Janus, the god of two faces who simultaneously looks to the past and the future and gets mentioned a lot at this time of the year, has nothing on the 2018 Jets.
The players were getting whiplash in the locker room today as they bagged up their belongings, all the while answering reporters' questions that required them either to look back at the just-ended season and the dismissal of head coach Todd Bowles the night before or to do a mental 180 to ponder the unknowns of their new coaching staff and the landscape that now lies ahead.
"It's not something you want to deal with," said QB Sam Darnold, a rookie no more. "When you come in here and coaches are packing up and you've got to say bye to your first-year coaches, it's not a good feeling. But at the same time, it is what it is and we're going to continue to move forward and see individually as players and as a team, as an offense, and the defense is going to do the same thing, how we can improve from here."
The players were still coming to grips with their 4-12 campaign. There were the bad losses, such as the Buffalo home game and the 38-3 defeat at New England the day before, but there were some encouraging wins and six agonizing one-score losses.
"There were a lot of games we lost that were very close, where the offense couldn't get it done or the defense couldn't get it done," said LB and defensive leader Avery Williamson. "I feel like the team is headed in the right direction. We've just got to find a way to get over that hump."
Not finding that way often enough in 2018 had many players using the F-word — frustration, whether in the ways individual players were handled or in how the season unfolded for the team at large.
"It's hard because I feel like we could've done a lot better," said WR Quincy Enunwa. "I think it was a frustrating time for myself and a lot of guys on the offense. Playmakers-wise, we wish we could've done more, as receivers, as running backs, as anybody who gets the ball. You kind of have to do what you're told, so that's kind of how it went. I think that hopefully moving forward we're able to showcase a little more."
That led to questions of who the players would like to see in their next head coach. Darnold, who has a big stake in the decision, placed his trust in the call being made by owner Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan.
"Anytime you make a coaching change and new coaches come in on the offensive side of the ball, there's going to be a learning process," Darnold said. "At the same time, I feel like those guys upstairs do a great job in hiring the right guys. ... I'm really confident in the offense that's going to be here in the future and I'm going to do my best to produce a lot of points and produce a lot of wins."
The process ahead means a good man whose teams could produce only 14 wins over the last three seasons has been left behind. The players said they will miss Bowles' steady hand during this transition period.
"It's definitely going to be something difficult to get through," said DL Nathan Shepherd at the end of his rookie season. "But one thing Coach Bowles prepared us for is facing adversity and not quitting, for sure, and being able to think on the fly and adjust and adapt. So that's something that, moving forward, we all are going to look to do for whatever challenges we have ahead."
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"The coaches put in so much work throughout the year and even in the offseason," said Darnold. "Right when I got drafted, they put in so much work to make this team right, to win as many games as possible, to go to the playoffs and to make a push.
"And to come up short and then to hear the news that Coach Bowles wasn't going to be here anymore, it sucks. Hopefully throughout my career here, it never happens again."