A day after dropping their fourth game in five outings, the New York Jets weren't a happy bunch Monday.
"If you care about the game, you're definitely not in a good mood. I know I'm not," said WR Laveranues Coles. "You try to smile to shield the pain but right now it hurts. We know we're better than this, I feel we're better than this, but this is a position we put ourselves in. Right now we just have to lean up on each other and try to help each other get out of it."
Playmaking safety Kerry Rhodes got the Jets off on the right foot against the Giants. His first-quarter strip of RB Brandon Jacobs and fumble-return touchdown opened the scoring and the Jets went into halftime up, 17-7. But they were a different team in the second half while getting outscored, 28-7.
"It comes back to consistency. That is the key word right now. In the first half, we showed what kind of team we can be," Rhodes said. "We played good defense and made some plays on offense. We came back in the second half and things just didn't work out the way we wanted them to."
Head coach Eric Mangini saw a lot of good things from his team Sunday. They scored touchdowns in every phase, converted 60 percent of their third downs and collected two takeaways. But they also didn't have success on the ground on either side of the ball, turned the ball over three times and committed six penalties.
"Having the Jekyll-and-Hyde approach that we've had is not going to give us the results we're looking for," said the second-year head coach.
It's a long road back from 1-4, but there are a few Jets who actually were part of a great turnaround in 2002. Coles, who had a career-high 1,264 yards receiving that season, was an integral part of the memorable team that rebounded from 1-4 to win the AFC East.
"You try not to dwell on that. You try to draw some positives from it and know that it can be done, but you don't want to hang your hat upon that," he said. "You want to let guys know that this ain't just going to happen. You have to go and work for it and it's something we all have to fight to come out of it together. It's going to take all of us, that's for sure."
Despite the record and uneven play, Mangini remains level-headed. He likes the group of people he's assembled at Weeb Ewbank Hall. He has seen plenty of football and knows adversity is part of the game.
"That's why our commitment in the draft and free agency is character. What I've always found is that when you draft people of high character and when you have a team of high character and things get tough, that's when character is revealed," he said. "That's why it's such a premium."
The Green & White also value versatile players who can perform many roles. Lost in the aftermath of the city game was the play of Brad Smith. He caught three passes for 44 yards, helped spring Leon Washington loose for a kickoff return, made a shoestring tackle on special teams and scored his first pro touchdown.
"It was just a go route and Chad put it up there nice," said the former Missouri QB. "I spotted it and just had to go up and get it."
Although Mangini liked that completion, he wants his team to be complete. The players never thought they'd be in this spot after five games.
"We are disappointed. We had high expectations coming into the year. It's a long season but we didn't expect to be 1-4 right now," WR Jerricho Cotchery said. "Everyone is trying to figure out why we're 1-4 because with the players that we have in this room and the coaching staff that we have, we shouldn't have this record.
"But we know the relationships we have throughout this team and the guys we have in this locker room, we know we can work through this," he added. "The hole we have dug for ourselves, we know we can get out of it."
Coles, an offensive captain, said the team will stick together. Once young and rather shy, he has become a team spokesman and his leadership is unquestioned.
"For us, it is just stay focused and support each other and stay behind each other. Right now, the dissension that is outside this locker room that is going to try to come in this locker room needs to stay out," he said. "All we need to do is support each other no matter what."