The Jets have been Jets-ing hard for more than half a century, dating back to their lone, quite magical Super Bowl victory in January 1969. They may have never Jets-ed like they did in 2023, though, when, after an excruciatingly long period of media and fan speculation, they landed four-time MVP and then-39-year-old Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback, only to watch him blow out his Achilles tendon on their own artificial-turf home field 11 minutes and four offensive snaps into the season opener. That meant the under-center return of Zach Wilson, into whom the team had invested a No. 2 draft pick and millions of dollars, only to watch him go 8-14 as a starter, while throwing 10 more interceptions than he had victories across his first two seasons.
But the Jets and their fans are keeping the cycle of hope and then, likely, unconscionable despair going, with the promise that Aaron Rodgers will be their quarterback again on opening day in September 2024. Anyone with two eyes who’d reached the age of reason knew the Jets would’ve been a much better team with Rodgers leading the offense last year, when they only managed a 7-10 record despite featuring highly skilled players just about everywhere besides quarterback. However, Jets owner Woody Johnson thought yesterday that he’d state the obvious — and in doing so he may have doomed his team for 2024 before this season’s Super Bowl has even been played.
In speaking about the team at the NFL Honors awards show in Las Vegas, Johnson said, per ESPN, “The discussions I’ve had in the last couple of months, they’ve seen me about as mad as I can be with what was going on, with the offense particularly. We have all this talent, and we have to deploy talent properly. So I think they all got the message. This is it. This is the time to go. We’ve got to produce this year.”
“We have to do a lot better than seven [wins], definitely,” he added, before taking a swipe at Wilson specifically. “You need a backup quarterback. We didn’t have one last year.”
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Knocking Wilson, whom the team will only start at quarterback next year in another emergency situation, if he’s even on the roster, is one thing. To publicly call out the coaches — the ones who “deploy talent” — after Johnson had apparently already laid down an ultimatum behind closed doors, however, is rolling some dice doused in kerosine and lit aflame.
It’s understandable for the owner of a sports organization to, after a number of disappointing seasons, feel as though he must motivate his personnel. And in fairness to Johnson, he has a more intimate relationship with his staff than anyone outside the Jets’ offices, so he should have a sense of what buttons to push and the amount of force with which to do so.
But Johnson doesn’t have a terrific track record of leadership himself, and his judgment should be open to speculation at this point in his tenure as owner. Putting that kind of pressure on his team, again, particularly in such a public fashion, could sink the ship before it even approaches an iceberg. A couple slip-ups in the first few weeks of 2024 and the Jets players and their managers may fear for their jobs. Performing in that environment will be all the more challenging.
Maybe Johnson’s tactic will work and next season the team goes 13-4, wins the division and hosts all playoff games through the Super Bowl in February 2025, where 41-year-old Aaron Rodgers hoists the Lombardi Trophy after being named the game’s MVP….
Yeah, right. This is the Jets we’re talking about. They’ll probably just Jets again.