Belief and bravado sweep through the locker room of the team that has been on the outside of the playoffs looking in for 11 straight seasons.
There is a cornhole game ongoing in the middle with Joe Flacco and C.J. Uzomah, and Mike White and Dan Feeney retrieving and lobbing back to them.
Outside, expectations are “Same Old Jets” low.
Internal expectations are something dramatically different.
The 2022 Jets: Great Expectations.
Jordan Whitehead is a Super Bowl winner who comes over from Tampa Bay, Flacco won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, Laken Tomlinson and Kwon Alexander reached the Super Bowl with the 49ers, Sheldon Rankins experienced the playoffs in New Orleans.
Each of them know what a winning culture looks and feels and sounds like. “We expect to win. … Our goal is to win and get to the Super Bowl,” Alexander told The Post, “so we’re gonna take that a day at a time, and just build the culture.”
Coach Robert Saleh talks of one day winning Super Bowl championships, but in the meantime, the first steps are proving that his team has closed the gap on the rest of the formidable AFC East, and winning in September so there are meaningful games to play in December.
“Everybody in here understands the stigma that goes along with the Jets, the past I don’t know how many years,” Rankins told The Post, “but understanding that you can’t control the past … and everybody in this locker room expects big things. … Every time we take the field, we expect to win, to flat out dominate and just impose our will on people.”
C.J. Mosley is hardly the lone playoffs-or-bust proponent.
“I second that wholeheartedly, and I think you can ask any man in this locker room, they would stand behind that as well,” Rankins said.
The Jets’ culture under Saleh is evolving and ascending. “I think you get to a certain point where a lot of stuff isn’t said, but when you turn on the practice tape, guys running around at full speed,” Flacco told The Post. “Typically you see a bunch of defensive jerseys around the ball, but I think good teams, even on offenses, you see a bunch of people around the ball, helping their guy up, looking to see if they can recover a fumble if something bad happens, stuff like that. I think it just becomes that kind of culture, where guys are constantly working hard, and then you end up getting the camaraderie from all that.”
I asked Flacco if this current Jets culture reminds him of his old Ravens culture: “I think we’re a bunch of guys that have a really positive feeling about how good we can be, but we haven’t yet done it,” he said, “so I think we’re in the process right now where we’re building some momentum, and it’s just up to us to go out there on Sundays and kind of keep that going.”
Tomlinson is excited by the vibe in the room.
“Obviously having a good owner, good GM, good head coach, they kind of set the tempo for the players, and then bringing in the right players obviously setting the vibe for the room, it creates an energy that’s contagious, and then it just takes over,” Tomlinson told The Post. “The vibe is really, really, really good right now.”
Playoffs or bust.
“Look at the guys we have in the room,” Tomlinson said. “We have a lot of guys with a lot of playoff experience.”
Then GM Joe Douglas won the NFL draft. “I feel like we’re certainly a more talented team than we’ve ever been,” Douglas said.
Alexander points to the seven Jets roster cuts who were claimed by other teams.
“We got some dogs in this building, and guys that can make plays in big games in big-time situations,” he said.
Whitehead sees similarities between this Jets culture and the one he left behind in Tampa … only if he could have brought Tom Brady with him to Florham Park.
“How they run practice, practice is efficient, it’s quick, walk-throughs are up-speed just like Tampa, it’s not no bullcrap period,” Whitehead said.
So much, of course, rides on Zach Wilson. Saleh and his “All gas, no brake” mantra has helped improve the culture. Now he needs to dramatically improve his 4-13 record.
“When you have a head coach that brings the energy and the juice, the genuine love of the game that Coach Saleh brings, his communication abilities, and then with his staff of teachers, high-energy teachers, and then it just goes from there,” Douglas said, “then you’re bringing in the right types of people. … You try to get as many good people in the building as you can, and good things are gonna start to happen.”
Flight 2022, anyone?
“We’re turning this thing around,” Whitehead said.
“It’s time to win.”