How will Jets offense look if Aaron Rodgers and Nathaniel Hackett reunite in NY?
With Aaron Rodgers telling the football world his intention is to play for the Jets, it means the future Hall of Fame quarterback is very likely heading to the AFC East.
After 12 straight seasons without a postseason appearance, the Jets are swinging for the fences to bring an all-time great in to be their new starting quarterback. Rodgers, who led his Green Bay Packers to the postseason in nine of those 12 seasons, will be expected to bring the same success to the Jets in 2023 – and hopefully beyond.
The biggest difference to the Jets’ offense will be obvious. Rodgers will bring quality play to a position where the Jets have desperately and failed tried to develop several young passers over the last decade or so. Having so often been left wondering how differently the season would have gone if only they had base competence at this most important of positions, suddenly the Jets will have a quarterback who is still capable of performing at an elite level.
Rodgers would reunite with Nathaniel Hackett, who worked with Rodgers as the Packers’ offensive coordinator from 2019 to 2021 before an ill-fated stint as the Denver Broncos’ head coach last season. What could we expect to see from this pair, given what we’ve seen from them in the past?
The Hackett effect
Hackett being hired by the Jets was no doubt instrumental in Rodgers’ decision to join them. However, many Jets fans were left scratching their heads when he was announced as the team’s new offensive coordinator in January.
Older Jets fans will recall Hackett’s father Paul, who was the offensive coordinator for Herman Edwards from 2001 to 2004. These offenses were quite successful and the team went to the playoffs in three of those four years, but the elder Hackett was renowned for his overly conservative approach and criticized for leaning too heavily on Curtis Martin.
The younger Hackett has had some success as a coordinator at the NFL level with Rodgers winning two MVP awards in their three years together and even some previous success with Blake Bortles’ Jacksonville Jaguars. However, he struggled mightily at the head coach level, drawing widespread criticism after making several questionable decisions in close Broncos losses. Hackett eventually gave up playcalling duties and was fired before the season was over.
In Hackett’s defense, Denver was extremely unlucky with injuries in 2022, which disrupted the installation of his offense with Russell Wilson struggling at the helm. With the correct personnel in place, he operates a classic West Coast offense, with a wide zone-style running game and can incorporate elements of downfield passing when he has a big-armed quarterback like Wilson or Rodgers to execute this.
Hackett’s system is a timing-based offense with plenty of short passing to stretch the defense horizontally and get the ball in the hands of the team’s playmakers.
The rest of the staff
If the concern is that Hackett had too much on his plate as a head coach, the Jets have taken measures to ensure he can concentrate on his main duties now that he’s back in a coordinator role. Todd Downing has been hired to be the passing game coordinator and new offensive line coach Keith Carter will be the running game coordinator.
The assumption is that Hackett will be the playcaller, even though he didn’t have this role in Green Bay. Head coach Matt LaFleur retained those duties there, although Hackett did call plays in Jacksonville and Denver. With Rodgers at the helm, though, he would no doubt have the freedom to kill and audible out of plays at the line anyway. In fact, there could be some parallels with another Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning, who was traded late in his career and put up huge numbers with Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator.
Downing does also have some playcalling experience and although he wasn’t particularly successful in this role, injuries could again be considered a major factor in this. While he was in Tennessee, the presence of Derrick Henry essentially meant the offense defaulted to a run-first system anyway, so he should have more freedom in his role with the Jets.
Tennessee also operated out of a West Coast offense with zone blocking principles in the running game, so both Downing and Carter should be comfortable within their respective roles. Head coach Robert Saleh has already stated that he expects there to be significant carryover from last year’s Jets system to the new scheme as Mike LaFleur’s system does share obvious characteristics with Hackett’s system and those operated in Tennessee in the past few seasons.
What Rodgers brings to the table
Rodgers’ decisiveness and ability to effortlessly complete short passes and hit his receivers in stride would produce a stark difference to some of the Jets’ recent starters who all seemed to have a shaky foundation and struggle with the basics.
While he’s known for highlights that showcase his incredible arm strength, creativity on the move, and ability to come up big in the clutch, Rodgers throws a high percentage of short passes, getting rid of the ball quickly to mitigate pressure. This is what will make the offensive operate effectively because it will stretch out the front seven to create lanes in the running game and create opportunities for his tight ends and receivers to make plays down the field.
The other major effect Rodgers is already having is that his experience and star quality can attract more talent to the Jets. He’ll have good chemistry already with these players and will trust them to bring character and good culture to the Jets locker room. These players will automatically be good scheme fits, while helping the other young Jets skill position players to develop within Hackett’s system.