Now that our national Super Bowl fortnight holiday is over, 32 teams can turn to 2016. And for the Jets, it's a natural question to ask: What can the team and its fans expect?
"We made some strides. We didn't make enough strides," head coach Todd Bowles said after the end of the Green & White season. "From where we came from, we got better. We have a long way to go. It should sting. It should help propel us into next year."
All that makes perfect sense. You'd think it's a slam-dunk that any team that went from 4-12 to 10-6 yet still didn't make the playoffs would have all the propellant it needs to take the next step.
But what does history have to say about teams in the Jets' situation?
Actually, what it says might surprise you.
We went back to the 1990 season to see what the track record was for teams that improved by 6-plus wins from Year 1 to Year 2 and what that meant for Year 3. The short answer is: flip a coin.
Thirty-eight teams have made the victory improvement. Only 14 of the 38 then went on to make the playoffs the next season. The composite "Year 3" record for those 38 teams, counterintuitively, is 303 wins, 305 losses.
What about the nine of those 38 teams that didn't make the playoffs in Year 2. Were they hungrier?
Yes and no. Four of the nine went on to break into the postseason. But the nine teams' combined record was even worse than the general six-plus population: 65 wins, 79 losses.
The Jets have done it both ways. From 1-15 in '96 to 9-7 and out in '97 to 12-4 and on to the AFC Championship Game in 1998. But also from 4-12 in '05 to 10-6 and the playoffs in '06 to 4-12 in '07.
For every team like Carolina, which went from 1-15 in '01 to 7-9 in '02 to a Super Bowl berth after the '03 season, there are more than one like Cleveland, which from '06-08 traveled from 4-12 to 10-6 and no postseason to 4-12.
How to explain? Brandon Marshall took a stab at it after the loss to the Bills. Again with a short answer: That's football.
"It's always that surprise team that makes the jump to good, and then there's the teams that make the jump to better that are also a surprise," said Marshall. "You've just got to take it one game at a time, one year at a time. That's why each game is so critical, why it's so important to prepare like it's your last. You just never know."
"Obviously," Bowles said, "our goal is to get into playoffs and win the Super Bowl so we didn't get that accomplished. But we have a lot of things to grow off of and learn from and we'll go from there."
The message here is that history is no help. "Propulsion" last-game victories and "propulsion" 10-6 seasons don't really amount to much without the addition of growing and learning and working. There are no guarantees for the Jets, except for us to guarantee fans that the growing and learning for 2016 have already begun.
Next Season's Home and Away Foes Are Set; Dates and Times Will Be Revealed in April