It’s been a long stretch marred by butt fumbles and five-win seasons, of draft busts and bumbling head coaches.
It’s not just that the New York Jets have gone a dozen years without reaching the playoffs, it’s that the parade of humiliation the past couple of decades wasn’t just on-field losses, but off-field absurdity. Foot fetish videos. Sexting scandals. Locker room brawls. Mom’s friend.
That's all why it's so significant that the Jets reportedly loaded an army of coaches, team executives and even team owner Woody Johnson on a private plane Tuesday and flew to California for a face-to-face meeting with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Maybe New York can convince Rodgers to come play with the Jets, kickstarting a trade with the Packers. Maybe they can’t.
If nothing else, the Jets have gone all-in, in every imaginable way, in pursuit of a four-time MVP quarterback they believe can make them an instant contender in the AFC.
An unserious franchise has suddenly become extremely serious.
With a dominant defense, a lot of young talent and a no-nonsense head coach in charge, they aren’t just wishing and hoping that this overdue opportunity to make something happen actually comes together. They are trying to make it happen.
They aren’t just headed West to convince Rodgers that the franchise is worthy of his talent and leadership, or that he can flourish by ending his career in a different shade of green. They are going to make it hard for him to say no to them. If this isn’t to be, it won’t be because they were distracted or incompetent or just didn’t try hard enough.
Landing Rodgers will be costly. Not just because he is owed a reported $58 million next season (perhaps requiring some cost sharing with Green Bay) but because the Packers will demand plenty of compensation via players and/or draft picks.
New York doesn’t seem to mind. It has treaded water for far too long, spent too many seasons as also-rans and bottom-dwellers to worry about being too aggressive.
The Jets won only seven games last season, but there was so much promise.
The defense allowed the fourth-fewest points in the league and landed three stars on the first or second All-Pro teams. That includes Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner, who appears to be the second coming of Darrell Revis, back when the Jets actually mattered.
The problem was the offense, despite also having the Offensive Rookie of the Year in wide receiver Garrett Wilson. New York was held back by the erratic play of quarterback Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Zach Wilson was a classic Jets mistake, fooled by some outrageous pro day throws and senior year game tape against weak competition after the COVID-19 pandemic prevented his BYU team from playing any major conference opponents.
What New York is attempting though is what good franchises do — rectifying a mistake rather than letting it continue to drag them down. Maybe Wilson can rebound and still be something. You don’t risk this roster just hoping it happens next season.
These are the Jets, after all, who are still pining for their next Joe Namath.
Instead they’ve pursued Rodgers and the Packers by every available means. Now it’s the final stretch.
So per ESPN, on Woody Johnson’s plane there was Johnson himself, general manager Joe Douglas, head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who worked with Rodgers in Green Bay during his two most recent MVP seasons.
Rodgers is a wild card, eccentric and unpredictable. He has contemplated his future of late via darkness retreats and podcast discussions. He loves the attention, dragging decisions out even as he says he doesn’t want to drag decisions out. This whole thing, this whole gesture, seemingly speaks to him.
Might as well go big then. Might as well go grand. Might as well show the Jets, of all franchises, are finally serious this time.
About landing Rodgers. About winning games. And maybe more.