It's a bittersweet day for the Green & White in Florham Park, NJ. The players slowly and steadily made their way into the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room before dispersing with bags and boxes full of their personal items, taking a break in between to speak to the media for the final time this season.
The consensus: (a) It was disappointing to miss the playoffs, (b) at least we finished on a high note, and (c) next year can't come soon enough.
"Obviously finishing with two wins, which is something we weren't able to do all year, was a good sign," C Nick Mangold said. "It's unfortunate, you hate to miss the playoffs, that's obviously one of the big downsides. But I love how this team kept fighting and stuck together. I think we ended up going 3-1 in December [3-2 including our Dec. 1 loss to Miami] and that's a good sign. It makes you excited to get the offseason going, get back in here and get back to work."
"I think that we definitely came out and we had a good season, not a great season," FB Tommy Bohanon said. "Obviously we're not in the playoffs, but I think all things considered, being 8-8 at the end of the season is a great accomplishment. But we have more that we want to accomplish and we're definitely striving for that during this offseason."
The offseason for some will begin with more football, in a slightly different form.
P Ryan Quigley, for instance, will head down to Shreveport, LA, to watch his Boston College Eagles square off against the Arizona Wildcats in the Advocare V100 Bowl on New Year's Eve, while DL Leger Douzable will travel to Glendale, AZ, to see his Central Florida Knights take on the Baylor Bears in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day.
"I was here in March and got to see all these different guys coming in and out, but the core group of guys, their leadership was evident," Quigley said. "When I left, everybody was talking about how bad the Jets were going to be, but I was like, 'No way.' This team had that 'it' factor that you look for, and while making the playoffs would've been ideal, I'm excited to be a part of this organization, playing for Rex Ryan, and coming back next season to watch this thing grow."
"It's been a great year," Douzable said. "We didn't get to our goal of going to the playoffs, but we did finish strong. We got our short-term goal of winning two in a row in the end."
Douzable sees a lot of overlap of the DNA in this team with that of his alma mater's club, which is — on paper — expected to lose its bowl game by two touchdowns.
"No matter what the situation is, we're going to scrap and fight and find a way to pull out wins," he said of both the Jets and the Knights. "We did it the last two games, and it was just unfortunate that we gave a couple of games away earlier in the year. It's been a great year, and we didn't get to our goal of going to the playoffs, but we finished strong and you're only as good as your last game."
This offseason presents an opportunity to keep the momentum rolling, keep building the pieces needed to set up a strong foundation for success, and for many Green & White players, a chance for continuity and continued chemistry among teammates and coaches.
"For me, this will be my first real offseason with a quarterback I'm familiar with, an offense that I'm familiar with, and with some familiar faces," said WR David Nelson. "I really feel like I was playing my best ball the last four or five weeks of the season. I've started to get really comfortable with this offense and health-wise started to feel really comfortable with what I was doing. That was perfect timing, and so I'm able to move forward now into this offseason and hopefully continue to build off what I've finished the season on."
"We're getting better as a team," QB Geno Smith said. "Every single guy is becoming more comfortable in his surroundings, in his role and with his teammates, and it's leading to us trusting one another. I can count on my guys, as far as receivers and running backs, to be in the right spots and to always make the clutch catch and to make me look good even when I'm not playing so well. As long as we continue to build on that, we'll have a really good future here."