Even for the Jets …
Even for the franchise of the Butt Fumble and “I want to kiss you” and “I've decided to resign as the head coach of the New York Jets" and "I'm seeing ghosts" ...
Even for the team that passed on Dan Marino, passed on Jerry Rice, passed on Warren Sapp all for mediocre (at best) players …
Even for the organization that actually got Brett Favre but then had his tenure mostly remembered for pictures of his New York Jet …
Even for a franchise that already — back in 1999 — had a promising season torched when the star quarterback — Vinny Testaverde — blew an Achilles in the opener …
Even for that, this was a gut punch. Even for them, this was unfair.
“It’s bad,” head coach Robert Saleh said immediately after.
That much was clear. Rodgers is 39 years old and left his home in Green Bay to win a Lombardi in New York. He was the modern day Joe Namath, the superstar, larger-than-life personality who could lift up a franchise that has mostly sat in the shadows of the crosstown Giants and the up-the-road Patriots.
Those are places where things just tend to work out. Such as when Eli Manning manipulated the draft so he could become a Giant. Or when a Jet named Mo Lewis knocked starting New England QB Drew Bledsoe out of action only to cause Tom Brady’s career to begin.
The Jets are never so charmed, so lucky, so fortunate. It’s almost always chaos. Five picks in an AFC title game. A coach with foot fetish videos. Tim Tebow running in the rain. Hiring Bill Belichick only to have him quit a day later to go change the history of the NFL in New England.
So this was supposed to be it. They finally constructed a balanced roster. They finally drafted well. Last year they had both the offensive rookie of the year (wide receiver Garrett Wilson) and the defensive rookie of the year (cornerback Sauce Gardner).
The pass rush is ferocious, led by Quinnen Williams. Breece Hall was back to run the ball. HBO’s "Hard Knocks" showcased a tight, confident team and a charismatic coach.
And in the middle of it all was Rodgers.
The problem last year was obvious to all — former No. 2 overall draft pick Zach Wilson wasn’t good enough at quarterback. Winnable games were lost. Confidence was shot. Opportunities were squandered.
Give the Jets a proven and hungry veteran and even in a stacked AFC there was real hope. That’s how good the defense is. And that’s how good Rodgers was expected to be.
Now? Who knows?
New York still won on Monday, 22-16 over Buffalo in overtime. It took four Josh Allen turnovers and a dramatic overtime punt return for a touchdown, but a win, over a division rival no less, is still a win.
The celebration was wild, the pent-up sadness and frustration of a night gone bad getting screamed into the Jersey night.
Reality arrives now. Can Zach Wilson get good enough? Can everyone else carry the load?
The savior is out for the year and may never show up again.
For the Jets, the story of such a disaster, of such a kick to the shins, of such a rug-pulled-out-from-underneath-them turn of fate is familiar.
Can they rewrite the ending this time?
Even for the Jets … that’d be a story.