Joe Namath believes Aaron Rodgers can get Jets back to Super Bowl

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Legendary quarterback Joe Namath stopped short of a guarantee, but said the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers could put his beloved New York Jets in the Super Bowl for the first time in 55 years.

"Oh, I know he could," Namath said Friday in a phone interview with ESPN. "Yes, he's capable, absolutely. He can pick that team up. He's one of the best players -- one of the greatest players -- I've ever seen in my life.

"I've watched him play. I'm a football fan. I've watched him play for the Packers, boy, and I marvel at him. I mean, year in and year out, he continues to make plays."

Namath, 79, who in January 1969 led the Jets to their only Super Bowl championship, sounded almost giddy as discussed Rodgers and his potential impact on the team. The Jets are in the midst of the longest playoff drought in franchise history -- 12 years -- but Namath envisions a turnaround this season.

"I've been a fan of his, man ... he does things out on that field that you don't see quarterbacks do on a steady basis," the Pro Football Hall of Famer said. "His athleticism, to go along with the mental game he has, man, it's wonderful. I watch him, he can throw from any position, damn near -- except on his back.

"I've never seen anybody play better."

As a pure passer, Rodgers belongs on the same level as Tom Brady, according to Namath, who said: "Aaron certainly has more athleticism. He just doesn't have as many rings as Tom has."

Namath said Rodgers "gives us the opportunity to really step up and be serious playoff contenders." Rodgers expressed the same sentiment Wednesday in his introductory news conference, noting the team's only Lombardi Trophy in the lobby is "looking a little lonely."

"He's right on," Namath said. "We haven't won in a long time."

Rodgers, acquired Monday in a long-anticipated trade with the Green Bay Packers, referenced Namath multiple times. Namath said he was touched, especially when Rodgers explained why he declined to wear No. 12 even though Namath had given his blessing to take the number out of retirement.

"No. 12 is Broadway Joe," Rodgers told the news conference, confirming he will wear No. 8 -- his college number. Asked his reaction, Namath paused for several seconds.

"I'm humbly respectful for what he did, I promise you, because I did mean what I said: 'If we could get Aaron, I promise you, he could wear that number,'" he said. "He's a true gentleman."