FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The joy of exceeding expectations vs. the agony of barely missing the Super Bowl. The New York Jets have been dealing with those conflicting feelings since losing to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.
The players -- at least the Jets' Pro Bowlers anyway -- choose to look on the bright side.
"Initially, we were really disappointed," Pro Bowl left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said on Wednesday. "We had high hopes of the Super Bowl and were very close, but we just missed. But now that the season's over and we've kind of transitioned a little bit, we really can reflect and say, 'Hey, we had a hell of a year.'
"Especially the guys out here, we're just happy to be here and trying to enjoy ourselves."
The Jets, it would seem, have plenty reason to remain positive about their immediate future, what with a rookie head coach (Rex Ryan), rookie quarterback (Mark Sanchez) and, at least in the postseason, a rookie running back (Shonn Greene) building a strong core.
Oh, and don't forget about the offensive line.
Greene, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington (before he went down for the season in Week 7) were the beneficiaries of a punishing offensive line that produced the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack, which upped the ante in upset road wins at Cincinnati and San Diego in the playoffs.
"We just wanted to have a ground-and-pound mentality. That was something Rex really wanted to push," Ferguson said. "And with our backs in Thomas and Shonn and Leon early in the year, it really allowed us to have a lot of success doing that."
The running attack also simplified things for Sanchez. In his rookie season, Sanchez certainly didn't impress with his numbers, but he delivered in the playoffs -- making better decisions under pressure and connecting on some clutch throws.
"Sanchez has leadership. He has poise," Ferguson said. "He understands how to come into a situation that might be very critical in the game. He doesn't let that rattle him. Despite the adversity that we faced as a team, he was able to overcome."
It helps to have a coach as bold and brash as Ryan, who abandoned his post as Ravens defensive coordinator to become the Jets' leader and took New York by storm in his first season. Ryan made no apologies all season about the predictions he made or the unabashed confidence he showed in his team.
"He's just a player's coach," Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "Different coaches I've had got different styles, but this guy Rex is confident, says a lot of crazy things in the media. But he backs it up.
"He's just confident about what he believes and about what we're trying to accomplish as a team."
Few expected the Jets to get close to the Super Bowl. But they did. And even though they fell just short, there's reason to take pride in what transpired this season.
"We wanted to go to the Super Bowl. That was our main goal. The fact that we didn't did disappoint us," Ferguson said. "But again, we do take pride in the way we played this year and our accomplishments. Those are things that we're very pleased with."