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Jets QB Aaron Rodgers: 'It's Always Been My Goal to Win and to Dominate'

‘Every Great Team Needs Character, and Characters’


The day after the Jets completed their 2023 season, head coach Robert Saleh said that quarterback Aaron Rodgers is "on a mission" after a season on the sideline.

The four-time NFL MVP did not contradict his coach this week speaking with Eric Allen on "The Official Jets Podcast."

"We're all on a mission if you're highly competitive, if not what the hell are we doing?" he said. "I'm on a mission to win and to dominate. Winning is a team stat, it takes a team to win in all three phases, 11 guys. Domination can be a little more individual, it can be done by the offensive or defensive teams. There's a lot of that, domination can come from work and the mindset you put it. It's always my goal to win and to dominate."

After tearing his Achilles tendon four plays into the Week 1 game against Buffalo on "Monday Night Football," Rodgers began the arduous task of trying to work himself back to fitness in time to return to the field before the end of the season. But with the Jets out of playoff contention in mid-December, Rodgers was activated from Injured Reserve and returned to the practice field at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. And, yes, one of his goals during those few weeks was to "dominate" as the scout team QB playing against the first-team defense.

"I've always loved running a scout team," he said. "I grew up running a scout team. When I came into the league, I was the backup [to Brett Favre in Green Bay] for three years. I made that my Super Bowl every single week. How can I get the defense ready and light them up? I wanted to dominate practice. How can I inspire my teammates to go out there and ball out, and what things can we do to get the defense play hard, a little bit tougher. This year, with not being able to play it was kind of my opportunity. It was fun, I genuinely love to practice, I genuinely love to compete. If anybody watched practice, there were a bunch of highlights."

None other than the Jets' two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Sauce Gardner said that Rodgers' short time working with the scout team recently was a revelation.

"Going against Aaron when he's on the scout team, you're like, 'Man, I wish we had this guy,' " Gardner said. "The throws that he makes, he threw a comeback right on me. They ran seams and he threw a no-look back shoulder only where the receiver could catch it and it's like dang."

There are renewed expectations looking ahead to the 2024 season, though Rodgers was wistful when he discussed the initial promise of the past season that was extinguished before it really got started. Looking back on the leadup to that first regular-season game in green and white, he was ready for the next chapter of his NFL career.

"The excitement, you could feel in the building ... unbelievable," he said, referring, of course, to MetLife Stadium. "I remember the feeling driving into the stadium, to see the parking lot packed to the gills, tailgating, rocking jerseys. Being in the tunnel handing out American flags, I'd never run out of the tunnel with anything but my helmet. Wow, how do you hold it together? I get through the smoke, the level of excitement and cheering was unbelievable. We have to recreate that and we will. Jets fans are a great lot, they want this so badly. We have to give them a reason to believe, and I think we will."

And then, one inopportune step on the turf.

"It's a tough way to live, but you can't live with regrets and second guessing, but we're human," he said. "You think about what could have been if I hadn't had that one awkward step on the fourth play of the game, thrown to the left, or adjusted the play. What could have been different? It's a tough path to go down, I think we all do on some level. We love greatly, we question greatly, and we judge ourselves. I'm thankful for the experience, thankful for this year in a lot of ways. I'm broken-hearted about it, but I think both those things can exist at the same time."

After building up a ton of goodwill with his new teammates, Rodgers after his injury returned to his native California to begin his rehabilitation. He returned to 1 Jets Drive in November, tossed a ball around on the field before games and took up residency on the sideline tethered to a headset. He was back with his guys, glad to be back soaking up the environment where he has excelled for so many years.

"Every great team I've been a part of has been high character, through that you create chemistry and bonds, chemistry is important," he said. "Not just high character, you want characters. Those 'personality' guys that bring levity. There are guys who are quiet and lead by example, like C.J. [Mosley]. Big personalities like Q. Jeff [Quinton Jefferson] and the [Joe] Tippmanns of the world. Sauce, Jermaine [Johnson] and lead by example guys, like D.J. [Reed], Laken [Tomlinson], AVT [Alijah Vera-Tucker]. And you need your jokesters, JFM [John Franklin-Myers], [Solomon] Thomas.

Take a look through some of the best photos throughout the Jets 2023 season.

"We need more of those guys, more character and more characters. I think the organization does a really great job in that, Robert [Saleh] in his belief in how the locker room creates an environment where guys feel comfortable in themselves and when they do it allows these guys to be characters. I love the freedom that Robert and [GM] Joe [Douglas] have created with the locker room."

Rodgers closed with a message for his teammates -- and for Jets fans to take them through the offseason.

"This business is what have you done for me lately?" he said. "And winning isn't everything, it's the only thing, it's true what Vince Lombardi said. Anything that has nothing to do with really winning on the field needs to be eliminated, from the conversation from the locker room, from the practice field, from the comments in the media and that's how we grow as an organization.

"When we can understand that everything we do at the facility matters -- habits, practice and study -- that's how you become a winning organization and culture. Stop worrying about all the stuff that doesn't matter, the most important thing is winning, and everything we do has to be with that state of mind.

"We have an incredible fanbase, I have love and respect for you and your opinions. They matter, they're important and we hear you and we want it as badly as you do. I ask that you just show up with the same energy you had when you showed up on Sept. 11, 2023 in 2024. And we'll take care of the rest.'

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