As I begin writing this, days after it happened, I still cannot believe what I saw. I keep thinking this is just a bad dream that will eventually end, and when I wake up, I will watch Aaron Rodgers run out of the tunnel and lead the Jets to a 12-5 regular season record and a playoff berth.
Obviously, I know that isn't happening. But it doesn't hurt any less. From a purely fan perspective, I am crushed. I feel terrible for Rodgers, the entire Jets coaching staff and team, and, of course, for the fans. We were all robbed of a magical year with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback and an elite defense. I truly think they could have won the Super Bowl this year.
Instead, this is just the most recent heart-crushing development in the last 26 years of being a Jets fan. I write this article from an emotional fan perspective. I can't do it any other way.
The NY Jets have been historically unlucky
Aaron Rodgers completely tearing his Achilles was the most statistically improbable event to happen in this game. I'm not suggesting Rodgers was never going to get hurt. He was a soon-to-be 40-year-old quarterback playing behind an average offensive line at best.
But to have it happen on the fourth play, just 75 seconds into his Jets career, was hard to fathom. I still can't process it. Rodgers hadn't missed a game due to injury in years, playing in 81 of his last 82 games. He hadn't missed significant time in over seven seasons when he broke his collarbone back in 2016.
But, of course, in true Jets fashion, the second Rodgers went down, I knew this one was serious. I felt it. I could see it on his face, on head coach Robert Saleh's face, and I felt it in my stomach that, since it's the Jets, the worst possible outcome was coming.
Since being born in 1997, I have witnessed some of the most improbable and unlucky disasters in sports happen to my beloved Jets. If it happens once, it's devastating. Twice, gut-wrenching. But after watching it year after year, it has become a ritual.
Back in 1999, the same thing happened to Jets' favorite Vinny Testaverde. Following a promising 1998 season that ended with an AFC Championship Game loss to the Broncos, the Jets had all the buzz going into the season.
It was finally their year, and with a talented roster and talented quarterback, they were set. Then, Testaverde ruptured his Achilles in the second quarter of the first game, and the Jets tumbled to an 8-8 record, missing the playoffs.
In the 2000 NFL Draft, the Jets had four first-round picks, using the 18th selection to draft Chad Pennington. After starting on the bench, Pennington got his chance and led the Jets to an improbable playoff berth, finishing 9-7 after a 1-4 start before Pennington took over.
They even beat the Peyton Manning Colts 41-0 in the first round, highlighted by Pennington's three touchdown passes in that game.
In 2003, Pennington suffered a fractured left hand and missed the first six games of the season. In 2004, he suffered a rotator cuff injury and missed time, eventually having surgery before the 2005 season.
It was also in the 2004 season when the Jets narrowly lost to the Steelers 20-17 in overtime during the playoffs. He would have complications from these injuries for the rest of his Jets career.
In 2008, with a struggling Pennington barely able to throw any longer, the team brought in Brett Favre to play, coming out of retirement to join the Jets.
He, too, flashed early promise, getting the Jets off to a blistering 8-3 start, first in the division and first in the AFC. He then tore his biceps, struggled to throw the ball the rest of the way, and the Jets finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
The next project was Mark Sanchez, drafted in 2009. Although unspectacular, he led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010. However, his career quickly fell apart following the infamous butt fumble and injury during the preseason.
Geno Smith was the next man up. Another risk-taker for Gang Green, Smith was poised for a promising breakout season before a gambling debt got his jaw wired shut as the season started. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over, leading the Jets to the most improbable season ever, shattering Jets record books.
Fitzpatrick played so well that the Jets were in a win-and-in game in Buffalo in Week 16. A bad Bills team awaited them. The Jets, of course, would look terrible, lose the game, and miss the playoffs. Fitzpatrick held out of camp the next year while awaiting a new contract and never regained form.
Sam Darnold, another highly touted USC quarterback, was next in line. Darnold flashed a legit promise but was never consistent enough to win regularly. The Jets also crashed and burned his career under Adam Gase, who should have been fired before he was hired.
The next quarterback to take over was none other than Zach Wilson. Wilson struggled but flashed talent. Going into year two, he looked to fix his mental mistakes during preseason action. But he would scramble, forget to slide, sprain his knee, and miss four weeks. As we know, he then struggled heavily in his second season.
And this is where Rodgers comes in. He chose the Jets. The Jets chose him. It was a perfect marriage. The Jets had their guy finally, and finally, the team was ready for the Super Bowl jump. It was too good to be true.
On play four, while scrambling away from pressure on a horrifically broken play, Rodgers's Achilles popped as he was brought to the ground. And that was it for the 2023 season.