Slowly but surely I'm getting beyond the AFC Championship Game loss.
I'm not totally over it, but I'm going to channel myself from a month ago, the version of me that would have been thrilled to hear the Jets made it as far as the AFC Championship Game.
And that version of me is going to fill you up with optimistic thoughts.
First and foremost, I'm tired of the people who tell me that Mark Sanchez is still a question mark...that the Jets went this far in the post-season despite his performance. I think he showed all he needed to show against the Colts - 17/30, 257 yards, 2 touchdowns versus 1 interception. Even if he didn't have a good AFC Championship Game, not just anyone can manage games like he did in the post-season. He played smart and efficient football. He made one bad play all post-season, and it was in the AFC Championship Game when he tried to throw the ball away across the field. The ball landed on the field harmlessly, but it was his worst pass in the final four games of the season (worse even than his interceptions the past two weeks). Mark Sanchez will be fine - I'm confident in his ability to lead the Jets back to this game...and hopefully beyond.
It was interesting in the post-game interviews Sunday night (and during the broadcast this came up, too, I think) when Rex Ryan spoke about the returns of Leon Washington and Kris Jenkins and how they will improve the team. I thought a couple of things were telling, though. 1) When Rex Ryan talked about Jenkins, he added the phrase "If he's ready to buy in", which I thought was peculiar. Was Jenkins not buying in before his injury? 2) The second thing was how serious Washington's injury was when people talked about "If he's able to rejoin us" when they referred to him. I think that was more related to injury than contract status.
I go back and forth on the next point because I know how hard it is for teams to get to the level the Jets played at this post-season and I don't want to take it for granted that they'll definitely be back to the AFC Championship Game or beyond. But the core group is young, and I wonder if it wasn't better for them in the long run to have this kind of failure right off the bat rather than success? Maybe losing could be more of a motivation in the form of not feeling this way again versus winning and thinking it's so easy. Now, there are players like Derek Jeter and Tom Brady that shoot this theory right down...but I'm looking for a silver lining, so I'll go with it.
It's going to be hard waiting for next season and going through a regular season grind again after a post-season like this one. But with what the Jets have, I think it's time to start thinking about new goals - not just making the post-season, but winning the division. Getting a bye. Playing some home playoff games (incidentally, in a new home). That's the next step the Jets need to take.