FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The finality of it all hit him hard.
When Rex Ryan showed up for work Monday, less than 24 hours after a 30-17 loss to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, the competitor in him wished he was game-planning for the Super Bowl. But he's not.
"Well, it is interesting because it was like a yo-yo," Ryan said. "We started off great and then we about hit rock bottom, then came right back up again. And then unfortunately last night, we hit rock bottom again. I mean, it just fell off because there's no tomorrow."
Still, Ryan said the Jets have nothing to be ashamed of. They made it to the AFC title game for the first time in 11 years after a 4-6 start and despite losing Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington to season-ending injuries. They rattled off seven wins in eight games before falling to the Colts, a game that left Ryan feeling awful because it was the second consecutive season in which he was with a team that fell a win short of the Super Bowl.
He knows there are no guarantees that the Jets are going to get back and finish the deal next season. He hopes they host some playoff games in "New Jets Stadium," saying the Jets are "the biggest show in town and that's the way it's going to be."
Ryan already is looking ahead to next season; he flew to Mobile, Ala., last night for this week's Senior Bowl activities. He'll surely be decked out in Jets garb there. After breathing new life into the franchise, he wants to make sure he's not the only one wearing it on a daily basis.
"I told our players, wear their Jets stuff with pride," Ryan said. "This isn't the 'Same Old Jets,' and any negative connotation that way is crazy. Like I said, punch somebody in the nose for it if that's the case. That's the way I feel because our football team is tough. We are resilient and I think we are going to get back."
Ryan wanted to instill a different mentality in the organization. He believes that's been accomplished, and the players love what they've seen from Ryan's bag of goodies.
"I bought it and threw away the receipt," defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. "I've bought into it and I'm not returning it for anything. I'm here to make what needs to happen happen."
Ryan expects the Jets to tender wide receiver Braylon Edwards, as Newsday first reported last week. The team has plenty of other decisions to make, but the Jets, who sit at No. 29 in the first round of April's draft, might be a bit restricted with no new collective-bargaining agreement.
Teams in those final eight first-round draft slots face free-agency restrictions because of a CBA stipulation tied to the final year of the contract. Along with the other seven teams that reached the divisional round, the Jets aren't allowed to sign a free agent unless one of theirs signs with somebody else.
But with a young nucleus featuring quarterback Mark Sanchez, running back Shonn Greene and cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Jets don't have a ton of holes, leaving Ryan confident they've set themselves up for a Super Bowl title in the not-so-distant future.
"That's the plan, that's for sure," Ryan said. "No question about it. We have to. Remember my opening statement? I would have felt great doing it this year, to be honest with you, because I know I'll be held accountable and I accept that. So I'm thinking, yes, we should be a definite contender these next several years."