Jets need Aaron Rodgers to overcome infamous ‘41 club’ history

When Aaron Rodgers throws his first pass of the 2024 season, he will become the 10th quarterback to join an exclusive club.

If Rodgers gets to 50 attempts — and the promise of the Jets’ season depends on him far exceeding that number in his return from a torn Achilles — the enhanced criteria will whittle down club membership to seven.

In the Super Bowl era dating to 1966, just nine quarterbacks have thrown a pass during their age-41 season — a significant drop-off from the 22, including Rodgers, in their age-40 season, according to Pro Football Reference.

Remove the unparalleled Tom Brady — who won his sixth Super Bowl ring at 41 years old in 2018 — and the results are a mixed bag that highlight how risky it can be to have so much riding on an arm with a career pitch count like Rodgers’ 7,661.

Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers smiles during OTAs in Florham Park, NJ. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

But Rodgers’ self-confidence and savvy matches any of the greats.

“I always felt that I could play with anybody in the league at that time if I was healthy,” Hall of Famer Warren Moon told The Post when asked about the “41” club. “It’s something that’s in the minds of people in football: When you get to a certain age — in my days it was 34 or 35 — your career is on the back burner, except for Tom Brady.

“It’s a young man’s game, but I really felt like I was in really good shape to be able to perform. Was I as athletic as I was when I first came in the league? No, but I made up for it with my knowledge of defenses and my anticipation. I got better as I got older.”

Rodgers has made similar adjustments.

But no quarterback has come off of a serious season-ending injury in his age-40 season — Drew Brees (torn thumb ligaments) and Moon (high ankle sprain) returned to the field before that year was over — to play at a high level in his age-41 season.

Rodgers, who will turn 41 Dec. 3 ahead of a Week 14 game against the Dolphins, is always motivated by the chance to make history and doesn’t “want to go out as a bum.”

“When you get to this age, you are looking for things to motivate you and give you that chip on your shoulder — to keep you sharp as far as your competitiveness,” said Moon, MVP of the 1997 Pro Bowl at 41.

Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon of the Seattle Seahawks looks for an open receiver during a 37-31 victory over the San Diego Chargers on November 9, 1997. NFL

“Aaron is a four-time MVP, so in his mind he can think, ‘I’ve done it all and what do I need to prove?’ But now, because of this injury, people are starting to doubt him a little bit, so it’s something to motivate him and say, ‘I’m going to go out there and show these guys I still have that same type of MVP play in me.’ ”

Saying it is one thing.

Doing it is another.

“In New York, they’ve gone all-in on Aaron,” Moon said. “It’s unfortunate he had that injury, but he seems to be moving around really well in all the tapes I’ve seen of him. He has the talent around him to do it. Having familiarity with an offensive coordinator [Nathaniel Hackett] helps, too. It’s all there for him. It’s just a matter of how healthy he is and how healthy he stays. We’ll see what happens.”

Here’s the list, sorted by pass attempts in the age-41 season:

Tom Brady (2018, 570 attempts)

During a season in which he admittedly was barely speaking to head coach Bill Belichick, Brady finished outside the top seven in most major passing categories.

But he out-dueled first-year starter Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs on the way to winning the Super Bowl in his second-to-last season with the Patriots.

Crazy as it sounds, Brady won another Super Bowl at 43 years old and led the NFL in yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43) at 44, and in completions and attempts at both 44 and 45.

Rodgers is not Brady, even if he might like to draw that comparison.

Tom Brady #12 and Rob Gronkowski #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate winning Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Getty Images

Warren Moon (1997, 528)

Moon made eight straight Pro Bowls (ages 32-39) but the Vikings gave their starting job in 1997 to Brad Johnson and released Moon, who didn’t want to take a pay cut to be a backup.

He refutes reports over the years that he had a broken collarbone — just a misdiagnosed high ankle sprain — at 40 in 1996.

All that Moon did to make a statement in his first year with the Seahawks was replace John Friesz as the starter after one game and return to the Pro Bowl, throwing more touchdowns (25) than he had in all but one season since he was 34 years old in 1990.

An 8-8 record was a success for Seattle in those lowly AFC days.

Moon played three more seasons but made just 11 total starts, as his age 41-season was the last true act in a legendary career.

Vinny Testaverde (2004, 495)

Old loyalties die hard.

In his second year at the helm of the Cowboys, head coach Bill Parcells signed Testaverde, who nearly led the Parcells-coached Jets to the Super Bowl in 1998.

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde of the Dallas Cowboys is sacked by linebacker Ike Reese of the Philadelpia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 19, 2004 in Philadelphia. Getty Images
Aaron Rodgers of the New York Jets speaks with Vinny Testaverde on the field during warm ups before the start of the first quarter. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Testaverde inherited the starting job when Cowboys surprisingly released playoff-tested starter Quincy Carter for allegedly failing a drug test.

Testaverde showed his age with an NFL-leading 20 interceptions.

He was overtaxed — 495 attempts was the third-highest total of his 21-year career — and went 5-10 ahead of backup Drew Henson (former Yankees prospect) and an unheralded second-year prospect named Tony Romo before returning to the Jets as a backup in 2005.

Drew Brees (2020, 390)

The raw numbers for Brees (9-3 record, 24 touchdowns, six interceptions) are good.

But the decline was evident long before the Saints were upset by Brady’s Buccaneers in the playoffs.

Brees missed four games with broken ribs, but injuries to his right shoulder earlier in his career ultimately sapped his arm strength after more than 10,000 passes.

His yards-per-attempt (7.5) in 2020 was tied for his second-lowest since 2007.

Brees retired after the season.

Brett Favre (2010, 358)

The end snuck up fast on Favre, who had unretired twice and had the Vikings on the verge of the Super Bowl with his career-best and NFL-leading 1.3 percent interception rate in 2009.

But Favre was enduring a miserable 2010 season — 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions — for the 4-7 Vikings when a sprained AC joint in his shoulder led to the end of his NFL-record streak of 297 consecutive starts.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre is sacked by Chicago Bears’ Corey Wootton during the second quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. AP

He returned after one game missed and suffered a concussion on the final snap of his career, with two games to go.

Doug Flutie (2003, 167)

Long before he retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in completions, attempts and completion percentage, Brees was benched for the 41-year-old Flutie with the Chargers off to a 1-7 start.

Flutie completed 54.5 percent of his passes — almost exactly his career average — and combined for 11 passing and rushing touchdowns with just four interceptions while going 2-3 before giving the job back to Brees.

He stuck around two more years as a backup.

George Blanda (1968, 49)

By this point, Blanda, who led the NFL in completions and attempts from 1963-65, primarily was a kicker. He started one game at quarterback over his final nine seasons (retiring at 48 years old in 1975) and led the Raiders to a 43-7 win with four touchdown passes against the Broncos.

Quarterback Earl Morrall #15 of the Miami Dolphins drops back to pass against the New York Jets during an NFL football game at The Orange Bowl November 19, 1972. Getty Images

Earl Morrall (1975, 43)

A former NFL MVP (1968) who was best known as a backup to Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Bob Griese completed 26 passes over five games in his penultimate season.

The last of his 102 career starts, for the Dolphins on Dec. 1, 1975, made him the oldest quarterback to start a NFL game for nearly 30 years.

Mark Brunell (2011, 3)

What Jets fan can forget Brunell’s three passes — the totality of his season — in relief of Mark Sanchez at the end of a 45-19 loss to Eagles during the final year of his career?

Brunell started just one game (for the Saints) after turning 37.

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