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New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, center, stands on the sideline during the first half of the team's Hall of Fame NFL football preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
CANTON, Ohio — A group of Jets die-hards were reminiscing about Rich Kotite’s futile tenure as head coach in the mid-1990s when another New York fan wearing an old, green-and-white Browning Nagle jersey approached the group outside the entrance to the Hall of Fame game
He reminded them Aaron Rodgers is the team’s new quarterback.
They all burst into “J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!” chants and rattled off random names from the franchise’s past.
From Kotite, Bruce Coslet and Joe Walton to Vinny Testaverde, Richard Todd and Ken O’Brien, the list of coaches and quarterbacks who failed to deliver New York a championship is lengthy.
Bill Parcells, Rex Ryan, Herman Edwards and Eric Mangini couldn’t do it despite several playoff runs among them. Brett Favre, Boomer Esiason and Chad Pennington never lived up to Broadway Joe.
The Jets haven’t won a Super Bowl since Joe Namath guaranteed a victory over the Baltimore Colts in January 1969.
They haven’t even reached the playoffs since consecutive AFC championship losses during the 2009 and 2010 seasons under Rex Ryan when Mark Sanchez was thought to be the franchise savior.
But there’s a new sense of hope in New York thanks to Rodgers.
Long-suffering Jets fans have been delirious since the four-time NFL MVP declared in March he only wanted to play for New York. The excitement level soared after the Jets acquired Rodgers in a blockbuster trade with Green Bay before the draft.
Fans who drove from New York and New Jersey to Ohio for the preseason opener and the Hall of Fame inductions of Joe Klecko and Darrelle Revis didn’t get a chance to see Rodgers throw a pass in a 21-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.
That didn’t dampen their spirit.
The 39-year-old Rodgers can’t remember the last time he played in an exhibition game. Few starters play in the preseason anymore. Rodgers toured the Pro Football Hall of Fame museum for the first time Wednesday. He greeted Browns QB Deshaun Watson before the game and stood on the sideline wearing black warmups and a headset while Zach Wilson got the start.
Rodgers, who led the Packers to one Super Bowl title after replacing Favre in 2008, has been re-energized in New York.
“This has definitely exceeded all my expectations,” Rodgers told the NBC broadcast crew during the game. “I love our team. I love the guys we got. I love the men and women that work for the organization. It’s a really fun environment. I think that’s what you got to do. When there’s a big-time change in your life, you can resist it or you can just jump in and surrender to the process and all the newness of it and just the excitement.
“It’s been a lot of fun just being around these young guys and being around a team that’s really hungry. They had some success last year and obviously finished rough, but all the pieces are in place.”
Rodgers’ enthusiasm permeates the locker room.
“He’s brought a lot of juice, obviously, and he’s brought a lot of hype and it’s awesome, because we want all of it,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said at the start of training camp.
Rodgers is making a difference even when he isn’t on the field.
Wilson said he called the play on his 57-yard completion to wide receiver Malik Taylor. The former No. 2 overall pick now has a future Hall of Famer as a mentor.
“I’ve always enjoyed that role,” Rodgers said. “I’ve had a lot of great backups over the years. …
You know, I got to be around Brett Favre for three years and learn from him, watching him and listening him and how he handled his business. And I feel like it’s part of the job is to help those young guys out and get them ready to play at some point.”
Even the defense benefits from Rodgers’ presence in practice.
“He elevates everybody’s game,” cornerback Bryce Hall said.
Can Rodgers help the Jets hoist the Lombardi trophy in February?
They have their best shot in years with No. 8 under center.
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