Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor
Injuries are a part of football. Every follower of the sport has come to realize this. For me, it was when Sam Bradford tore his ACL in back-to-back seasons playing for my beloved St. Louis Rams – right after my parents had bought me his jersey.
Eventually, it becomes accepted. It sucks, but it happens. Football is a violent game, and we read injury reports every Monday without skipping a beat. That was not the case on Monday night when New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon on his fourth play of the season. The shock and devastation of this injury makes it one of the most disappointing in NFL history.
I have no allegiance to Rodgers or the Jets, but the fact that Rodgers will not return this season stings. He will be 40 years old when next season starts, and there is a real possibility this injury marks the end of one of the greatest careers in NFL history.
Regardless of all the headlines bearing his name over the past couple of years, I never stopped rooting for Aaron Rodgers. He has good intentions and is incredibly genuine, which I respect immensely. He grinded his way through a season playing junior college ball to become a first-round draft pick. Moreover, his qualities as a teammate and leader came to light as he adapted to a new team this offseason. While fellow veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford’s wife is vividly describing how he can’t connect to his younger teammates, Rodgers has his own marijuana-themed handshake with 23-year-old teammate Sauce Gardner.
Rodgers’ move to the Jets was the biggest story of the offseason. When he emerged from his darkness retreat, half a million people tuned in live to the Pat McAfee Show to see the announcement as to where he would play next. Every move he made throughout training camp was national news. In a sick and twisted turn of fate, Rodgers’ season in New York lasted 75 seconds.
For over a decade, the Jets have been the worst team in the NFL. With fun personalities like Gardner and reliable vets like Rodgers and Randall Cobb, this was a Jets team that was going to captivate the hearts and minds of football fans this season.
For those reasons, Rodgers’ injury is crushing on a personal level. However, what this injury also does is derail his quest to immortalize his legacy.
Rodgers spent 17 seasons in Green Bay, where he found unmatched levels of success. He was named the NFL’s most valuable player four times, was a 10-time pro-bowler, and was named an all-pro on five separate occasions.
He has more MVP’s than Tom Brady and is top 10in every statistical category despite being a backup for the first three seasons of his career. He may be the most skilled quarterback of all time.
Yet, he only has one Super Bowl championship to show for it. That is holding him back from being on the “Mount Rushmore” of quarterbacks with legends like Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Peyton Manning.
Super Bowl victories are the most enduring statistic there is. Memories made on the way to awards will fade, but the image of a team’s leader raising the Lombardi Trophy lasts forever.
Rodgers will always be stuck behind counterparts like Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning in championship rings, despite being objectively better than both of them.
Football is an incredible game, and its fans deserve the memory of an all-time great winning championships. The fact that we won’t have that with Rodgers is a cruel injustice to our relationship with the sport.
He abandoned Green Bay after nearly two decades hellbent on furthering his legacy. He uprooted every stability in his life because he wanted to win while he still had the chance.
That took him to New York, where he had one of his best opportunities to win another championship. Garrett Wilson may be the best receiver he’s ever had. Their defense is one of the best in the league, and they showed that on Monday when they forced four turnovers against one of the best offenses in football.
The numbers will show that he is a top three quarterback of all time, but my fear is that people are going to forget Rodgers much sooner than they should. Those who weren’t around will write him off prematurely because his record in February isn’t reflective of his talent.
It’s a shame that when the story of the NFL gets told, Aaron Rodgers will not have a legacy that adequately reflects his greatness.