Jets' Rodgers hopes to play beyond next season but notes everyone's 'on the hot seat'
And, he hopes, beyond.
The 40-year-old quarterback acknowledged Monday he first thought he could be one and done after he was traded to New York last April. But thoughts of staying for multiple seasons were sparked as he began having fun “and kind of falling back in love with the game.”
Then came the torn left Achilles tendon that sabotaged his season — and the Jets' hopes — just four snaps into his debut.
“And then it gets taken away,” Rodgers said. "So this is not a one year (thing) in my mind. I mean, obviously, it’s a what have you done for me lately? And I’m going to have to go out and prove I can still play at a high level.
“But I’d like this to be more than just next year.”
So do the Jets, who finished 7-10 and missed the playoffs for the 13th consecutive year — the longest active drought among the major North American professional sports leagues.
“It kind of hit me last night after the game, just feeling like a lost year,” Rodgers said. “And that I missed out on obviously a lot of opportunities, just thinking if I’d had been out there, things would have been a little different.”
Owner Woody Johnson is treating this season as a mulligan of sorts, opting to not part ways with either coach Robert Saleh or general manager Joe Douglas.
“For the last two years, having our team be defined by not being able to overcome the adversity, that's a tough thing,” Douglas said. “That's directly on me.”
Rodgers was viewed by many in the organization going into the season as a missing piece for the Jets to return to respectability — and the playoffs.
Rodgers, Saleh and Douglas will all get the chance to reward Johnson's patience next season.
“Obviously we’re all going to be on the quote-unquote hot seat next year,” Rodgers said. "It’s going to be an important year for all of us and I love that. I mean, I think that’s fantastic. We should approach that every single year. ... If you have a down year, a bad year, there’s going to be people calling to move on, and especially when you’re 40 years old.
“So, I’m going to go out there and play as well as I can. And obviously if I have the season I know that I’m capable of having and we have the success I know we’re capable of having, then all that stuff takes care of itself.”
The four-time NFL MVP made a remarkably fast recovery from his torn Achilles tendon and returned to practice with the team on Nov. 29, and Saleh watched Rodgers “carve us up on the scout team.” But with the Jets knocked out of playoff contention and Rodgers not fully healthy, the focus eventually turned to next season for the quarterback's return.
“He still has all kinds of juice, energy, arm talent, so I think he's going to come out with more fire,” Saleh said. “He's on a mission and he's not going to stop until his mission's complete.”
Rodgers had one piece of advice for the team when evaluating itself during the offseason: eliminate outside distractions.
“If you want to be a winning organization and put yourself in a position to win championships and be competitive, everything that you do matters,” Rodgers said. “The (stuff) that has nothing to do with winning needs to get out of the building. That will be the focus moving forward.”
Zach Wilson was the face of the franchise after being drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. The embattled quarterback could be headed elsewhere in the offseason.
“We're going to do what's right for the team,” Douglas said.
Wilson, who missed the final three games with a concussion, mostly struggled during his tenure with the Jets — including the 11 starts he made this season in place of Rodgers. New York is unlikely to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, and the Jets could try to trade him in the offseason.
“I want what’s best for him and where he wants to be," Rodgers said, “and sometimes a change of scenery, as I know, can be a breath of fresh air.”
Saleh doesn't expect to make any “significant” changes to his coaching staff and anticipates all three of his coordinators — Nathaniel Hackett (offense), Jeff Ulbrich (defense) and Brant Boyer (special teams) — to be back unless other opportunities arise.
Wide receiver Garrett Wilson followed up being selected the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year by catching 95 passes for 1,042 yards and three touchdowns and setting various team marks along the way.
He still called it “the worst year of my life, dog.”
Wilson was part of an offense under Hackett that finished ranked 31st overall.
“What happened this season can’t happen again, is how I feel about it,” Wilson said. “It’s got to be better."
Douglas enters the offseason with the spotlight on him because he has several areas to address through free agency and the draft, including bolstering the offensive line, adding a top wide receiver to complement Garrett Wilson and finding a backup for Rodgers.
The Jets also have nearly two dozen players scheduled to be free agents, including edge rusher Bryce Huff, offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, defensive end Carl Lawson, safety Jordan Whitehead, kicker Greg Zuerlein and punter Thomas Morstead.
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