FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Eric Decker went from playing in the Super Bowl a year ago to simply playing for pride during the final weeks of this season.
Through it all, the New York Jets wide receiver has no regrets.
Decker refuses to look back at what might have been if the Denver Broncos wanted to re-sign him.
The fact is, they didn't, and he came to New York with big hopes for the Big Apple.
Instead, he has endured a 2-11 season with the futures of his coach, general manager and many of his teammates uncertain.
"I mean, honestly, going from a good team or an average team or the record we're at now, it's very small," Decker said Thursday. "The details, honestly, separate the great from the good, and the great from the average. It's about your preparation, details of how you practice, details of how you watch film, the details of doing things the right way.
"We're very close."
It might sound perhaps delusional to some, but several players other than Decker have insisted over the past few weeks that the Jets aren't as bad as the record indicates. They see signs of hope, that things can be turned around with some major offseason tweaks.
Many fans and media believe wholesale changes are in store for the Jets, who will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season under Rex Ryan.
Owner Woody Johnson will have major decisions to make as far as Ryan and GM John Idzik, and he told the New York Daily News at the NFL meetings in Dallas that this has been "the hardest year I've had in terms of losses."
"He's invested a lot of stuff into this organization and this team, and our job as players is performance," said Decker, who leads the Jets with 55 catches. "He can't control performance. He can control what he provides us and what he does to help us as far as athletes.
"It's one of the best organizations in the NFL, so for us, we've got to find a way to get some more wins. It's frustrating the locker room and we're the ones grinding on the field every day, and it's got to be frustrated for him as well because this is really his organization and he wants to see success."
But that could mean a new GM, a new coach and several new players, a massive amount of turnover for a team that has lost by 20 or more points three times — but by 14 or fewer eight times this season.
"Obviously, there's certain pieces throughout a team or certain bounces throughout a year that help you along the way," Decker said, "but for us, we've got to find our identity, do the little things right and just keep chipping away because it will turn.
"I don't think it's far off at all from being a playoff kind of team."
Decker is also realist, though, and he knows changes are coming to some extent.
"There's pieces, obviously, that we'll need to help us be a better football team," Decker said. "That's a question for the personnel department, for management, to make. As far as the core of this team, the guys that we have in this locker room, there's a reason why we're all here. We're not performing well enough to get victories and there's questions and answers behind that, but I feel that the core of this team is definitely championship-minded and championship athletes."
Moving forward, though, that core could be led by someone other than Ryan on the field. The coach understands — and shares — Johnson's disappointment over how this season has unfolded.
Ryan insisted he is focused only on the team's next game at Tennessee on Sunday, and Johnson is "justified" in whatever he decides at the end of the season.
That includes the fate of the coach.
"I mean, I love Rex," Decker said. "That's one of the reasons why I came here. ... He's been a great players' coach as far as taking care of you, doing things and providing you with things, and being real with you when you ask questions. I have the utmost respect for him. That's out of my control as far as what's going to happen next year, but I definitely appreciate and respect him."
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