The New York Jets' impressive turnaround season crashed with a resounding thud in Orchard Park in early January. Nearly a month later, owner Woody Johnson hasn't forgotten.
"I think those things stay for a long time," Johnson said Friday of New York's 22-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in his first public speaking appearance in a year. "They're kind of indelible ink. You've got to move on, move forward and learn from what happened in that game. Twice when we played Buffalo, the same thing. We've got to be better, that's all."
The loss was doubly haunting for Gang Green. Entering with a win-and-you're-in scenario, the Jets blew an opportunity at the playoffs against a shorthanded Bills team -- the Steelers stole the sixth seed with an easy win over the Browns. But what made the close divisional loss even worse was that it was the second time that season that first-year coach Todd Bowles had fallen to his brash predecessor, Rex Ryan.
"I think we played the game the same way twice," Johnson added. "That's what I recall. I don't know what you guys think. I hate to lose the same way twice, and that's not what we did during the season. We played pretty well. We got better. When we played the Patriots the second time, we did better. Todd's aware of that."
In both losses, the Jets held the Bills to less than 300 yards on offense, but could barely muster more than 300 on their side of the ball. Gang Green was also tortured by seven combined turnovers in the two contests -- Ryan Fitzpatrick's three-interception fourth quarter acted as the season's death knell.
New York earned a 10-6 record for the first time since 2010 and completed a six-win turnaround in its first season with a rookie coach, but for the first time in a while, Johnson isn't celebrating minor victories.
Part of that is because the potential in East Rutherford is great going forward. Jets receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker combined for 2,529 yards and 26 touchdowns, and caught at least one touchdown each in eight games, an NFL record. Chris Ivory finished sixth in the league in rushing with a career-high 1,070 yards. Fitzpatrick played the quarterback position in New York with a boyishness and consistency -- until Week 17, of course -- that the Jets hadn't seen since the early days of Chad Pennington. Oh, and the defense remains stacked with Pro Bowlers.
So don't expect to see Johnson and Jets fans kicking and screaming in simple delight for winning seasons any more, especially if they're not getting it done in big games against Rex and the like.