A Torn Achilles Ended the Golden Era of NFL Quarterbacks

With Aaron Rodgers gone, the NFL has three Super Bowl-winning QBs left

Aaron Rodgers being treated by the Jets medical staff.
Aaron Rodgers was knocked out after just four plays on Monday.
Michael Owens/Getty

In addition to ending the season for Aaron Rodgers and very possibly cutting his career short, the torn left Achilles tendon the 39-year-old suffered closed the door on a Golden Era for NFL quarterbacks that began more than two decades ago. Starting with Super Bowl XXXVI (36) of the 2001 season and ending with last season’s Super Bowl LVII (57), the NFL’s championship game was won by either Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Drew Brees 15 times, including nine straight from 2003 to 2011. In the 22 seasons from Super Bowl XXXVI to Super Bowl LVII, the only other quarterbacks to win on the final Sunday of the NFL season have been Brad Johnson, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Patrick Mahomes (twice) and Matthew Stafford. Of those players, only Stafford, Mahomes and Wilson started for their team in Week 1.

Despite a poor performance in Week 1 against the Lions in the NFL’s season opener, Mahomes, clearly, is probably not done winning Lombardi Trophies. But it’s seeming increasingly likely that Stafford and Wilson, both of whom had terrible seasons in 2022, are no longer championship-caliber quarterbacks. Rodgers also had a down season in 2022, but he was only two years removed from an MVP campaign entering this season — and there was justifiable hope that he could help lead the Jets to their first Super Bowl since 1969.

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Much like the former Packer’s left Achilles, those hopes have been torn to shreds, and New York’s dream of winning it all this year is all but over — as is the NFL’s Golden Era for quarterbacks. It’s always possible that Rodgers will decide to undergo the lengthy rehabilitation process that might allow him to get back on the field next season for the Jets, but it seems much more probable he will just hang up his cleats for good, as the recovery time from a ruptured Achilles is typically nine months to a year.

“At 40, it’s an uphill battle,” Dr. Ryan Minara, chief of podiatric medicine and surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, told New York Post. “Can he do it? Not only are these NFL quarterbacks the best in the world, he’s one of the best of the best, a very competitive guy. So certainly he has that working for him, but just based on the way the body ages, despite being a competitive, high-level athlete, it’s a hard injury to recover from.”

It’s a tough way to go out, and hopefully Rodgers — despite all of the baggage he carries with him — makes it back. But if he is actually done, so is the Golden Era of NFL quarterbacks.

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