Jets Can Accelerate ‘Super Bowl Run’ With Polarizing QB-OC Pairing

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh celebrates a touchdown in 2022.

The New York Jets have two crucial decisions to make in 2023, and they could end up pairing together according to head coach Robert Saleh.

During a January 12 press conference following the parting of ways with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, Saleh confirmed that the new OC would “absolutely” have a say in who they target at quarterback. That comment led to tons of speculation on which potentially available QB-OC tag team might make the most sense, and very few offer the winning track record of close friends Aaron Rodgers and Nathaniel Hackett.

The legendary Green Bay Packers signal-caller has a resume that speaks for itself. He’s a four-time NFL MVP (won back-to-back in 2020 and 2021), as well as a Super Bowl MVP who has led his franchise to five NFC championship games.

Hackett is coming off an embarrassing season with the Denver Broncos, but don’t let that distract you from his wealth of experience as an OC with a resume that spans eight seasons and three NFL organizations. He’s coordinated a top-five scoring offense twice in his career — once with Rodgers and the Packers and a second time with Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars — and a top-15 offense in four of eight OC campaigns.

Most of all, he has strong ties to both Rodgers and Saleh, who was a part of Doug Marrone’s 2016 coaching staff in Jacksonville alongside Hackett.

NFL Writer Urges Jets to Trade for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers is currently mulling his future once again, but assuming he decides to lace ‘em up in 2023, many around the league believe the Packers could look to trade the veteran for several reasons.

“I was never concerned in any of the previous years that Aaron would retire or be traded,” John Kuhn — a former Packers fullback and teammate of Rodgers for nine consecutive seasons — told Heavy on NFL insider Matt Lombardo. “I would say now that I feel like anything and everything is on the table.”

“The Ringer’s” Danny Heifetz also authored a long and descriptive article detailing why the Jets should go all-in on Rodgers this offseason, hypothesizing that a trade might cost Gang Green their 2023 first and second round picks.

“If the Packers bring back Rodgers for 2023, it would actually be a two-year commitment,” Heifetz explained. “Last offseason, Green Bay signed Rodgers to a mammoth contract extension: essentially a $150 million deal for three seasons, paying Rodgers an average of $50 million per year. Because of the unique way Rodgers’ contract is structured, he would almost certainly be untradable next offseason (the Packers would have to take an untenable $68 million dead cap hit to make the money work).”

Considering the state of their franchise and Jordan Love’s rookie contract — which is entering its final year before a potential fifth-year option — Heifetz came to the conclusion that it would be wise for Green Bay to trade Rodgers as this very moment.

“If you’re seeking a team with a Super Bowl-caliber supporting cast that is a veteran quarterback away from contention, look no further [than the Jets],” Heifetz voiced later in the piece. “As Jets fans know well from the Rex Ryan-Mark Sanchez teams that made back-to-back AFC championships in the winters of 2010 and 2011, a young, elite defense can be dominant, but it can also disappear quickly. The question isn’t if the Jets will add a veteran QB; it is when. Neither Zach Wilson nor [Mike] White is good enough to entrust a Super Bowl run to.”

Heifetz went on to argue that Rodgers was, calling QB options like Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr “uninspiring half measures.” He concluded: “If the Jets want to go into next offseason as a true Super Bowl contender and not merely a team that has improved, there’s one obvious move on the table for them, [Rodgers].”

Nathaniel Hackett Listed as Jets OC Candidate

We know all about the coaching ties and friendships that link Hackett and Rodgers to the Jets. Saleh’s aforementioned days in Jacksonville, Packers HC Matt LaFleur serving as best man to the NYJ head coach, Rodgers’ mentor-like bond with Zach Wilson, Mike LaFleur’s former employment in New York, and the severe need for experience at both QB and OC.

This feels like one of those situations where there are either too many factors bridging this hire, or the perfect amount.

Connecting the same dots, The Athletic’s NYJ beat reporter Zack Rosenblatt named Hackett as a potential candidate for the offensive coordinator position. “He turned into an object of mockery, fired in less than one season in Denver. But before that he was a highly regarded offensive coordinator for the Packers,” Rosenblatt reasoned. “He also was the OC for the Jaguars from 2016-18, and Jacksonville’s QBs coach before that. He and Saleh were on the same staff in Jacksonville.”

Peter Bukowski, the host of the “Locked on Packers” podcast, also fed in this possibility on Twitter. “If we want to get conspiratorial, how about the Packers convincing the Jets to let Mike LaFleur leave to come to Green Bay as part of Aaron Rodgers trade negotiations,” Bukowski suggested. “Then the Jets hire 12’s guy Nathaniel Hackett as OC and a trade is made.”

What’s the saying again? That’s so crazy it just might work.

Upon hearing the news that Hackett was fired by the Broncos, Rodgers did tell “The Pat McAfee Show” that “Hack is still gonna get paid, and he’s still got an incredible wife and a great family and a lot of things to be proud of.” Adding: “And he’s got a great friend in me still.”

Yep, so crazy it just might work.