A new NFL champion was crowned Sunday Night at MetLife Stadium. While the Seattle Seahawks can rightfully claim supremacy in the football world, the Jets can wipe the slate clean because 2013 is officially over.
After missing the postseason for three consecutive years and watching the Super Bowl played in their own stadium, the Green & White have to set their sights on a return to the postseason. After all, you cannot compete for a championship unless you earn a trip to the playoffs.
There are pieces in place and reasons for optimism.
The defensive line is one of the most talented positional groups in football and the collective front seven is strong. Offensively the Jets quietly had NFL's sixth-ranked rush offense last season and Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell complement each other very well.
There is also stability on the coaching staff as both the defense and offense will again be led by Rex Ryan/Dennis Thurman and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. The Jets have enjoyed the comforts of the Met, claiming six of eight at home in '13 including home takedowns of the Patriots and the Saints. And the Green & White were excellent with a lead, finishing 6-0 last season when they were either ahead (5-0) or tied at the half (1-0).
But questions remain and there are reasons to be guarded.
Quarterback Geno Smith closed the year on a tear, but he turned the ball over 25 times in all and five of his interceptions were returned for touchdowns. In finishing -14 in the turnover department, the Jets were a -70 when the ball changed hands as a result of a takeaway. Only the Texans (-20) and cross-town Giants (-15) were worse.
The Jets had the NFL's 31st ranked passing offense and they ranked T20 in pass plays of 20 yards (47) and T28 in pass plays of 40 yards (6). And while the "D" was more stout against the run than any club (3.4 yards/carry), the Jets were susceptible against the big pass plays.
No different than any club, the Jets have to make important decisions with players already under contract including the likes of Antonio Cromartie, Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes. But GM John Idzik, who did a nice job last season cleaning up the team's cap situation, has some flexibility to attack free agency.
Regardless if Smith is the long-term answer at quarterback, the Jets need more explosive talent on offense. This is a scoring league and the AFC Title Game this year once again featured Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The Broncos led the NFL with 37.9 points per game and the Patriots finished 2nd in the AFC at 27.8 points a contest.
While fans clamor for Eric Decker, Jeremy Maclin or James Jones, Idzik and his personnel staff have to determine what to do with their own set of 16 unrestricted free agents and that list includes K Nick Folk, RT Austin Howard, OLB Calvin Pace, G Willie Colon, TEs Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow and future Hall of Fame Safety Ed Reed.
Idzik will take a need-based approach to free agency and then will plan to stick to a talent-based approach to the draft in May. The Jets own selections in every round and should have four of the top 80 picks overall because they'll get an additional third-rounder coming to them from the Bucs after the Darrelle Revis trade. Compensatory selections are on the way as well.
The confetti fell tonight. We turn the page. And tomorrow, we pen the first sentence of a new Jets chapter — 2014.