As the divisional round of the playoffs is set to commence this weekend, Jets defensive lineman Steve McLendon has a message to his teammates: Take pride in your job this offseason, watch the playoffs, watch the Super Bowl. Take it in. Put yourself in their shoes and say you want to be there next year.
McLendon, this year's co-winner of the Dennis Byrd Most Inspirational Award (along with Demario Davis), has been preaching playing hard, fast and smart since training camp. The eighth-year vet has played in seven postseason games for the Steelers (2010-15) and knows what it takes to execute in January.
"I feel like we were a playoff team this year and it starts with the guys in the locker room," he said as the Jets cleared out their lockers at the turn of the New Year. "We have to believe, first and foremost. … You have to watch the playoffs to see what's going on, to see what it takes to get in. The three things that I've talked about all season, I guarantee the teams in the playoffs do those."
Best Images in Black & White from the 2017 Season
While no locker room will ever be the same personnel-wise, the Green & White has set a foundation moving forward that has not only the players' belief but CEO Christopher Johnson's as well.
"When you look at where we are this year, you look at where we're going to potentially be next year, our goal is to put as competitive a team on the field as we can," Johnson told reporters last week. "Our goal is to build a team that can consistently compete for the playoffs every year. I think we're moving towards that goal."
Johnson made it clear there isn't a playoff mandate in 2018 for head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, who both signed extensions before the final game of the season. Make no mistake, Johnson also expressed his desire to reach the playoffs as soon as possible. However, he want to make sure the team is building the right way that will lead to sustainable success.
"It's always going to be about progress. We can't get there fast enough," Johnson said. "I want to get to the playoffs. I want to get to the Super Bowl. I was serious about that desire to get to the Super Bowl before my brother gets back here."