The Jets have trafficked in turmoil for so long that even a quiet losing season could be seen as uplifting. But with a young and understated team, it appears that the circuslike days of the former coach Rex Ryan, and even the open sparring among teammates Sheldon Richardson and Brandon Marshall last year, are over.
“We’ve stayed together as a group and a team and gone through adversity and success together,” Coach Todd Bowles said. “It’s just a credit to the guys working together. We just have to continue to do that.”
Bowles will get that opportunity in 2018. On Friday, the team announced that it had extended his contract, and that of General Manager Mike Maccagnan, each entering his fourth season with the Jets.
“I believe we are headed in the right direction,” the Jets’ chief executive, Christopher Johnson, said in a statement. “This provides us continuity and stability as we continue to move this team toward sustained success.”
To some fans, this all might sound like putting lipstick on a pigskin. The Jets have lost eight of their last 10 games, and they could finish in last place in the A.F.C. East for the third time in four years. Their highest-paid defensive player, Muhammad Wilkerson, was suspended for a game two weeks ago for being late to a team meeting, and it appears likely he will be cut after the season. And they will begin the off-season as they have seemingly every year since Joe Namath retired: in search of a franchise quarterback.
But running back Matt Forte, a 10-year N.F.L. veteran, said the Jets had been working to establish a culture in the locker room and a standard that “nobody should dip below.” Reinforcing that model of professionalism takes time, he said.
“A lot of people look at it like it’s a microwave — you put something in for two minutes and it’s ready,” Forte said. “But when you want to grow something, you want to do something beyond expectations, it’s going to take time.”
Beyond the Jets’ record, there are subtle signs of promise. The team’s rookie safety tandem, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, has breathed life into the defense, drawing comparisons to the early days of Seattle’s Legion of Boom. The Jets will have good draft position again and loads of salary-cap space. Young players have had a chance to mature, and the team has played hard for Bowles.
“He’s one of those coaches that you find a way to run through a wall for,” offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum said.
A glance at how teams like Jacksonville, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Rams have turned around their fortunes in a year, rebounding from the bottom of the standings to the top, serves as a reminder that prospects can change quickly.
“It’s the N.F.L. — any team can go from last to first,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “It’s about everybody buying in together. I feel like we’re doing that here. If we get a couple pieces, we’re going to be right there.”
The success of those teams, however, often relies on the quarterback. And the Jets do not have one.
Bowles has lasted his three seasons with two journeymen stopgaps: Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown. McCown, 38, performed admirably this season until he was injured in Week 14, but his backup, Bryce Petty, has struggled. Christian Hackenberg, a second-round draft selection in 2016, has yet to see the field, and coaches insist he needs more seasoning.
For once, though, the Giants seem just as unclear about their quarterback, and they, too, might be taking a future signal-caller at the top of the draft.
When the 2016 season ended, Jets players talked openly about the spoiled chemistry in the locker room, the sense that the team “doesn’t feel like a team,” as receiver Quincy Enunwa said at the time.
Contrast that with this week. The Jets seem stable. It’s a start.
“This really feels like a team,” linebacker Josh Martin said. “There’s no egos, everyone is in it. It’s just a good group of guys that get along well. That’s probably what excites me the most, because I know the best teams have that camaraderie.”
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