As the sting from a loss in their second consecutive AFC Championship Game gradually subsides, the New York Jets can look back on the 2010-11 season with a mixture of hope, pride and shame.
Thus, similarly to the proverbial game of life, Gang Green, individually and collectively, can glean a myriad of lessons from the occasions where they failed and succeeded, both as players and as men.
So, the offseason presents a prime opportunity for the Jets to reflect and mature, to become better, not bitter, for the euphoric highs and wretched lows that are part and parcel of a grueling 16-game National Football League schedule.
Therefore, it is imperative that the Jets carefully and introspectively look back on a season that could have easily been lost due to self-inflicted wounds, and move forward with renewed perspective on what it truly means to be a winner.
5. Talk is cheap
From their appearance on HBO’s reality documentary series Hard Knocks to cornerback Antonio Cromartie questioning the manhood of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward prior to the AFC Championship Game, the Jets weren’t bashful about speaking their minds.
And with the addition of established stars in Cromartie, LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes and Jason Taylor via free agency and trades last year, it was clear the Jets were assembling a team built to win the Super Bowl this season, an observation made known by the team to any and all who would listen.
Will the New York Jets become a better team for all the success they had and all the adversity they went through this season?
“Honestly, we’re here for our Super Bowl. If we don’t get there, nothing else matters.” – Kris Jenkins
“Don’t be timid about saying it. That’s your goal. Write it down. Say it. Read it. Talk about it. It’s fine. It’s not false bravado. It’s real, and that’s what we want. I think we have the players to do it.” – Mark Sanchez
“Anything short of the obvious is a disappointment. At the end of the day, to beat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship or to beat the Saints or Vikings, we have to put it all together. It’s not enough just to have the manpower on paper.” – Braylon Edwards
“This is definitely different than any other year I’ve been in. It’s a true sense of Super Bowl or bust. This team is built for that. It’s been talked about over and over again. Guys understand that.” – Brandon Moore
Ultimately though, for all their braggadocio, the Jets would fall short of punching a ticket to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium, proving once again that Gang Green’s bark was worse than their bite.
4. Cheaters never win
While in the throes of a two-game losing streak, the Jets became the subject of an NFL investigation for the third time in a three-month span, including the notorious Brett Favre-Jenn Sterger inquest.
During a Week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins, Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi deliberately tripped Dolphins rookie cornerback Nolan Carroll as he was running near the sideline to cover a punt.
In the aftermath of this incident, Alosi issued an immediate apology before being fined $25,000 and indefinitely suspended from the team.
The Jets maintain Alosi acted alone despite player testimony and visual evidence suggesting head coach Rex Ryan and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff were fully aware Alosi engineered the formation of a wall along the sidelines, leading to the tripping fiasco.
To add insult to injury, the Jets lost the game to their division foes, 10-6, dashing all hopes of winning the AFC East crown.
3. Women should be treated with respect
Prior to the start of the season, the Jets embroiled themselves in controversy when Inés Sainz, a reporter for Mexico’s TV Azteca, became victim to a hostile and unprofessional working environment as she attempted to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez.
In accounts provided by the New York Post, Jets defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman purposely overthrew footballs to players during a drill for defensive backs so that the passes would land near Sainz on the sideline.
This was followed by defensive lineman Jason Taylor, a husband and father of three children, volunteering to take part in the drills even though he isn't part of Thurman’s unit.
Will the Jets win the Super Bowl next season?
Rex Ryan, a husband and father of two sons himself, also got involved when he had Thurman run a pattern near the sideline and intentionally overthrew him in Sainz's direction.
If this wasn’t enough, Sainz was greeted by catcalls and hooting in the Jets locker room at the conclusion of practice to which defensive tackle Kris Jenkins declared, “This is our locker room!” when Sainz was asked if she was OK.
"I die of embarrassment!" Sainz wrote in Spanish on her Twitter account. "I am in the locker room of the Jets waiting for Mark Sanchez while trying not to look to anywhere!"
As a result, the NFL launched an investigation in the wake of a complaint made by the Association of Women in Sports Media against the Jets.
Needless to say, this was inexcusable and egregious behavior from grown men, many of whom are husbands and fathers, including the head coach.
2. Friends don’t let friends drink and drive
Less than two weeks after the Inés Sainz scandal, enigmatic wide receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI).
Police officers initially stopped Edwards for excessive tinting on his white Land Rover but Edwards’ bloodshot, watery eyes and the strong smell of alcohol in the vehicle prompted further investigation.
Subsequently, Edwards consented to and failed a breathalyzer examination, where it was determined his blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit, leading to his arrest.
Among the four passengers in Edwards’ vehicle at the time of the arrest were teammates D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Vernon Gholston.
Fortunately, this error in judgment on the part of all three Jets players did not result in anyone getting hurt, but the potential alone should have been reason for pause on the evening in question.
1. The future looks bright
In the past 31 years, the Jets have not enjoyed a more successful two-year run than they have experienced under Rex Ryan, whose résumé now consists of 20 regular season victories, two consecutive playoff appearances, four road playoff victories in six games and two consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances.
And with an aggressive front office committed to making the moves necessary to keep them in title contention, the Jets will be a force to be reckoned with for several years to come.
So, Gang Green does have reason to hold their heads high, especially after they clawed back from a 24-0 deficit against the Steelers to pull to within one touchdown of completing an improbable comeback.
The Jets can learn from this experience, as well as the mistakes they made throughout the season to sabotage themselves.
If they do grow from these trials and tribulations, Rex Ryan will have pulled off his most masterful coaching job yet.