Aaron Rodgers ran onto the MetLife Stadium field carrying an American flag, the last of 11 offensive starters to be introduced on the 22nd anniversary of 9/11.
As fireworks erupted in the East Rutherford sky, AC/DC’s 1990 anthem “Thunderstruck” played loudly, each guitar riff triggering changes in the LED wristbands worn by most of the 82,500 people in the house.
Green … then white … then back to green with a strobe effect.
It was a party for the eyes and ears, the latest in a series of initiatives over the last two seasons the Jets have instituted to try to create more — and more meaningful — fan involvement at the games.
As everyone knows, Rodgers’ fairytale entrance was ruined on just the fourth snap of his Jets career when he suffered a torn Achilles.
But the Jets shook off the shock, came back from a 13-3 halftime deficit and beat the Bills in overtime on Xavier Gipson’s punt return for a touchdown.
Following a blowout loss at Dallas and a dreary home defeat versus the Patriots, the lights were back on for the Oct. 1 Sunday night game versus the Chiefs and America’s most famous football fan, Taylor Swift.
Again, the Jets fell behind early, this time 17-0, but rallied to tie the game at 20 before losing by three points.
“A lot of credit to the people in charge of all that stuff, because those night games have been lit,” head coach Robert Saleh said. “The way they have been orchestrated, choreographed or whatever the word is, has been phenomenal.”
The Jets started their multifaceted fan engagement campaign in 2022.
First on the list was to try to get people into the games on time, as the team figured about half of the fans were still tailgating during the opening kickoff.
Pyrotechnics, lasers, T-shirt cannons and a sing-along national anthem were installed last season, as were efforts to better coordinate the signage and message boards, including celebrity cameos and close-up views of Fireman Ed leading the “J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!” chant.
“There’s a sentiment from ownership on down to let’s really enhance what we’re trying to do with our fans and keep them engaged,” Jets president Hymie Elhai said late last week in a sit-down at the team’s training facility in Florham Park, N.J. “What are these things we’re creating that can ultimately be ‘signature Jets.’
“You go to all these games on the road and you see what other teams do when they score a touchdown, when the players are introduced, and we wanted to create our own signature thing,” Elhai continued. “So we looked at every aspect and said, ‘What can make it better?’ and ‘What can get the fans behind it?’ ”
After the Jets traded for Rodgers and were quickly scheduled to host three national prime-time games — the third coming on Nov. 6 versus the Chargers — they knew they had to work on their night moves for 2023.
The team studied how MetLife Stadium hosts concerts and found Waveband wristbands, produced and operated by a company named PixMob, to be an enticing solution.
This new technology requires only a computer and an RF Node the size of a tissue box to communicate with the 80,000-plus wristbands in the stands, according to a report in Sports Business Journal.
The Jets told The Post that one PixMob technician sits in the press box and keeps an eye on the operation, which is pre-programmed.
Each song is split into two tracks, one to be heard in the stadium bowl and the other serving as a beat map for the wristbands. In addition to “Thunderstruck” during the player introductions, songs include Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” for the opening kickoff, and “We Will Rock You” by Queen and “7 Nation Army” by the White Stripes at key points in the game.
What makes this production pop is that the Jets now have the ability to turn the LED stadium lights off for the wristband show while the television broadcast is in commercial, and then back on at full power for the resumption of the game.
Sunday’s game against the undefeated Eagles is a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.
The Jets won’t be handing out the wristbands but have other music and lighting plans for when the sun goes down.
The home team is coming in off of a victory in Denver and the crowd will be, shall we say, ready to rock after an extended tailgate.
The players are definitely noticing the new relationship with the sea of green.
“It helps a lot. You feed off the energy of the crowd,” Quinton Jefferson said as fellow defensive tackle and former Seahawks teammate Al Woods nodded in agreement. “It gives us a real home-field advantage when you have the fans involved.”
“When you’re in a stadium like that and the fans are behind you, it’s a sense of pride,” Woods chimed in. “Man, all these people came out here to see us whup somebody’s ass. You don’t want to let them down.”
Second-year tight end Jeremy Ruckert, a lifelong Jets fan from Lindenhurst on Long Island, said he hasn’t heard MetLife this loud in a long time.
“When I was a kid growing up, games were super fun to go to, but I kind of sense a different passion this year,” he said.
Saleh spent three seasons (2011-13) on Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle, home of the 12th Man.
He believes a tuned-in crowd could influence play-calling at a crucial moment in a game.
“Yeah, for sure because you can feel the buzz and you can feel the emotion,” Saleh said. “I learned a long time ago from Pete, sometimes it’s OK to call a play based on the feeling and the emotion of the stadium and the fans and the players on the field. You connect with it and you are like … let’s go make an aggressive play call, like they are on their toes, let’s roll, let’s capture this moment.”