General manager John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan held their season-ending news conference this morning, and one thing came through loud and clear that's a bit unusual for any NFL team at this time of the season: The Jets players would do it again beginning, well, now.
"The thing that I was almost shocked about — our players want to hit the reset button right now," Ryan told Eric Allen on Jets Replay right after the news conference ended. "If we said, hey, let's play a game tomorrow, our guys were ready. Play the whole season tomorrow, they would sign up for it, regardless of how beat up they are, sore and all that. No, they're ready to go. And I don't know if I've ever seen a team leave with this kind of enthusiasm than we are."
OK, we know. That's an easy thing for any player to say, since it's not going to happen. Our season is over, 8-8 is in the books, and the next season won't officially start for the Green & White until they're asked to return for the offseason conditioning program in April.
But more important than that sentiment is the larger context. As Idzik said during the news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, "We were very encouraged by the 2013 season. We had our exit interviews with our players yesterday, and I think the feeling was just consistent throughout, that we want to play, we can't wait to get started for 2014, which was very good to hear."
It was the annual wrapup event but the GM and head coach weren't unwrapping many surprises for the Jets reporters on hand. Idzik declined to discuss Ryan's contract status or any of those conversations that may or may not have occurred in the final two weeks of the regular season. Ryan had no information to impart on his coaching staff.
Neither would declare Geno Smith their incumbent starting quarterback heading into '14.
But both had words of high praise for the progress that Smith made over the course of the year and especially in the final quarter of the season that led to "such a positive vibe in the locker room" before and after Sunday's win at Miami.
Geno Smith "Really Took Off"
"I was really proud of the way Geno closed out the season. I think he was playing his best football at the end. I think he learned so much from the beginning of the season to the end," Ryan said, citing Smith's "higher education" of working on his accuracy, getting confidence in the pocket and when to use his legs.
"I was really impressed with the way he protected the football, and that's something hard to teach," the coach added. "The poise and all that stuff that he showed during the year, he really took off.
"We saw a lot out of Geno. He's a very resilient young man," Idzik said, adding to those standard questions about if it's time for him to be named the starter going forward, "We don't look too far into the future with that. Again, Geno started 16 games for us, you all witnessed how he di, how he finished strong. We're very, very excited and happy that Geno's with us."
As for the business of Jets football moving into this offseason, Idzik and Ryan didn't tip their hands on what positions they might be looking to fortify, but the GM did address the weeks and months ahead regarding the team's salary cap situation heading into free agency and the full complement of selections for the draft..
"We'll have some flexibility," he said. "We're going to use all those tools that we spoke of before. It'll be a challenge for our personnel staffs and they're excited about it both from the draft standpoint and free agency. We do feel we have some maneuverability going into 2014."
Attacking the Offseason
The challenge now is for the Jets players to maintain their enthusiasm throughout the next three months before they return to the trappings of the new season. It's easy to say you'll sign up for another season to begin right now. It's easy for Idzik to say, "The gavel has dropped on 2013. We expect our players to come back better." But a lot can happen between now and OTAs, training camp and next opening day. The Green & White talked the talk as they left the building Monday, but will they walk the walk in the months ahead?
Or as one reporter asked, when will the Jets make that White House visit that Rex "promised" back in January 2009?
"We won't put timelines on anything," Idzik said, "but every season we line up, our goal is to get there, to win the division, play in the postseason and bring the prize home for our Jets fans."
"We are going to attack the offseason," Ryan said. "And I believe the team that shows up for offseason conditioning will be better than the one right now. I think our guys are leaving with that kind of energy and that kind of passion, to find a way to get better.
"We're working to it. There's no doubt we're working to it."