Aaron Rodgers got the news on Tuesday that was widely feared since he departed the Jets’ Monday night game against the Buffalo Bills: He had torn his left Achilles’ tendon and will miss the season, the league said in a social media post.
After a long and glittering career as the Green Bay Packers quarterback, Rodgers had come to the Jets at age 39 in the hopes of pushing the team to a Super Bowl, which the franchise had not won since the days of Joe Namath. With the team stocked with an elite defense and young stars at key positions, Rodgers’s experience and leadership were thought to be the final puzzle piece to a team that could contend for a championship.
But the star quarterback was sacked just three and a half minutes into his first game at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday. Though he stood for a moment after being felled by Bills defensive end Leonard Floyd, he soon sat down on the turf. He was helped to the sideline, then carted off to the locker room. TV cameras showed Rodgers wearing a protective boot.
On Tuesday, the Jets said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Not the way any of us wanted it to go, but we know the commitment you’ve made to this team will continue to impact us moving forward.”
After confirming that Rodgers would need surgery to repair the injury, Coach Robert Saleh spent much of a news conference Tuesday to reiterate his confidence in the team and in quarterback Zach Wilson, 24.
“I don’t know why people are trying to put an obituary on our team name,” Saleh said. He added: “We have all the faith in the world in Zach and the best part about Zach is that we all do believe that he’s leap years ahead of where he was a year ago.”
For now, the Jets turn to Wilson, the backup quarterback who helped the team rally to a 22-16 win in Monday’s game against the Bills. Rodgers and Wilson are friends, and with the veteran’s arrival, Wilson had embraced his role as Rodgers’s understudy to improve problem areas in his mechanics and technique. But Saleh declined to offer specifics on how the offensive strategy would change under Wilson, saying it would vary depending on the game plan.
Saleh also said the team would elevate Tim Boyle from the practice team and will look to sign a free agent to the quarterback room.
The Jets have had a star-crossed history since Namath led them to an upset Super Bowl victory in the 1968 season. Since then, the team has struggled to find another franchise quarterback capable of leading it back to a title game, using first-round draft picks on Richard Todd in 1976, Ken O’Brien in 1983, Chad Pennington in 2000, Mark Sanchez in 2009, Sam Darnold in 2018, and Wilson in 2021.
The Jets had also tried luring an M.V.P. quarterback from the Packers, trading for Brett Favre in 2007. Those acquisitions each fell short of transforming the Jets offense into title contenders.
There was hope Rodgers could change that long history of inefficacy when was acquired in an April trade in exchange for draft picks. His long career has put him in the top 10 of many passing categories, he has won four Most Valuable Player Awards, and in the 2010 season he took the Packers to their only Super Bowl victory of this century.
Rodgers’s arrival had stoked the hopes of Jets fans and his teammates. “Bringing a guy like him into the building just excites everyone in general because the résumé he has, the character he is, the guy that he is, that brings a spark to everybody,” said defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, at training camp in July.
The fit seemed good: Rodgers threw himself into the life of the city, turning up at the Tony Awards, Knicks and Rangers games, the U.S. Open, and a Taylor Swift concert at MetLife.
In Rodgers’s absence, expectations for the Jets are now, as in so many other years, severely diminished.
Santul Nerkar contributed reporting.