This is not one of those times.
And even without the giving-away-the-plot headline that’s up above, you’re probably already figured out where this is headed: As a connoisseur of sport, I’m bummed out that Aaron Rodgers won’t be behind center Sunday afternoon when the 1-1 Jets host the 0-2 Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Getting a chance to see one of the greatest quarterbacks in history play for a tortured franchise that’s looking to win its first Super Bowl since 1969 would have been fun, most likely memorable, but, alas, that’s all gone now.
Rodgers, the newest in a long line of here-to-turn-the-program-around Jets quarterbacks, was on the field for all of four plays in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills two weeks ago when he suffered a fully torn left Achilles. Maybe you were there. Maybe you were watching live. Maybe you were watching the postgame presser — after the Jets registered a thrilling 22-16 overtime victory against the Bills — when a somber coach Robert Saleh stepped up to the podium and sounded like he was reading an old-fashioned Western Union telegram: “Concerned with his Achilles. MRI is probably going to confirm what we think is already going to happen, so prayers tonight. But it’s not good.”
Since then, Rodgers has undergone one of those miracle-of-medicine, 21st-century surgical procedures, this one involving the use of a “speed bridge,” and there’s hope he’ll return in time for the playoffs.
Aaron Rodgers’ surgeon has high-profile clients, reputation for quick recovery
Until those two events happen — and I doubt they will — the here and now is that we don’t get the Aaron Rodgers-quarterbacked Jets for the 2023 regular season.
How could anyone — the key word here being anyone — not be saddened by this news?
OK, there are some exceptions. The Patriots are looking for their first victory of the season following back-to-back home losses that have had their fans questioning, well, everything. The Pats have run up 14 straight victories against the Jets, and the odds of them making it 15 in a row are considerably better if they’re preparing a defense against Zach Wilson and not Aaron Rodgers.
So there’s that. Nobody connected with the Patriots is going to be saddened by the absence of Rodgers. To borrow a line from “The Godfather,” it’s not personal, Aaron, it’s strictly business. Belichick put things succinctly on Wednesday when he was asked about the Rodgers injury: “Look, all that is out of my control. So, I like Aaron, hope he has a good recovery, wishing him the best health-wise. But (we’re) focussed on the Jets now and the guys that are going to be playing.”
I won’t insult your intelligence, or Belichick’s, by suggesting that deep down a little piece of you, and a little piece of Bill, wishes Rodgers was on the field. Sentimentality doesn’t make it past the threshold when Belichick & Co. step into the game-planning room. And if your rooting interests involve investment opportunities, there are no exotic wagers that take the making of history into account.
For the moment, let’s set aside the notion that Rodgers, who turns 40 in December, will be able to make a January comeback based on a magic brew of modern-day medical science and old-fashioned guts and guile. Let’s also set aside the notion that the Rodgers-less Jets will still be contending for a playoff spot by then.
But turn the clock back a couple of months, to when an irresistible storyline was being laid out: One of the greatest quarterbacks in history was brought in to help get the Jets to the Super Bowl for the first time since Joe Namath made that brash promise about a guaranteed victory over the powerful Baltimore Colts.
Namath made that declaration in January 1969. Lyndon Johnson was cleaning out his desk at the White House. That’s how long ago it was. And, yes, the Jets defeated the Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III. Since then, however, it’s been many, many bad seasons for the Jets, some of them calamitous. The Jets would suddenly get good every four or five or six years, and there’d be a lot of brassy talk — “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings,” Rex Ryan said on WFAN in 2009 after being named head coach — but it would always end badly.
For those of you who’d like to see the Jets continue to stumble through season after season, the Rodgers injury has arrived on your doorstep. For those of you who have an interest in — and I apologize for repeating myself — one of the greatest quarterbacks in history, this is a gut punch.
Look at it this way: Even though we now live in a world in which pretty much every professional sports event can be watched live on television, a world in which every highlight can be viewed in the palm of your hand, a world in which every athlete can use social media to speak directly to fans, there’s something to be said for being able to say this: “I saw (insert name of iconic athlete here) play.”
Rodgers has played against the Patriots just four times in his career. Yes, he played against them as recently as last year. In Green Bay. Maybe you were there. Had Rodgers remained healthy this season, there would have been Sunday’s showdown in the Meadowlands and a Jan. 7 rematch at Gillette Stadium. If you’ve never seen Rodgers play, and for the Jets no less, this season was your chance. Try putting a price on that.
Many sports fans have a list in their heads of the iconic athletes they’ve been blessed to see play with their own eyes, as well as the iconic athletes they regret having missed. I saw Frank Robinson, Al Kaline, Brooks Robinson and Harmon Killebrew, but not Mickey Mantle. I saw John Havlicek, but not Bill Russell. I saw Bobby Orr, but not Jean Béliveau. I saw Gino Cappelletti (who should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and John Hannah, but not Roger Staubach.
Where are you on Aaron Rodgers?
(Photo of Aaron Rodgers: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)