It was the earliest locker cleanout day since Rex Ryan took over as head coach in 2009. The Jets season ended with a 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, closing the book on a disappointing 8-8 season. The goals were set high, and none were achieved.
"There's a lot of frustration," said S Jim Leonhard, propping himself up on the crutches he needs while recovering from a torn patellar tendon. "Extreme frustration in the fact that we never came together as a team and made a run like we have the past two years. We were never able to hold any sort of consistency for an extended period of time."
Two wins and three losses, followed by three wins and two losses. The next three games, all wins. The final three, all losses. The lack of consistency was apparent, and it resulted in an abrupt end to a whirlwind regular season.
"The part that we fell short on this year was becoming a team," said LG Matt Slauson. "We have all the weapons in the world, we had a championship caliber team as far as talent, but we were never a team. That's something that will be addressed and fixed in the offseason."
The lack of continuity between players prevented the Jets from exploiting their brimming talent. In sports, chemistry is often blown off by those who believe professional athletes are somehow beyond the ideals of teamwork and dedication. It has become obvious that chemistry was a necessary ingredient lacking among the Green & White in 2011.
"I think it started when guys were calling each other out," said Slauson. "That kind of stuff destroys teams. That's Football 101. You don't call out your teammates in public."
The troubles for the Jets stood in the way of building consistency. Without the ability to find a rhythm offensively, the Jets finished the season ranked 25th in total yards.
"We all have jobs to do," said QB Mark Sanchez. "When 11 guys do it right, that's when you get those drives that move down the field. When you don't, you're hurting yourselves with turnovers or penalties. That's where we hurt ourselves this season."
The Jets were fourth in the NFL with 34 giveaways. They ranked 15th in penalties with 102 but it was the second straight year with more than 100 penalties after 13 seasons under 100 penalties.
"I obviously expected to be in the playoffs," said Sanchez. "That's all I've known here. I haven't finished a season on Jan. 1 since college. It's a weird feeling. I have a lot of expectations for next year."
Before meeting with the media, the Jets held a team meeting led by head coach Rex Ryan, who stressed to the group the need to come together.
"He brought up the fact that we have to get back to being a team," said RG Brandon Moore. "He brought that up several times."
The speech from Ryan began calm and built into an emotional appeal for his team to set aside their differences and unite for their common benefit, according to Slauson.
"He loves us, he respects us, and he knows what we're capable of," Slauson said. "We didn't even come close to our goals, and that was sad. We have the players in this room to be an amazing team, and we weren't even close. He was really disappointed in that."
The offseason begins earlier in 2012 than the Jets had hoped. Already with lofty visions for next season, Leonhard said change is the key.
"Things need to change and they will," said the safety. "Potentially every single person, including myself, has to look at themselves as potentially being a part of that change."