In just two seasons, the Jets have plummeted from AFC runners-up to AFC East cellar-dwellers. But in the wake of what likely will go down as the most embarrassing loss of his head- coaching career, Rex Ryan isn't ready to call the Jets' season a lost cause.
"This isn't where we expected to be by any stretch of the imagination. It's just where we are," Ryan said Friday morning, less than 12 hours after the Jets humiliated themselves in a 49-19 home loss to rival New England. "My focus is not going to be about 2009 or 2010. It's about right now and how we can get better. That's really where my focus is. To look back on this or that and say if we had this to do over or that to do over, I don't think that would help."
Instead, Ryan believes hard work is the answer.
In Ryan's mind, maximum effort and focus will get his 4-7 Jets back on track. The Jets have lost four of their past five games, but they will close out the season against five teams with losing records. And that's more than enough reason for the Jets to hope their season will turn around.
"We just want to fight hard, stick together, keep playing hard and let the chips fall from there," said slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, who had seven catches for 86 yards in Thursday night's loss.
In a locker room filled with stunned silence after the game, players struggled to explain how they allowed the Patriots to score three touchdowns in 52 seconds, two on returns of Jets fumbles and one that occurred a play after a fumble. And the optimism they once showed regarding a potential playoff run dimmed considerably during their postgame interviews.
"We have five games left," said tight end Dustin Keller, whose 1-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter made little difference. "Things are still possible, but not that likely. All we can do is give our best effort."
Ryan admitted after the game that he and his players were "as wounded as we could possibly be." But he believes the Jets' season still can salvaged.
"I'm responsible for everything," he said. "I'm responsible for the 4-7 record and I'm responsible for how we play. But I will say this: I'll also be responsible for how we finish, and I'm confident that we'll finish."
After a scoreless first quarter Thanksgiving night, an interception late in that quarter followed by three Jets fumbles helped the Patriots (8-3) score 35 points in the second quarter. By halftime, the only offense the Jets could muster was a 32-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
"Waking up and getting out of bed, I never would have thought that would happen," Kerley said. "Things went south kind of early and we just couldn't recover."
So now the Jets' only choice is to follow Ryan's lead and keep fighting.
"You just have to pick yourself up," Ryan said. "I don't know any other way to do it. That's what you have to do. You have to pick yourself up from that and find a way and keep fighting."