What Version of Aaron Rodgers Will the Jets Be Getting?

On Wednesday, Aaron Rodgers finally admitted he wants to play quarterback for the New York Jets, and the Green Bay Packers seem to agree. Green Bay president Mark Murphy spoke of Rodgers in the past tense when he recently discussed the quarterback’s future with the franchise. When the 39-year-old QB told Pat McAfee on Wednesday that he intended to play New York in 2023, the Jets’ Twitter account launched the meme with enough haste for you to believe they knew it was coming.

There’s more to tie before everyone can get their wish, but Rodgers will almost certainly be playing in a different shade of green when the 2023 season kicks off in September.

The Jets and Packers are still working on trade compensation, Rodgers said, so it’s impossible to know exactly what New York will end up giving up in the deal, but it won’t matter much. If Rodgers plays as MVP, the Jets will be happy with the price they paid, no matter how high. If he is anything less than that and fails to turn a team with a talented defense and a young attacking core into a contender, it will be considered a failure, even if Rodgers is acquired at a discount. Only one question matters: what version of Aaron Rodgers will they get?

To start with, Rogers is a four-time MVP who was only a year behind his second consecutive MVP season. But last season, he didn’t look like an MVP. In 2022, the Packers’ offense was inconsistent and the team, which started the year with Super Bowl hopes, missed the playoffs entirely, while Rodgers finished with the worst record of his career.

Rogers’ Worst Seasons by Total EPA

Season Failures Total EPA EPA/return Yards per return Success % Touchdowns Interceptions
Season Failures Total EPA EPA/return Yards per return Success % Touchdowns Interceptions
2022 585 -16.5 -0.03 6.1 44.3% 26 12
2015 659 5.2 0.01 5.9 41.9% 31 8
2017 275 30.5 0.11 5.9 50.2% 16 6

Via TruMedia

That doesn’t bode well for Jets fans, who look to Rodgers as the savior of a club that hasn’t had a real quarterback in nearly 50 years. But if we only look at Rodgers’ stats for 2022, some key context is missing: Green Bay’s squad wasn’t very good last season. Rodgers isn’t the only one to blame for the faltering offense, and he can’t be blamed for the defense’s lack of preseason expectations. It’s not his fault that the only reliable receiver on the list was Allen Lazard (who is now Jet, by the way). Although Rodgers didn’t play as an MVP quarterback, he wasn’t nearly as bad as the numbers show. He finished the year as the eighth best quarterback in my QB rating is here Bell ringerand after revisiting a few of his last season tapes in recent days, i’d double down on this spot.

Even if Rogers is no longer elite a quarterback, he remains a very good player in the most important position in the sport, and someone who will instantly improve the Jets and push them into playoff contention in the AFC East. But if Rodgers doesn’t get back to that MVP level, he’ll need a lot of help from the rest of the roster to make the Jets a real Super Bowl threat.

I feel confident saying this because we just saw it play out last year in Green Bay. When you delve into Rodgers’ numbers, it’s hard to find any evidence that his shooting ability has declined in 2022, which is a good sign for a player who turns 40 in the 2023 season. His accuracy rate improved from his 2021 season, including only deep passes. If Rodgers had lost any shooting ability, one would expect his deep ball to disappear first, but that was not the case. At least once a week during the 2022 season, Rodgers showed he was still capable of 99 percent shots:

Rodgers twirled the ball just as well as in previous years; the decline in his production and performance was due to what happened before and after the throws.

Let’s start with the “after” part of this statement because it’s the easiest to explain: having Davante Adams on your team just makes it easier for the quarterback to play. It definitely helped Rogers. He could give Adams a simple screen with the confidence that the recipient would turn it into a productive game. Or, if the defense gets aggressive and plays the report, Rodgers can drop the fade with the confidence that Adams will not only track the ball, but catch it. The Packers wide receivers struggled with both last season after Adams was traded to the Raiders. And, most importantly, Rogers could trust Adams to be in the right place at the right time. That confidence is needed to complete the narrow halfway window shots that disappeared from Green Bay’s passing game last season. Compare Rodgers’ performance on these three specific shots in 2021 and 2022:

Rogers yards per attempt by pass type

Season WR screens Jump balls 15-25 air yards between numbers
Season WR screens Jump balls 15-25 air yards between numbers
2021 6.0 11.2 19.3
2022 5.0 8.9 12.5

Via TruMedia

Surprisingly, it takes more than Romeo Daubes, Christian Watson and Lazard to replace one of the NFL’s top receivers.

But the Packers’ poor receiving body is no longer Rodgers’ problem. He’s moving to the Jets, which includes Garrett Wilson, last season’s offensive rookie of the year; Elijah Moore; and the aforementioned Lazar, who agreed to a deal with the Jets on Tuesday as a free agent. It’s not a bad group, but Wilson isn’t exactly an Adams at this point in his career, and the young player and Rodgers will need some time to build a rapport. Due to the Packers’ reluctance to invest significant free-agent capital into receivership over the past few years, we don’t have many other examples of Rodgers building chemistry with already-established receiving talent. It’s easy to fit Wilson directly into Adams’ role on the Jets’ offense, but there will almost certainly be some growth issues.

However, the fact that Rogers may have to rely more on the talent around him than in the past is not on my list of concerns. My biggest question concerns its diminishing mobility. It may have been hard to see when watching games live, but the numbers clearly show that Rodgers no longer moves as well as he used to, which usually happens with 39-year-old players. According to Next Gen Stats, Rodgers set a five-year low in yards, carry yards, EPA, and over-expected yards. On top of that, last season he hit 15 mph in just 10 of his runs. In 2018, he did it 28 times. In 2019, that number dropped to 20. It was 16 the following year and then 13 in 2021. So this is a steady decline and we should probably expect it to continue.

It’s not just about fights; reduced mobility also affected Rodgers as a passer. In out-of-pocket games, his success dropped nearly 10 percentage points from 2021 to 2022, according to TruMedia. Rodgers is strong enough in other areas to make up for his lack of mobility, but that’s what set him apart from the old guard quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Drew Brees who did all their work in the pocket. Rogers could do all the pocket stuff at a high level too, but he could also do off-platform shots that the other guys wouldn’t even try. Without this ability to throw on the go, Rogers becomes a completely different quarterback and becomes much easier to defend.

This doesn’t mean that Rodgers’ days of playing elite football are over. We had the same conversation about Brady when he left for Tampa Bay, and it turned out just fine. But Brady…


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