By Justin Paley
Jets Staff Writer
January 17th, 2005
Two days after a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, the Jets cleaned out their lockers today. Jets head coach Herman Edwards talked about his message to the team today. “I told them that at the end of the day when we got into the playoffs, I thought we became a better football team,” Edwards said. “Mentally we became better.”

Two days after a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, the Jets cleaned out their lockers today.

Jets head coach Herman Edwards talked about his message to the team today.

“I told them that at the end of the day when we got into the playoffs, I thought we became a better football team,” Edwards said. “Mentally we became better.”

Edwards talked about what the front office focuses on now. “What we’re trying to do at this point really is we’ll talk to some guys that obviously are free agents, guys that were on the practice squad, trying to resign guys,” Edwards said. “That’s the process we’re in at this point as a football organization. Our coaches will obviously evaluate our players, evaluate what we did this year as a football team, and try to see where we can improve. That’s the thing that you always think about.”

One of the big priorities in the off-season is getting QB Chad Pennington healthy. Pennington missed three games this year with a strained rotator cuff. Pennington said he would not discuss his injury as per team policy. Edwards said the players visited with team doctor, Dr. Elliott Pellman, today and he would know more on what Pennington will have to do later this week.

“Obviously he needs to get a hundred percent well,” Edwards said. “Whatever is necessary for him to get a hundred percent well, we’re going to have to do.”

Now the season is done, the attention turns to free agents. Among the free agents the Jets have to decide if they want to re-sign are TE Anthony Becht, RB Lamont Jordan, RT Kareem McKenzie, DT Jason Ferguson, and DE John Abraham. Edwards likes the team he has and wants to keep them together.

“We have a good nucleus of players coming back next year,” Edwards said. “I anticipate us having a good draft, get some more young players in here, and I think we’ve got a good future. We’ve got something to build on which is always good.”

RB Curtis Martin, who led the NFL in rushing this year at the age of 31, said he sees the Jets moving forward.

“I think you have to enter situations like this and enter new seasons with an optimistic attitude,” Martin said. “My attitude is that we might not be the same team next year but I expect us to be a better team. I don’t see any reason why we should go backwards.”

Edwards said he will meet with all the coaches on Wednesday to discuss each player and then will give them off the next two weeks.

“I need to get them out of here so I can think,” Edwards said. “I like when the building’s quiet and I can think. That’s what I did last year. Nobody was here but me.”

Edwards talked about what he will do in the two weeks while the coaches are gone.

“I’ll evaluate everything we did from March all the way through the season,” the HC said. “I have to evaluate a lot of months of football, what we did to prepare, what we did to get us to this point and what we got to do a better job next year to get past this point. It all starts with me in the off-season, how you evaluate everything we’ve done.”

Certainly one of the things Edwards will think about over the next few weeks is whether he should fire offensive coordinator Paul Hackett. Almost all Jets fans want Hackett gone as the team has struggled to put up points this season offensively. Edwards said he hasn’t thought about what to do yet.

“I haven’t even dwelled on it at this point,” Edwards said. “I was more concentrating on our players and our staff.”

Last year two days after the season ended, Edwards fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. Edwards talked about why the Hackett decision will take longer.

“I’m smart enough to know that you don’t make emotional decisions,” Edwards said. “You don’t make knee-jerk decisions in life. You sit back and you weigh everything you have to do, and it starts with the head coach. Then it works its way down to everyone else. At the end of the day, you do what’s best for the football team and organization.”

Edwards and Hackett have known each other since 1972 and Edwards was asked if that makes the decision more difficult.

“Any decision I always make is always a decision of what’s best for the football team,” Edwards said. “There’s nothing that clouds my judgment.”

Pennington would not criticize Hackett.

“As long as I play here, no matter who the coach is, no matter who the coordinator is, I will never bash any coach, any player because I understand the hard work that is put in,” Pennington said. “I understand the motivation and the motive we have as players and coaches in trying to win games. Sometimes that is taken for granted but that is a discussions that is not fair for me to talk about because that is a decision that Herm has to make and our organization has to make.”

The Jets defense kept the team in many games this year and finished in the top 10 in the NFL. A big reason for that turnaround was first-year defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson.

“He came in here with a spirit and energy I felt we needed and he got the players believing in his system and what we he wanted to do, making them accountable,” Edwards said. “I thought we did a good job of drafting defensive players. I thought Donnie did a great job of really implementing the ability to use all his players. Our defense took a lot of strides. I anticipate they’ll get better net year, and that’s something you look forward to.”

Henderson’s name has come up recently in the 49ers and Browns head coaching search. However, the 49ers hired Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Nolan today and Henderson put any speculation that he would leave to rest. “I’m not going anywhere,” Henderson said.

Edwards talked about what he takes from this season as a building block for next year.

“The way we finished,” Edwards said. “When we got into the playoffs, we played more confident, with a swagger. We played very competitive. We were in some hostile environments trying to win games. I feel better about where we were this year than the two years we went back to back in the playoffs. I didn’t feel the same way I do now. At this point, we’re a better football team.”

MISCELEANOUS TIDBITS: Edwards was asked if he was second guessing himself with his decisions in the final two minutes that set up K Doug Brien’s game winning field goal attempt. “No,” Edwards said. “That’s what we practiced. Doug is 83-percent from that mark. He’s never missed two field goals in a row here. I felt very comfortable he was going to make the field goal. He felt comfortable.” Of course Brien missed and the Steelers won the game in overtime.

Brien said it will take a while for the feelings to fade away. “I am going to go home and I have a wife and two kids and my two kids could care less and they are going to remind me of that real fast,” Brien said. “That will help. It will be one of those things that I think back on forever, like other big kicks I have missed.”

-DE John Abraham injured his knee on December 5 and didn’t play the rest of the season. Edwards gave the organization’s stance on Abraham. “The organization thinking is this: That John Abraham will be a Jet,” Edwards said. “As far as I’m concerned, John is going to be a Jet. John was doing everything in his power to come back to help us win and he wasn’t physically able to do that. I know John personally. It has nothing to do with his contract. Because see, at the end of the day, John is going to get a contract. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, John is going to play somewhere.”

-RB Lamont Jordan is another free agent the Jets will have to decide to re-sign or let go. If the Jets do re-sign him, they will need to get him the ball more as he carried only 93 times for 479 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season. Jordan said he wants to remain a Jet and Edwards wants him back too. “He’s a heck of a player,” Edwards said. “We drafted him. Players you draft, you never like losing those guys because you drafted them. You put time into the player and he’s one of your guys.”

-WR Wayne Chrebet only caught 31 passes for 397 yards and a TD this year but Edwards was impressed how professional Chrebet was about it. “I thought this year he really bought into what we were asking him to do,” Edwards said. “He didn’t play a whole lot. He was a role player, but bought into the role. And I think he helped the young guys understand how important it is.” Chrebet, who suffered a concussion in the last game of the regular season, missed the San Diego playoff game and did play against Pittsburgh on Saturday but did not record a catch. Chrebet said he has not made a decision on next year. “It is just something that we have to really look in to why it keeps happening and how bad it could possibly get,” Chrebet said of the concussions. “We have time between now and the off-season workouts and we will just try to look as deep in to as we can get.”

-Back-up QB Quincy Carter did a nice job filling in for Pennington, going 2-1 while Pennington was out. Edwards was asked if Carter will be back. “At this point, we’d like to have him back,” Edwards said. “He’s going to look for an opportunity to be a starter somewhere, rightly so.”

Jets General Manager Terry Bradway will address the media tomorrow afternoon in his season-ending press conference. Check back to Jets for all the latest info/news throughout the off-season.