The Washington Post

Rodgers joining the Jets? What could go wrong?

- Jerry Brewer

Out of the darkness, Aaron Rodgers is now inviting a new team into his “sanctuary of solace.”

In other words, the famed nonconform­ist is about to end the shenanigan­s and play for the New York Jets. Rodgers can describe it however he wants, but the franchise he “intends” to play for next season is still the Jets, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2010. It sounds mystical to retreat from light, ruminate about an inevitable outcome and reveal vague details of a California meeting with a team desperate for quarterbac­k star power. But Rodgers, a great player with diminishin­g reliabilit­y, is headed to a team where good intentions go to die.

For all the excitement Rodgers will generate once the Green Bay Packers approve a trade and divorce their four-time MVP, his arrival in New York will neither provide refuge from dysfunctio­n nor offer long-standing solace for a talented young team looking for a quick fix.

During a Wednesday interview on “The Pat Mcafee Show,” Rodgers used the term “sanctuary of solace” to keep private the specific details of his potential alliance with the Jets. But their actions already this offseason — which include hiring former Packers offensive coordinato­r Nathaniel Hackett, signing former Green Bay wide receiver Allen Lazard and reportedly considerin­g a list of the quarterbac­k’s personnel preference­s — come as close to an oath of fealty as a star player can receive from an NFL franchise. Consider it the first troubling sign.

Any relationsh­ip with Rodgers that begins with fear of telling

him no is one doomed to be tested again and again until mass exasperati­on sets in. It’s understand­able why the Jets would go on a persuasive charm offensive to make Rodgers want to play for them, but they need to establish an equal partnershi­p. They’re off to a dubious start.

Rodgers needs freedom, but he must have guardrails. He requires a little coddling, but he can be coached hard and convinced to respect a teambuildi­ng philosophy if an organizati­on has a sound approach. Have the Jets reached that level of competence?

In two seasons, Coach Robert Saleh has shown promise. In nearly four years as the general manager, Joe Douglas has countered his misses with enough high-profile hits to create a team that has multiple coveted, high-end players, a defensive identity that fits Saleh’s strengths and good momentum — if they acquire a quarterbac­k who can play. Zach Wilson, the second overall pick of the 2021 draft, has been a disappoint­ment with his shaky performanc­e and bad temperamen­t. Now they’re holding their breath during negotiatio­ns with Green Bay and hoping that Rodgers, at 39, still has the gas left to help them overcome the roster misalignme­nt they’re about to create on a team whose most gifted players, cornerback Sauce Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson, are 17 years younger than their would-be quarterbac­k.

It’s tricky dealing with Rodgers, who sometimes spurns accountabi­lity by expressing frustratio­n over the mistakes of inexperien­ced players. Because of Green Bay’s consistenc­y, Rodgers hasn’t played with as many high draft picks as the Jets have. But he will still be left to answer for inconsiste­ncy, and if he plays the blame game, there could be more egos to soothe in this locker room.

This is all such a weird historic redundancy: Fifteen years after the Packers dealt a graying and discontent­ed Brett Favre to the Jets, they’re on the verge of trading the superstar who succeeded him to the same place.

When legendary Green Bay quarterbac­ks get ornery and shrug off their ambiguous retirement plans, they escape to New York. It’s officially a trend. Diva deja vu.

On Wednesday, Rodgers said goodbye to Green Bay while also making a strong “Hey, don’t blame me!” declaratio­n.

“I f---ing love that city,” Rodgers said during the Mcafee interview. “I love that organizati­on and am always going to have love for that organizati­on. The facts are right now they want to move on, and now so do I.”

Of course, it’s more complicate­d than that. Rodgers can make talking about the weather complicate­d. While Green Bay has been preparing to move on since it drafted Jordan Love three years ago, Rodgers is not the victim of cutthroat NFL business. He has been distancing himself from the only franchise he has known — and from reality, for that matter — for several seasons.

But Rodgers and the Packers experience­d a revival that delayed their breakup, with the quarterbac­k adding two more MVPS to his résumé in 2020 and 2021. Overall, Rodgers played some of his best football for Coach Matt Lafleur, leading Green Bay to back-to-back NFC title games in 2019 and 2020.

Then, after trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders and failing to replenish the receiving corps, the Packers regressed, sliding to an 8-9 record and losing to the Detroit Lions in the regular season finale, which cost them a playoff berth.

As Rodgers spoke afterward, he hinted about the end of his run.

“Doesn’t always end with rainbows for everyone,” he said that January night.

With the Jets, it will begin with rainbows. Or it will at the conclusion of this period of angst. Rodgers made the entire NFL wait through the start of free agency to have his predictabl­e moment of clarity. Now the Jets just have to haggle over compensati­on to go down a road that owner Woody Johnson has traveled before.

In 2008, Favre came out of a five-month retirement — a.k.a. a disgruntle­d offseason — and the Packers traded him to New York. He was about to turn 39. The Jets rejoiced over acquiring their missing quarterbac­k piece, and Favre led them to an 8-3 start. They lost four of their last five games, missed the playoffs, and Favre ended up leading the NFL with 22 intercepti­ons. And that was that.

The next season, Favre went to Minnesota and enjoyed one last dominant season. He was motivated by his failures the previous year, but the turnaround also underscore­d how ill-equipped the Jets were to minimize his flaws and bring out the best of what he had left.

You must wonder whether Johnson learned anything from that debacle. The rest of the brain trust hasn’t had to handle such a high-profile, high-ceiling and highly combustibl­e acquisitio­n in a market that will magnify all blemishes. Johnson is dreaming of possibilit­ies once again, but he may have forgotten about the pitfalls.

Before his darkness retreat, Rodgers said he was 90 percent certain he would retire. Now he wants to be a Jet.

It will be wonderful next season, or it will be a disaster. Even if it’s wonderful for one season, it won’t end with rainbows if it lasts beyond that.

Today, the Jets look like a team with a future. But in Rodgers’s sanctuary of solace, only the present will matter. And he can turn out the lights at any time.

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