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    An Average Aaron Rodgers Makes Jets a Playoff Team

    Aaron Rodgers simply needs to be average for the Jets to get to the playoffs. With average quarterback play in 2022, they would be a double-digit win team.

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    The New York Jets have upgraded at the most consequential position in football: quarterback. That’s right, Aaron Rodgers is in the Big Apple after nearly two decades in Green Bay. Naturally, many Jets fans are ecstatic and thinking about the Super Bowl. Fans elsewhere may be more skeptical. Here’s what behavior science tells us. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    Aaron Rodgers Is an Obvious Upgrade Over Zach Wilson

    I’m not sure this really needs to be said, but given the doubts around how much of an impact Rodgers can really make for New York, It’s actually pretty substantial. Beyond Zach Wilson’s maturity issues, and the clear distaste his teammates have for him, given the public love affair they have had with getting Rodgers for months, Rodgers, even at the age of 38, is a superior player.

    Zach Wilson Was Bad, Bad

    In 2022, Wilson was a bad quarterback. He showed sizable regression from his rookie year, which itself was underwhelming. In nine games, he threw for nearly 1,600 yards and six touchdowns against seven interceptions.

    The team went 5-4 in those nine starts, but Wilson was more of a passenger in the car for those victories than he was a direct cause. In some cases, he was more like the annoying cousin who comes on the family road trip rather than the driver.

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    Wilson started seven consecutive games between Weeks 4-10. On the surface, this was a successful stretch of games for the Jets. They went 5-2. In those first four games, the Jets went 4-0. In the last three games of that seven-game stretch, they went 1-2. Wilson was then benched for Mike White. So what happened?

    According to scoring behavior rate, in those seven games Wilson started, the Jets would average only .59 points per minute of possession time. If that was over the course of the full season, that would rank the Jets 27th in the NFL.

    While they won the first four contests of the seven-game stretch with Wilson, their scoring behavior rate was decreasing by 3.5 times week over week. This means that in every start Wilson had, the Jets were trending to score 3.5 times fewer points than the week prior.

    That deceleration rate would by far be the worst in football by several multiples. In short, Wilson was getting worse, and he was getting worse fast. This explains the move, despite the 5-2 record, to replace him with White.

    Wilson would get another chance later in the season, but the results would be no better. In the two starts he had late in the year, the Jets averaged .36 points per minute of possession time and lost both games.

    Aaron Rodgers (8) (right) and New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh (left) address the media during the introductory press conference at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
    Apr 26, 2023; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) (right) and New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh (left) address the media during the introductory press conference at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

    The Jets Squandered an Elite Defense

    The offensive struggles, particularly in Wilson’s starts, squandered what was a truly elite defense. The Jets had one of the best defenses in preventing opponents from scoring efficiently. Their score prevention behavior rate was .575 points per minute of opponent possession time. That ranked second in the entire NFL, beyond NFC Championship contender San Francisco.

    This is particularly impressive when you consider how often the inept offense kept them on the field. The Jets were fourth-worst in the NFL in average opponent possession time.

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    Typically a defense performing like this would be a lock to be featured in the postseason. In fact, six of the top 10 defenses in score prevention rate made the playoffs, and 50% of them made it to at least the second round.

    The Jets stayed home.

    Enter Aaron Rodgers to the Offense

    If the Jets had even slightly better quarterback play, they would have been in the postseason. Meanwhile, in Green Bay, the Packers were dead smack in the middle of the league in scoring behavior, averaging .73 points per minute of possession time.

    That would be two-tenths of a point better than what Wilson did with the Jets. Over the course of a game, assuming the Jets possess the ball for around 30 minutes, that’s an extra touchdown.

    Let us not forget, however, the Jets have better offensive weapons overall than the Packers, and they even have familiar options from Green Bay for Rodgers to throw to. This is part of an environmental overhaul ensuring the Jets are not the next 2022 Broncos.

    There is no reason to expect that Rodgers would not be able to improve what the Jets do on offense by at least a touchdown each game. If the Jets had been able to score just one more touchdown, they would have won five more games that they had lost. That would put their record at 12-5 and a definitive playoff berth.

    What Aaron Rodgers Means to the Defense

    While Rodgers led the Packers, he was doing so with one of the best defenses at keeping offenses off of the field. But time of possession is not just purely a one-side-of-the-ball stat. If the offense can’t hold on to the ball, the defense can’t get off the field, no matter how effective they are at stopping scores. Not getting off the field means more opportunities for the opponent to eventually score enough to outscore an inept offense.

    In Green Bay, Rodgers was much better than Wilson was at holding on to the ball, keeping the defense off of the field. The Packers were eighth in the NFL in average possession time. They were also middle of the pack in converting third downs. Not earth-shattering, but not as bad as the Jets.

    MORE: NFL Defense Rankings — Where Do the Packers Land?

    Wilson and the Jets were fifth-worst in the league at converting third downs. All the Jets need to take the next step in reaching the postseason is “better.” They simply need better offense. It doesn’t need to be elite, and it likely won’t be. But being better will get the job done, given the eliteness of the defense. With an average offense and average defense in 2022, the Packers were playing for a playoff berth in Week 18.

    In New York, Rodgers will be paired with a truly elite defense. And rest assured, he will be better than what the Jets had. Remember, Wilson was so bad that an average performance from Rodgers is a touchdown per game better. The Jets would have been a 12-win team with an average Rodgers last year. If the defense remains in shape, the Jets will be a force to reckon with, even if Rodgers is simply average.

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