It’s been a long time since the Jets’ last franchise passer, “Broadway” Joe Namath, donned the green and white. So long, in fact, that the Bee Gees had yet to release “Nights On Broadway.” Consider that.
There have been no hits and plenty of long nights on Broadway since. Mark Sanchez turned out to not be the guy. Chad Pennington flirted with the status before injuries derailed his career. Vinny Testaverde was a worthwhile veteran stopgap. Ken O’Brien is probably still getting sacked somewhere.
Zach Wilson was the latest hope, but he turned out to be just hype and left a stain of his own on Joe Douglas’ otherwise solid resume. Wilson’s ineptitude has left New York in a very difficult spot: The Jets will have to upgrade quarterback in a meaningful way this offseason, which means targeting a meaningful name.
That’s why there’s been no shortage of recognizable passers connected to the Jets this offseason. Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Lamar Jackson have all been rumored to be attached to the Jets in some way.
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There are plenty of options for New York, though they’re not all winners. Here’s how the Jets quarterback options would rank:
Jets QB options
The capital-W Worst: The current QB room (Zach Wilson, Mike White)
Despite the memes and the jokes and the overall horrifying performance for the 2021 No. 2 pick, Zach Wilson’s NFL career isn’t quite over. He still has at least two more years on his rookie deal, maybe three, depending on the Jets future decision to pick up his fifth-round option.
Barring some kind of awakening this offseason with a new offensive staff featuring Nathaniel Hackett and Todd Downing, the Jets running it back with Wilson or re-signing fan favorite Mike White seems like an ill-fated idea. The team doesn’t have time to figure out if Wilson is the real deal given the massive jump the defense took in 2022, and White’s deeper numbers aren’t as good as the Jets fan fervor makes him seem.
With the defense already one of the NFL’s best, they’ll need a quarterback who’s at least capable of scoring some points. That’s neither guy on the roster right now.
Not so bad: Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill
Here’s the thing: In an alternate universe where the Jets get average quarterback play, they make the playoffs this past season. Instead, they lost six straight to end the season and a revolving door of poor QB play doomed their once-promising campaign.
Signing either Jimmy Garoppolo or Ryan Tannehill (should he hit the open market) means New York is banking on perfectly fine, acceptable football from quarterback. That should be enough to get them over the hump.
In Tannehill’s case, there’s also the added bonus that he has familiarity with former Titans OC Todd Downing, who the Jets hired as their passing game coordinator. Familiarity doesn’t mean productivity, though, and it certainly isn’t a guarantee of success. Garoppolo has plenty of durability questions, too, and he’d be playing behind an offensive line that will need major help this offseason.
Still, if the bar is “for the love of God, literally anybody but Zach Wilson,” both guys would be an upgrade.
OK, now we’re getting somewhere: Derek Carr
If the goal is for average quarterback play, then a move for Derek Carr would certainly fit that bill and a bit more. Carr has proven to be one of the league’s more underrated passers who has been in suboptimal situations in Oakland and Vegas, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can truly elevate an offense.
That said, the Jets boast a number of young, talented playmakers who would help lift Carr, not the other way around: Garrett Wilson won Offensive Rookie of the Year, running back Breece Hall could have been in that conversation had he stayed healthy — and Elijah Moore is all but begging for a new passer.
Would the Jets want to get in a bidding war with the Saints, Panthers and others for Carr? It’s unclear, but he’ll cost a lot less than the next guy on the list.
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Franchise = Saved: Lamar Jackson
The safe money says that Jackson, a former league MVP, is worth every bit of whatever an acquiring team would spend. That’s not to say it’s risk-free, though. It would require a hefty lot of draft picks, likely in the range of three first-rounders, and more. A trade for Jackson would also force the Jets to hire a fleet of Brinks trucks to pay him the contract he wants (and deserves).
There are questions, however. Not that anyone in the NFL is ever truly healthy, but Jackson has dealt with injury the last two years, the last of which kept him out for the final five games of the 2022 regular season and subsequent loss to the Bengals in the wild-card round.
There’s also some question if Jackson can effectively operate a more intricate, pass-heavy offense, given that the first five years of his career were spent in Greg Roman’s run-heavy offense. He more than likely can, but that’s more of a projection than a certainty.
Quarterbacks of Jackson’s caliber don’t hit the market often, and while there’s a good chance that the Ravens will slap the franchise tag on him, there’s still a ways to go before his future is written in stone. Until that day comes, New York should stay on the phone with the Ravens to see if a deal can be struck.
Inject it straight into our veins: Aaron Rodgers
Oh, hell yeah. This is it, this is the one. Just imagine the football-rippin’, ayahuasca-sippin’, four-time NFL MVP suiting up in a different shade of green and going toe-to-toe with the New York media. If nothing else, Rodgers would win back pages in New York (and maybe Page Six, too).
Jokes aside, there are a few reasons why Rodgers to the Jets makes a lot of sense. Rodgers is nearing the end of his career, and the Tom Brady model — leaving behind a legacy with one franchise to cement it with another one — has proven to be a viable option for quarterbacks. The Jets also hired noted Rodgers buddy Nathaniel Hackett as their new offensive coordinator, this coming after his disastrous stint as Broncos head coach.
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While Rodgers will be 39 when he suits up this season, he still has plenty left in his arm, and his down 2022 season speaks more to a depleted skill position group in Green Bay than his own decline. Trading away future picks without knowing whether or not Rodgers will suit up beyond 2023 is a risky proposition, too.
There’s also the hidden Zach Wilson benefit. If the Jets truly have no desire to move on from Wilson this offseason (and, to be honest, who would even want him?) then sitting him behind his boyhood idol might shake him into shape, and at least give the Jets a QB option for a post-Rodgers life. Letting Wilson marinate on the bench behind Rodgers could be a blessing.
Decisions will have to be made soon. Rodgers is somewhere contemplating his future while sitting in a dark room — but maybe he could be the light at the end of the tunnel for the Jets.