For the Jets, a season that began filled with unprecedented optimism — from Woody Johnson in the owners box to every football fan draped in Gotham Green in an electric East Rutherford on Monday night — careened straight into a familiar uncertainty when Aaron Rodgers' Achilles buckled under the weight of the franchise's expectations on the MetLife Stadium turf.
Just four snaps into his Jets career, Rodgers' season is over. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport tweeted that an MRI confirmed Rodgers had suffered a torn achilles against the Buffalo Bills.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 12, 2023
While the Jets' pugnacious defense and opportunistic special teams led the way to a thrilling 22-16 victory over the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills on Monday night, make no mistake that the outlook for coach Robert Saleh's team hinges on Rodgers' prognosis, and early speculation is the team should prepare for the worst.
Losing Rodgers in the first quarter of his first game of a season that had Jets nation dreaming of a Super Bowl run is a worst-case scenario.
General manager Joe Douglas pushed the chips too far into the middle of the table in an effort to build a contender around Rodgers — propping open a minimum two-year Super Bowl window around some explosive and dynamic young skill players on both sides of the ball — to simply turn the keys to the green-and-white Corvette over to ... Zach Wilson.
Fortunately, Douglas built in a fail-safe in the Rodgers trade: the Jets' first-round pick in 2024 will not transfer to the Green Bay Packers if the four-time NFL MVP fails to play 65 percent of New York's offensive snaps in 2023.
Not only might Douglas' prudence preserve the Jets' ability to keep building on top of a string of successful draft classes, but it also could provide the flexibility to acquire the ideal quarterback to preserve some of this season's promise.
After the Jets' worst fears were realized Tuesday, and an MRI revealed Rodgers did in fact tear his Achilles, Douglas should immediately pick up the phone and call Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon and offer at least a third-round draft pick for Ryan Tannehill. Maybe more.
"Tannehill would be a very good fit," an AFC scouting director told FanBuzz, on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. "He needs players around him in order to be successful, and they have them."
After leading the Titans to the playoffs four of the past six seasons — including two AFC South Championships and a trip to the conference title game over that span — Tannehill would provide the Jets a steady veteran presence at quarterback. He wouldn't be overwhelmed by the moment or the pressure of playing under the Big Apple's bright lights.
A career 64.1% passer with 33,463 yards and 212 passing touchdowns to 111 interceptions, Tannehill has plenty of experience leading an offense built around a punishing ground game — as the Jets proved capable of Monday night with Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook — and he has the ability to push the ball downfield to maximize Garrett Wilson's tantalizing skill set.
For the Jets, the reasons are obvious to explore a deal for Tannehill. And a trade might even more sense for Carthon and the Titans.
Tennessee entered the 2023 campaign seemingly straddling the line between making one last AFC South push — especially after trading for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins — and rebuilding after stopping quarterback Will Levis' slide in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Moving off Tannehill would allow Carthon to make Levis the third rookie quarterback to get meaningful snaps this season in the AFC South. Carthon also could acquire a premium draft pick to keep building the team in his image, and he potentially could set the stage for a deadline fire sale to stock the war chest ahead of the 2024 draft.
Without Rodgers, the Jets' season is largely in shambles. Wilson has shown very little to inspire confidence that he's up to the task of leading a charge to the postseason in the AFC crucible.
But if Douglas is able to trade for Tannehill, some welcomed stability and optimism could return for an organization and a fan base desperate for both.
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