Could this be the end of Aaron Rodgers’ NFL career? Reflecting on QB’s legacy after season-ending injury

Could this be the end of Aaron Rodgers’ NFL career? Reflecting on QB’s legacy after season-ending injury

The 2023 New York Jets season had all the promise in the world after they acquired four-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl XLV MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a trade with the Green Bay Packers this past offseason. Pairing a top-five scoring defense (18.6 points per game) with one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks ever, had Gang Green feeling like Super Bowl contention was firmly in its grasp. Everything the Jets said on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in the lead up to the 2023 season said as much.

However, the Jets, notorious for their snake-bitten fortunes when it comes to quarterbacks, saw their worst nightmare become reality Monday night in their 22-16 overtime win against the Buffalo Bills: Rodgers tore his Achilles on their opening possession, ending his 2023 season. Larry David once made an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” centered around the Jets, his favorite team, killing his friend Carl because of the consistent disappointment they brought to his life.

Now, there’s a chance the trade for Rodgers ends up as the ultimate Jets disappoint if the future Hall of Famer decides enough is enough when it comes to football, as recovery from a torn Achilles ranges from six to 12 months. He turns 40 on Dec. 2, making it likely his recovery is much closer to the back end of that timeline than the front end. Although from everything the football world knows about Rodgers, his internal chip-on-his-shoulder motivation may not allow him to go out this way. 

Rodgers did sign a three-year deal with the Jets that runs through 2025 worth up to $112.5 million with $75 million fully-guaranteed. The 19-year veteran is, of course, financially equipped to be able to walk away from that money given his $341.6 million in career earnings, strictly from NFL contracts with the Packers and Jets, ranks as the most for any player in NFL history, according to OverTheCap.com. Plus, the history of quarterbacks bouncing back in their 30s from his specific injury isn’t particularly rosy. Hall of Famer Dan Marino had the best fortune after the injury, but he was significantly younger than Rodgers at the time of suffering the malady. 

Notable QBs after torn achilles

  • 1993 Dan Marino at age 32: 86 more starts (50-36, 122 TD, 84 INT, 2 Pro Bowls)
  • 1999 Vinny Testaverde at age 36: 68 more starts (70 TD, 76 INT)
  • 2000 Jim Miller at age 29: 21 more starts (26 TD, 19 INT)
  • 2002 Trent Dilfer at age 30: 19 more starts (20 TD, 28 INT)

If Rodgers’ thirst for a second Super Bowl, hitting 500 career passing touchdowns (he is at 475 right now), or passing Packers Hall of Fame predecessor Brett Favre on the all-time passing touchdowns list (he has 508) isn’t enough to keep his career going for a 20th NFL season in 2024 after an intensive year of rehabilitation, here’s a look at how the future Hall of Famer stacks up among the best of the best to throw around the ol’ pigskin.

Aaron Rodgers all-time NFL ranks

NFL Rank

Passing Yards

59,055

9th

Passing Touchdowns

475

5th

Touchdown-Interception Ratio

475-105 (4.52)

1st*

Passer Rating

103.6

2nd

NFL Most Valuable Player Awards

4

2nd

*Minimum 1,500 career pass attempts

Rodgers can stake the claim of being the NFL’s most efficient quarterback of all-time. His touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4.52 touchdowns for every interception is the best in league history by a wide margin. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP, is a distant second with a career TD-INT ratio of 3.88 at the moment (194 passing touchdowns to 50 interceptions).

Take a look at the all-time passing touchdowns list and soak in how much better Rodgers was at taking care of the football than the rest of his all-time peers. Rodgers also cracked the top five on this list despite significantly fewer opportunities thanks to sitting behind Favre for the first three seasons of his career. He is the only player in the top five in touchdown passes with fewer than 200 interceptions and the only player in the top 10 with fewer than 150 interceptions. He also possesses the fifth-most passing touchdowns ever despite being the only player in the top 10 with fewer than 8,000 career passing attempts. 

Most passing touchdowns in NFL history

Player Pass TD INT Career Pass Attempts

Tom Brady

649

212

12,050

Drew Brees

571

243

10,551

Peyton Manning

539

251

9,380

Brett Favre

508

336

10,169

Aaron Rodgers

475

105

7,661

Philip Rivers

421

209

8,134

Dan Marino 

420

252

8,358

Ben Roethlisberger

418

211

8,4443

Matt Ryan

381

183

8,464

Eli Manning 

366

244

8,119

Rodgers, while avoidant to make a back-breaking interception, wasn’t someone who played like a game-manager. He threw for more than 4,000 passing yards in five seasons during which he threw five or fewer interceptions. The rest of NFL quarterbacks in league history have three such years combined. If you expand the criteria to seasons with over 4,000 passing yards and 10 or fewer interceptions, Rodgers still has the most of those such seasons (nine). Tom Brady (seven such seasons) and Peyton Manning (four such seasons) trail him in that category as well. 

He is also one of the few players in league history to play at an all-time peak level at the beginning and the end of his career. Rodgers won two NFL MVPs relatively quickly after leading the Green and Gold to a Super Bowl XLV title in the 2010 season, bringing home those trophies in 2011, the next season, and in 2014. After switching systems from former head coach Mike McCarthy’s West Coast offense to current Packers head coach Matt LaFleur’s Shanahan-style scheme predicated around under center formations, play-action, and motion, Rodgers earned back-to-back league MVPs in 2020 and 2021, becoming the second-oldest (38 years old in 2021) and third-oldest (37 years old in 2020) player ever to win an NFL MVP award. Only Brady at 40 years old in 2017 won an MVP award at an older age. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, five NFL MVPs, has more in league history than Rodgers.

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Despite the somewhat bitter divorce between Rodgers and the Packers, his quote this past offseason that “no one bled green and gold” like him does ring true. His 18 seasons (2005-2022) with the Packers are the most in team history, and he spent 15 of those as the starting quarterback. Brady (20 seasons with the New England Patriots) is the only quarterback who has more with a single team. Despite Brett Favre (8,754 career passing attempts with the Packers) having over 1,000 more throws as Green Bay’s quarterback (Rodgers has 7,660 Packers pass attempts), the student surpassed the teacher. Rodgers’ 475 Packers passing touchdowns are 33 more than Favre’s total as a cheesehead. 

Rodgers also provided plenty of signature moments that will stand the test of time, like his Super Bowl XLV MVP performance against Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polammalu and Steelers No. 1 defense, all the Hail Mary’s (against the Lions, Bears, Cowboys, Cardinals, Giants) and the sound bites like R-E-L-A-X (2014 season) and “we’re going to run the table” (2016 season) before ripping off massive winning streaks to reach the NFC Conference Championship game in each of those years. 

If Monday night was truly it for Aaron Rodgers’ NFL career, there is plenty to appreciate about one of the most uniquely dominant quarterbacks the league has ever seen.

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