Joe Namath via New York Jets YouTube

With gunslinger Aaron Rodgers moving from Green Bay to New York, there’s definitely a new sheriff in town. However, he was sure to pay homage to the team’s most legendary rifleman.

Aaron Rodgers via New York Jets YouTube

Joe Namath, who famously guaranteed the Jets’ 16-7 victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III, embodies the organization in every conceivable way. He’s almost always the first thing fans think about when they hear the team’s name, usually delivered by the booming voice of John Facenda over grainy football footage.

The legend of Joe Wille Namath is burned in our consciousness as NFL fans, but most especially for those in The Big Apple. After all, they don’t call him ‘Broadway Joe’ for nothing.

Joe Namath in 1965. Jet Stream was published without a copyright notice. Photo Credit: New York Jets, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Rodgers’ arrival definitely brought a lot of comparisons between the brash young star of the 60s and the cool, cocky veteran of 2023. Mostly, because it’s a hope that they can somehow how find some long-forgotten fortune.

Outside of the Namath Era, the team has never won another Lombardi Trophy, and they haven’t even made the playoffs since 2010. They finished 7-10 in 2022, last place in the AFC East. Not only are the glory days far in the past, but the franchise hasn’t had a true superstar under center since.

Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets via Cleveland Browns YouTube

While Aaron Rodgers never lacks in confidence, he is certainly showing deference. He’s been more than respectful to the organization and it’s biggest legend. Despite wearing #12 throughout his NFL career, Rodgers says that he will switch back to his college number.

His old digits once belonged to Namath, who has given his blessing for the team to unretire it, so Rodgers could inherit the honor. Instead, the 38-year-old QB felt like it was best not to upset the apple cart in that way. It was a response that warmed the heart of Namath, who was a big supporter of the trade that landed the signal-caller.

“That was warm, that touched my heart a bit, that shows something about the man,” Namath told The New York Post. “He has a way about him, a lot of respect for the past. I was humbly grateful, you know what I mean? It felt good. It made me like [him] even more.”

“First time I met him I liked him, and I’ll tell you what, I’ve not seen anybody play better than him the times over the last 10, 15 years I’ve been watching,” he asserted.

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Instead, Rodgers will wear #8 as a Jet, which was his number at The University of California. He joined the NFL in 2005, when the Packers selected him with the 24th overall pick.

No matter what they stencil on his jersey and his locker, Aaron Rodgers is already looking like the leader that the Jets have been waiting on. And their standard-bearer at the same position joins in that praise.

“It gives us a legitimate shot,” Namath told The Post. “He gives them a legitimate shot of making the playoffs and even going further than the first, second round. He makes ’em a Super Bowl contender, I honest to God believe that.”

Aaron Rodgers via Green Bay Packers YouTube

Several NFL analysts also applauded Rodgers’ gesture. They not only noted that it was a classy move on the former Packer to acknowledge the team’s legacy. Former Pro Bowl QB Boomer Esiason is now one of the nation’s top sportscasters in the country. Broadcasting on powerhouse WFAN in New York, he noted the way that Rodgers has conducted himself, despite being the toast of the town right now. He felt the decision not to take Namath’s old number falls in line with that attitude.

“He’s not a dummy,” Esiason said. “He’s one of the smartest guys who has ever played, and understands history and who Joe Namath is and why that number is so important… That’d be like someone wearing 12 in Packers history after he’s gone.”

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