here: It’s the Jets. Things don’t just go sideways for them, they often go right into a ditch. If you don’t believe that, look at the last two quarterbacks they saw as wishes to build a dream on:
But let’s say the deal goes through, and Rodgers does becomes the No. 12 they’ve been looking for since Joe Namath was No. 12. We can already see what a show this is going to be, in addition to being one of the great sports dramas we’ve ever had in New York sports. You know why it’s going to be that kind of drama? Because desperate people often create great dramas, and we have four desperate people involved in this one:
Aaron Rodgers himself.
Call them the Gang Green of Four.
The first three are the producers. Rodgers will be the star, for as long as he is here, and depending on just how much he has left. But make no mistake: In their own ways, they are all desperate characters.
Johnson is desperate to put points on the board for the first time since Rex was his coach and Mark Sanchez was enough of a quarterback to play in an AFC championship game as a rookie, and then do the same the very next year. Douglas and Saleh are easy. They’re just looking to keep the best jobs either one of them is ever going to have in the NFL.
Then there is Rodgers, who wants to be the coolest guy in the room (sometimes a real dark room), but is absolutely desperate to win one more Lombardi Trophy; show he can go to the Jets and do what Brady did when he went to Bucs, and Stafford did with the Rams, and even Peyton, even throwing like he was left-handed at the end, helped do for the Broncos.
By the way? The Jets don’t just need a quarterback again. They need a star. Rodgers has been a star since he took over for Brett Favre, back when the Jets made the same play for Favre that they are now trying to make with Rodgers. At his best, while he was winning all those MVP awards and that one Lombardi Trophy, he played the position as creatively and magically and well as it has ever been played in professional football.
But next Dec. 2, he will turn 40. There is only one quarterback that old (or older) who has ever been a difference-maker on a Super Bowl winning team, and that is Brady. He was 41 when he won his last Super Bowl with the Patriots. Then he went to Tampa and won another one at the age of 44.
It is another area when Rodgers, as great as he has been, and at his best he has been legendarily great, is up against history. But if he does end up in Florham Park, and does end up playing his home games at MetLife Stadium, he will be going up against something else: The fact that the team he is joining, for all the promising talent it does have on both sides of the ball, is being wildly over-evaluated. Because here is another notion that is also bananas, even for the giddiest of Jets fans:
That these Jets are one player — him — away from winning it all.
Spoiler alert: They’re not.
Of course, I want him (and even though you can make a much better case for them going hard after Lamar Jackson, even with his injury issues lately). Everybody wants to see Rodgers come here and try to change the dreary, losing narrative around the Jets. It won’t just be fun watching him try. It will be big fun watching him try to save Douglas, who thought Zach Wilson was the answer. And give Saleh the chance to prove he is a great head coach on both sides of the ball. And, if it all works out, Rodgers will finally make Johnson into something other than the Other Owner on the Other Team in New York and New Jersey.
Understand this: Rodgers will be signing on for a lot. But realistic Jets fans I know — there are some, don’t worry — realize that what they are shooting for here is a return to the playoffs; the chance to play meaningful games in January again. I’m not saying that the Jets can’t win a Super Bowl with Rodgers. The comparable here is Matthew Stafford, and Stafford, on the best day of his life, was never the quarterback that Rodgers has been.
There is a lot to like about this, more to like than not to like if you’re a Jets fan. But there is a lot that could go wrong here, too. The Jets need to buy what Rodgers is selling.
Buyer beware. Of expectations, mostly.
A LOT OF BAD BETS ON QBs IN THE NFL, METS SEASON NEEDS NEW SCRIPT WITHOUT DIAZ & GO KNIGHTS …
There is no more powerful — and more lucrative — mystique in all of sports, and maybe the history of sports, than the one about quarterback in the NFL being the most important position in all of sports.
It is why teams make big bets, and sometimes monumentally bad bets, on quarterbacks all the time.
The Jets did it with Darnold and Wilson.
The Giants are doing it with Daniel Jones, right this minute, giving him a contract that can be worth $160 million, so much of that off one playoff victory, even if it was an impressive one, against the defense of the Minnesota Vikings.
But the Cardinals did the same thing with Kyler Murray, who is never going to win a championship.
The Browns just did it with Deshaun Watson, who won the only title he’s ever going to win at Clemson.
Everybody keeps looking for the next Brady.
Or the next Mahomes.
The problem is, there might be only two like that in the modern world of professional football.
How could you not be happy for Princeton the other day?
How could you not be happy for Furman?
And how could your heart not break a little for Kihei Clark of Virginia, who threw the ball to Furman at the end and cost his team its season?
Four years ago, it was Clark who ran down a ball at the end of an Elite Eight game against Purdue, and threw it to Mamadi Diakite, who made the shot that forced overtime in a game the Cavaliers ultimately won, on their way to winning the national championship.
They don’t win the title without Clark making a play, and a pass, like that.
The Virginia fans, including the ones in the media, who jumped Clark after the Furman loss ought to remember that this weekend.
Or maybe forever.
This was one of Buck Showalter’s first reactions, late Wednesday night, after Edwin Diaz tore up his knee celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic:
“The teleprompter just broke.”
He meant that the script the Mets thought they had for this season, the one that included Diaz, had just gone out the window.
Mets fans need to remember that Mariano Rivera tore up his knee shagging fly balls in the outfield, and was lost for the season in May.
Rafael Soriano became the Yankee closer that year.
He saved 42 games.
The Yankees won 95.
And won the AL East without Mo.
Are we absolutely certain that The Masters is a tradition unlike any other?
In keeping with today’s primary subject matter, aren’t the Jets a tradition unlike any other, too?
You are going to love a crime novel called “Fixit,” by my pal Joe Ide.
Whatever happened to Kyrie?
“Ted Lasso” is back, and better than ever.
Carlos Alcaraz runs around a tennis court the way Francisco Lindor runs around the bases.
My friend Stanton is cautioning Aaron Rodgers not to go with that “R-E-L-A-X” stuff if he does get to the Jets.
We kind of don’t do that around here.
We’re all Fairleigh Dickinson on Sunday.