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Jets aren't the first team to lose an icon to injury, but they might be the most cursed

Other NFL teams have lost stars, but none quite like the Jets did with Aaron Rodgers.

You spend years, maybe decades waiting for the moment your team manages to put all the pieces in place for a Super Bowl run. You spend hundreds, maybe thousands on jerseys and tickets and face paint. You endure the mocking of your more blessed fellow fans, the jokes and disrespect in the national media, the endless stream of sub-.500 seasons. You see everything coming together perfectly — dynamic receivers, shutdown defense, Hall of Fame quarterback — and then, in four plays, all hope vanishes into the New Jersey night.

What happened to the Jets organization and Jets fans Monday night when Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending injury wasn’t just a bad break. “Cruel” doesn’t even begin to cover it. This was a biblical smiting, the kind of tragic fall that makes you wonder exactly which gods the Jets have offended to be so cursed. Never before in NFL history has the level of hope and hype that accompanied Rodgers' arrival vanished so quickly and completely.

Aaron Rodgers is done for the year. (Michael Owens/Getty Images)
Aaron Rodgers is done for the year. (Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Few NFL franchises have suffered a devastating blow like the Jets just did, the kind of news that rattles a fan to their very core, a loss that has even opposing fans shaking their heads in sympathy. These kinds of injuries leave scars that only championships can heal.

Longtime Jets fans can testify that this isn’t the first time they’ve seen a Super Bowl contender derailed by a ruptured Achilles. Back in 1999, Vinny Testaverde was lost for the season, also in the very first game of the season, cratering the team just one year after the Jets had reached the AFC championship. That team would finish 8-8, and it would take a decade for the Jets to return to the conference championship.

Four years later, in a meaningless preseason game, the Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick — starting his third year in the league and already the NFL’s must-watch centerpiece — broke his right fibula on a meaningless scramble. Vick healed up in time to play the season’s final five games. The next season, Atlanta would reach the conference championship and Vick would finish second in MVP voting, but the likelihood of Rodgers rebounding as well as a 23-year-old Vick is low indeed.

The loss of the dynamic Michael Vick was a tough blow for the Falcons in 2004. (Damian Strohmeyer/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
The loss of the dynamic Michael Vick was a tough blow for the Falcons in 2004. (Damian Strohmeyer/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

In 2008, Tom Brady suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter of the season’s first game, tearing both his ACL and MCL. It was a deflating — pun intended — injury for Patriots fans, but given that the Brady-Belichick era had already gathered up four Super Bowl appearances and three trophies, nobody felt too terrible for them. And when New England won three more, nobody remembered 2008 except as the answer to a trivia question: the one year out of 17 that the Patriots didn’t make the postseason.

Jets fans feeling particularly optimistic might want to look a few miles down Interstate 95. Back in 2017, Carson Wentz was one of the best players in the league, a leading MVP candidate and ranked third on the player-voted Top 100 Players of the Year. During Week 14, he tore his ACL on a goal-line drive against the Rams. But in Wentz’s absence, and with an elite-level team around replacement Nick Foles, the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Much like the Eagles, 1980s-era Washington boasted strength up and down the roster, so losing the quarterback — while heartbreaking — didn’t spiral the entire franchise. The Giants’ Lawrence Taylor ended the career of Joe Theismann, Washington’s beloved and Super Bowl-winning quarterback on a November Monday night in 1985, but two years after that, Washington lifted its second Super Bowl trophy of the era.

Word trickled out about Andrew Luck's retirement during a preseason game. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Word trickled out about Andrew Luck's retirement during a preseason game. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The best comparison to what Jets fans are suffering through wasn’t an injury, but it had the same annihilating effect. Back in 2019, just two weeks before the season was to begin, Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the NFL, stunning the league and basically devastating the Colts organization. Indianapolis’ grand quarterback succession plan — a smooth transition from No. 1 draft pick Peyton Manning in 1998 to No. 1 pick Luck in 2012, a run that should have taken the Colts deep into the 2020s, suddenly vaporized. Indianapolis hasn’t recovered; the Colts have had a different starting quarterback every single season since then, finishing no better than second in a weak AFC South and securing only two playoff appearances.

If there’s any solace for Jets fans, maybe it’s this: When people say “Things can always get worse,” this is exactly what they mean. Survive this hurricane, Jets fans, and you can survive anything.