Graham watches the punt
When the dust settled after the Jets' Wild Card defeat at Gillette Stadium, not all was lost for the New York AFC representative. Head coach Eric Mangini not only shocked much of the NFL nation by bringing a 4-12 team out of the shadows and into the postseason, he poured a positive foundation for years to come at Weeb Ewbank Hall.
Currently the youngest head coach in the league at 35-years-old, Mangini led his club to 10 regular season victories and the fifth seed in a competitive conference. Whereas most skeptics had pegged the Jets for a rebuilding season, Mangini just focused on continually building.
"I was most proud of the effort that they put in, the way that they worked, the way that they came together as a team, and the progress that they made collectively," Mangini said following his first postseason game as head coach. "That is something that we need to keep continuing to do as a team is making progress and being able to move forward. That is what we'll be looking forward to doing in the seasons to come."
When the Jets return from Foxborough on Sunday night, the customary routine of weekly game preparation will be put on hold for the time being.
"It's a pretty big transition going form working every single day to suddenly not having to get ready for practice," said Mangini. "I'm not even sure what I'm going to do."
"Every year is its own entity," he added. "You just don't know what's going to happen over the course of the offseason, and we need to move forward and approach next year as next year, and learn from this year and try to get better."
General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and Mangini will most likely need a few weeks before designing a blueprint for '07. With a newfound respect from the outside world and reportedly plenty of cap room to work with, the Jets should have plenty of flexibility to bring in more personnel to match the Jets philosophy of selflessness, determination, and pride.
"You look at the big picture and say it was a good job on our part, but it's tough to look at the positive things - especially when you have a lot of guys on our team that are so competitive and all we strive for is the next best thing," said linebacker Jonathan Vilma. "It's tough that we didn't get to where we wanted to get to. We'll look for bigger and better things next year."
The Green and White weren't just green in terms of uniform colors this season as a handful of first-year and second-year players made a significant impact to the club. With the young players experiencing many positive outcomes, the future is bright in the Big Apple.
"We definitely have a lot of young players and we're heading in the right direction," said second-year safety Kerry Rhodes, who racked up five sacks and four interceptions in the regular season. "We have a lot of things to look forward to in the future and that's the way you got to look at it right now."
"I think we made a great deal of progress," linebacker Eric Barton added. "We're still not where we want to be as a team or as an organization; we have to work hard in the offseason."