Eric Mangini met his team Monday morning for a final time before players cleaned out their lockers and headed for the parking lot. This was officially the last day of the 2006 season.
"We need to collectively understand that we are no longer a 10-6 team, and we are no longer in the first round of the playoffs," Mangini told reporters a day after the Jets fell in New England. "Where we are right now is we are back to a clean slate and each season is its own unique season. It is not a function of just picking up where you left off; it's a function of doing all the same things that we did prior to this year and over the course of this year, which is going to lead to success. That has to be our position and the way that we view things. Moving forward, it's 0-0 and we now control what happens based on the things we do."
Mangini said the 2006 season "is in the book." He has been around the National Football League long enough to know that past success doesn't guarantee future wins.
"Whatever is going to happen here is a function of how we collectively work, how we collectively prepare, how we learn from the things we didn't do as well as we could have, and that is going to be unique because injuries could take place," he said. "There are so many things that can change within the course of the year that what happens in the past really has no bearing…"
At the beginning of last summer, few football followers picked the Jets to be much of a threat in 2006. But the Green & White captured 10 regular season games and then pushed the Patriots Sunday before a late New England run.
"There is no guarantee from this year to the next, just like there was no guarantee from last year to this," said veteran guard Pete Kendall. "I'm not privy to exactly what Mike (Tannenbaum) and Eric's plans are. Clearly it's better coming off a playoff season than coming off a 4-12 season, but - as we've demonstrated that past few years - previous records mean nothing."
Despite the Patriots' 21-point victory margin, the Wild Card game at Gillette Stadium turned on just a couple of plays. The Jets had hoped Monday would have featured installation of a game plan for the San Diego Chargers.
"It really is a small margin of error between a lot of plays that will make the difference in those games," Mangini said of his team's postseason encounter. "They are very good at what they do, and they execute extremely well. They have a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches, but there is going to be a lot of other good teams we are going to have to play and win against to just get back to into contention, into the playoff mix again."
Over the weekend, Mangini finished second in AP Voting for Coach of the Year behind Saints head coach Sean Payton. Staying true to form, Mangini continued to put the team first.
"To me what is most meaningful is the way the team played throughout the course of the year and the progress we made," he said. "That is the most meaningful thing to me, and I really think the most meaningful thing to the players in the room."
Over the next few days, Mangini will get together with his staff and review both personnel and schemes. He told his squad that his door will remain open during the offseason.
"I am not opposed to changing anything if it helps the team win," Mangini said. "I believe in learning from the things we have done to try to make it better the following year. What changes will be made? I couldn't tell you, but I know than anything that will help us win I am more than open to you."
But Mangini, ever the family man, also reminded his group to make use of their free time. Each player makes heavy commitments and sacrifices throughout the year.
"I told them to relax and enjoy the offseason," Mangini said. "It's been an extremely long season; it's been a season where we have all worked very hard and need some time to recharge the batteries. I told them to appreciate their families. We spent a lot of time away from our families during the course of the season. This is a time where they get to spend some important time with their families."
When asked about Mangini's message, veteran linebacker Matt Chatham reflected on closing day.
"Today is just a day to say thank you. They know how much we've poured into this season and he would know as much as anyone - it's kind of a two-way street," Chatham said. "We know that these coaches sleep here for the most part so we're very grateful. I know we're all hurting today - we're not happy the way things turned out - but we're all very grateful about the work that everyone put in."
Note: The Jets singed the following five players to reserve/futures contracts: DE Darrell Adams (Villanova), CB Alphonso Hodge (Miami, OH), TE Joe Kowalewski (Syracuse), DT Keyonta Marshall (Grand Valley State) & DT Matt McChesney (Colorado)