It's the most unwonderful time of the year for the Jets and their fans. The playoffs are going on without us for a third straight season, and this time the Super Bowl is in our building and we'll just be spectators, not participants.
Yet all things considered, it's not a 4-12 feeling or a 6-10 feeling. It's not the dread and emptiness of approaching .500 in freefall. In the wake of our three-out-of-four closing kick, crowned by the 20-7 road win over the Dolphins and then by Woody Johnson and John Idzik's announcement to a cheering visitors' locker room that Rex Ryan is staying around, the mood on the team at that moment was euphoric.
"Eight-and-eight," D'Brickashaw Ferguson told Demario Davis and a few other of his closest teammates, "never felt so good."
Speaking of Demario, I reviewed the digital tape of my 1-on-1 conversation with the second-year linebacker in a quiet corner of that raucous locker room. I hadn't posted anything on that interview before, and most of Double-D's sentiments were expressed by others that day and the next before the players scattered from the Atlantic Health Training Center into their offseasons.
But Davis has a way of expressing himself and an optimism that is contagious. I wanted to share some undiluted Demario from that six-minute monologue in Miami that should warm the cockles of your playoff hearts just a little if you're of the Green & White persuasion.
Demario on the Rex announcement...**
I know how much I care about Rex and I was pretty sure about the team, but seeing that reaction, man, that's what you want from a head coach. It's not the head coach's job to go out and win games, it's the players' job. All you want from a head coach is for him to have the locker room and to have the hearts of the guys who play on it. Rex has captured the hearts of everybody just by his passion.
... on not just his leadership but the other leaders on the team ...
I knew something special was going to happen with this team. I just didn't know what. To see it come together like it is, seeing the young guys rise to the occasion and the old guys take in the leadership role of teaching them and for all of us to respect all of them enough to sit down and learn from them, it's just been big. People are asking me to step up and lead, but man, when I look at guys like Calvin and Ed and Dawan, you don't have to lead. These guys, they know the game, they've got so much experience, and they're just passing it on to us.
... on Ed Reed's midseason arrival in particular ...
Some people, they're blessed. Like wine, they get better with time. But what Ed is for the young guys, he's just so special, having somebody like that around. I told him, "If you have the option of coming back, please come back to us. We need you." And he said, "If I've got the option, you know I'm coming back." Just to have a big brother like that to look at and lean on, he means so much to us.
... on Davis' "conversation" with God about this season ...**
When we didn't make the playoffs, I was kind of struggling, like, "God, I felt like you said you were going to do something special, and I don't want to doubt you. My mind was on the playoffs but I know that's not what you said, you said it was going to be something special but you never said what it was." And I just begged and prayed, "God, let me know what it is, man, let me see a glimpse of it, get some understanding so I wont lose my faith." And after this game, seeing Dee Milliner come up with two big interceptions, Sheldon Richardson getting his second touchdown, Geno playing another great game, I'm just looking at the cast of guys, and they just signify the sky's the limit for so many people around us.
... on using the team's 2013 finish to springboard into the new year ...
There's just something special here and you've got so many young guys who are developing so fast. Something beautiful can take place. We can take this momentum all the way through the offseason into next year.
... on the pitfalls sure to be ahead for whatever road the Jets travel in 2014 ...
We know the margin for error's very small. We have to get better, eliminate mistakes. Adversity and opposition's going to come. We've got to be ready to take on every challenge that comes and when they come and they hit us and it knocks us down, we've got to be able to get back up. And this team is now battle-tested. Coming into this season we weren't battle-tested, we weren't storm-tested. But to see this team weather the storm and come out the other side, man, it looks good for the New York Jets.