In the dreary, decades-long history of the New York Jets, Monday night’s game was supposed to be a turning point: Aaron Rodgers, a surefire Hall of Fame quarterback, was set to take the field surrounded by All-Pro talent.
For fans of the team, which has long seemed cursed, hopes had perhaps never been higher. The Jets — and Rodgers in particular — were the stars of HBO’s documentary series “Hard Knocks” during training camp, amping up the excitement around the team to something approaching hysteria. This was supposed to be the year that the Jets finally broke through; even the Super Bowl seemed within reach.
All that hope and hype lasted exactly four plays.
Rodgers fell to the turf on a routine play early in the first quarter, stood briefly, then sat down, a look of disbelief on his face. He had ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon — a potentially devastating injury for a quarterback. His season was over. At age 39, there will be questions about whether his career is, too.
“We all bought in. We all drank the Kool-Aid” that Rodgers might lead the Jets to the Super Bowl, said Scott Schoifet, a season-ticket holder who has attended every home opener since the early 1990s. “And then, four plays later, he’s on the ground.”
Improbably, the Jets won the game against the Buffalo Bills on a dramatic overtime touchdown. But it was a hollow win — and, in a bleak summer for New York’s sports teams, a rare one.
This time of year, with football season starting and baseball’s pennant races in full swing, can be one of the most exciting in sports. But for New York fans, this week might represent a new low.
“It’s a lot of losing,” said Frank Isola, a sports journalist for ESPN who appears on the shows “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption.” “The U.S. Open ended this weekend. The Mets and Yankees are done. And part of you feels like the Jets and Giants are done already.”
Despite huge payrolls and championship aspirations at the start of the baseball season, the Mets and Yankees are mired at or near the bottom of their divisions.
And about 24 hours before Rodgers’s injury happened on the very same MetLife Stadium field, a New York Giants team that had entered the season with a high-paid quarterback and star running back with a new contract was summarily thrashed 40-0 by the rival Dallas Cowboys.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a 24-hour span with so much disappointment in one venue, ever,” said Darren Meenan, a Jets fan who watched the game from his home on Long Island. “It’s a kick to the gut.”
This summer, only the W.N.B.A.’s New York Liberty, whose first-round playoff series begins this week, have managed to achieve anything more than mediocrity.
The last New York area team to win a championship in one of the four biggest men’s American sports leagues was the Giants, who won the Super Bowl in 2012, at the end of the 2011 season.
Since then, several teams built up fans’ hopes, only to dash them with injuries, personality clashes or the natural vicissitudes of sport. The Brooklyn Nets assembled a dream team, only to watch its stars James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving fail to coalesce on the court. The Yankees were blessed this season with a high payroll and even higher expectations, but it all unraveled after outfielder and team captain Aaron Judge injured his toe in June.
New injuries continue to plague the Yankees, as highly regarded rookie outfielder Jasson Dominguez was diagnosed on Sunday with a ligament tear in his right elbow, ending his season.
Perhaps no team underperformed more spectacularly than the Mets, where Steve Cohen, the team’s billionaire owner, spent more than $400 million on player contracts and “luxury taxes” paid to other teams as a penalty for ignoring Major League Baseball’s spending caps.
That spending spree included a five-year, $102 million contract for pitcher Edwin Díaz, whose season ended before it even began when he tore a tendon in his knee during an international tournament in March. The biggest question now is whether the Mets can avoid ending the 2023 season with the worst record in baseball.
“It was harder to watch games this season than most years I’ve watched this team, just because of how high the expectations were,” said Mr. Meenan, owner of The 7 Line, a Mets-themed apparel company.
Even the Red Bulls, owners of the longest active streak of making the Major League Soccer Playoffs — 13 years — are sitting near the bottom of the league. The New York City Football Club, which has made the playoffs for seven straight years and won a championship in 2021, is not faring much better.
But it is Jets fans whose agony, in the wake of the news about Rodgers, is most acute — the lowest moment in the history of a team whose most notable recent moment is the so-called butt fumble, which involved a Jets quarterback slamming so hard into his own teammate’s rear end that he lost the ball.
And yet for some fans, hope continues to spring eternal. Spike Lee concedes that some New York teams are struggling, but not his beloved Knicks.
“Last night was a disaster” for the Jets, Mr. Lee said. “But we got the Knicks, though! We’re going to conference finals at least! I have full belief.”
Baseball fans, disappointed by the Yankees and Mets, were looking to the opening games of football season for some relief, said Chris Russo, a longtime New York sports talk radio personality. The Giants drubbing and the Rodgers injury were depressing, Mr. Russo said, but not necessarily cause for alarm since both the Giants and Jets have 16 more games to play in the regular season.
“This was a terrible weekend for the football teams,” Mr. Russo said. “But it’s not the apocalypse yet. I don’t think the Jets team is writing off the season because of this one game.”
For many, though, Tuesday morning was spent in the five stages of grief, from denial that Rodgers’s injury was as grievous as it seemed all the way to grim acceptance, when the team announced that its star quarterback would spend the season on the bench.
On ESPN, Mike Greenberg — the host of the morning discussion show “Get Up” and an avowed Jets fan — struggled to get though his remarks. “I can’t pretend this is a normal morning,” he said, and added, “from a sports perspective, this is about as overwhelming as anything that could possibly happen.”
On X, the social media website formerly known as Twitter, Mr. Greenberg’s daughter posted, perhaps only partially tongue in cheek: “thank you everyone for your concern about my father’s mental state i am here to confirm it is not good.”
Boomer Esiason, a former Jets quarterback and now a commentator on the radio station WFAN, began his show on Tuesday morning by saying, “Yeah, I’m sick to my stomach, man.”
Fans felt a similar sickness.
“I’m so upset. Devastated, honestly,” said Marin Kerker, 19, who wore a Jets jersey on Tuesday morning as she walked to a doctor’s appointment in Manhattan.
Of course, the team’s fan base has a reputation for enthusiasm that verges on the obnoxious, and its tragedy engendered more than a little schadenfreude on Tuesday.
In Brooklyn, Charles Jackson, a Chicago Bears fan, used a familiar but profane expression about karma to drive home the point.
“That’s what I told everyone this morning in my elevator,” said Mr. Jackson, 57, before clarifying: “I don’t like to see anyone get hurt. But I doubt if the guy will be coming back.”
For decades, Ken Pikowski has been a Jets superfan. Known to his friends as “End Zone Kenny,” he attended most home games dressed as The Incredible Hulk, complete with a construction helmet in Jets green and white.
But in the last two years he has found it more difficult to keep the faith, he said. He was not at Monday night’s game. He bore witness to the lowest moment in his team’s history on television.
“I had to take a break,” Mr. Pikowski said. “After 45 years as a Jets fan, you get exhausted after a while.”
Claire Fahy and Erin Nolan contributed reporting.