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Aaron Rodgers brings whole package for Jets

For the last 12 years and counting, the NFL draft has been a marquee event for Jets fans. It represented hope for their sorry team. It was the only pride they could take from it. The team has been so bad all those years by not participating in the playoffs.

With the 15th pick in the 2023 NFL draft, the Jets selected Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald, a pick that surprised everyone since he was figured to be a late first-round pick, not to mention that everyone figured the Jets would draft an offensive lineman to protect their new asset.

That would be Aaron Rodgers, who the Jets acquired from the Green Bay Packers on Monday to play under center. He was officially introduced as the new Jets quarterback on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Jets fans didn’t really focus much on the draft for a change. Rodgers served as a distraction in the sense that they couldn’t believe a player of his caliber is playing for their team. Since Joe Namath retired, the Jets have been searching for a dynamic quarterback who can elevate them. For a long time, they tried everything from trades, free agency and draft to get the quarterback position right and had no success.

They hope Rodgers is the guy that not only leads them to the playoffs, but to a championship that hasn’t happened since 1969, as Rodgers noted the other day by saying that the Lombardi trophy is lonely in the Jets showcase.

It’s hard to criticize the Jets for getting him. They needed him at all costs. They needed a quarterback who knows what he is doing out there after watching so many quarterbacks flame out for them. They needed a leader that can get them out of the wilderness they have been in for the last 12 years. They needed a player who gives them the best chance to win during the football season.

It was a no-brainer, no matter how much the Jets gave up for him. Giving up their first-round pick and getting the Packers’ first-round pick seems like a good deal for the Jets in the sense the team still got to draft in the first round. Giving up a second-round pick and sixth-round pick to get their guy is not going to destroy the franchise in the way the Vikings gave up so many draft picks to get Herschel Walker on Oct. 12, 1989.

So what if he is a 39-year-old, self-absorbed quarterback? Beggars can’t be choosers. There were not many great options out there. It was unrealistic to think the Jets were getting Lamar Jackson, who signed a five-year, $260 million contract extension with the Ravens on Thursday. If the Jets thought Derek Carr was better, they would have signed him as quickly as possible. Instead, Carr signed with the New Orleans Saints for a four-year, $150 million contract quickly as a free agent since he can play his eight home games in the dome rather than play eight outdoor games at home, which is where he struggles in cold weather once November and December arrive.

The pros outweigh the cons when it comes to assessing Rodgers. Even if he is a mediocre quarterback, this is good enough for the Jets since he does not have to do much. They can rely on defense and the running game to win games. All they want Rodgers do is to manage the game well and make a few plays. This could be enough for them to not only win games but do well in the postseason.

Here are many more reasons it’s great that Rodgers is a Jet: For the first time in eons, there are going to be expectations for the Jets. That’s a great thing after a decade of watching this franchise and not expecting much - as in no playoffs. There’s a reason to watch this team all season long rather than watching them play out the season before the Yankees start their postseason. There’s going to be buzz locally and nationally. They are going to sell tickets and jerseys. Shoot, maybe he can spearhead the Jets into building a new stadium of their own in the NY suburbs or in the city one day.

Jets owner Woody Johnson wants to win despite his flaws, but he also wants his team to be relevant in a crowded sports market. All eight pro teams in town made the playoffs this season, with the Jets being the lone team left out. There’s no doubt this was bothering him, especially with the Giants making the playoffs and winning a playoff game to boot. He needed the Jets to make a move to get Rodgers at all costs.

Rodgers is a game-changer and he moves the conversation. It’s really hard to rip the Jets for doing this despite some outcry from national pundits.

Jets fans are on board with this. They know what he can do for a team, even if he is not the quarterback he was when he won four MVPs, including back-to-back.

To quote Reggie Jackson: Rodgers did not come to New York to be a star, he brought his star with him.

It won’t be a dull moment with the four-time MVP playing in our town. There’s going to be drama. There’s going to be entertainment with him on the field.  There are going to be so many stories and legends about him. There will be plenty of winning. Of course, there will be plenty of heartbreak because that’s all Jets fans know.

In this case, Jets fans will take a heartbreaking playoff loss by their team over their team playing out the season as they have seen in the last 12 years.

The bottom line is the Jets will be the most interesting team in the most popular league in America now that Rodgers is here. That itself is why the trade had to be made and why it was a success even before he even played a game.

You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays

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