A rose-colored view of how Jets fared against playoff field

Steve McLendon (99) encouraged his teammates to watch the playoffs and Super Bowl and to picture themselves playing in those games. Larry French/Getty Images

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Hanging with the big boys: Before his teammates scattered for the offseason, nose tackle Steve McLendon -- one of the true leaders on the team -- implored them to watch the playoffs on TV. For some, that might be as painful as watching reruns of "Cavemen."

"Watch the playoffs, watch the Super Bowl, watch it all," McLendon told reporters, repeating his message. "Take it in and put yourself in those shoes and say you want to be there next year."

Can the Jets be a playoff team in 2018? To answer the question, let's focus on how they fared against this season's playoff field. All things considered, it wasn't that bad if you choose to see the glass as half-full.

The Jets finished 3-6 against playoff teams, with wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. This was the first time they beat three playoff teams in the same season since 2009, according to Randy Lange of the team's official web site. Three of the losses were by eight or fewer points, including two (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers) in which they held leads in the fourth quarter. You can't say the Jets weren't competitive.

If you really want to take the optimistic viewpoint, look how they played with Josh McCown at quarterback -- 3-4 against playoff teams, including the three close losses. Until Bryce Petty took over -- he had no shot against the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots -- they weren't outclassed by any team in the postseason field. For a rebuilding team, that's a positive.

Consider this happy talk an antidote for your 5-11 hangover.

2. Speaking of the playoffs ... : Is the Jets' 2018 starting quarterback playing this weekend?

Three of the eight starters on wild-card weekend could shake free in the offseason -- the Bills' Tyrod Taylor, the Jaguars' Blake Bortles and the Chiefs' Alex Smith, who played Saturday night.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that one of them -- most likely Smith or Taylor -- could land with the Jets.

3. The Hack dilemma: It doesn't take a genius to figure out general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles have a difference of opinion on Christian Hackenberg.

Maccagnan is standing by his man, probably because he drafted him and doesn't want to admit it was a mistake. In his season-ending session with reporters, Maccagnan said Hackenberg will "get the opportunity to go perform on the field. I think we kind of have a feel for him internally, but he’ll get his opportunities going forward."

Bowles, who has the final say on the lineup, seemingly has no intention of playing Hackenberg. He refused to play him in the season finale, when the opportunity was ripe. He didn't see enough in practice to put him in the game, and Bowles isn't the kind of coach who throws a bone to someone unless it's earned.

Hackenberg isn't a big enough piece to the puzzle to turn this into a Jimmy Garoppolo situation with the Patriots -- the focus of a power struggle -- but it could put him in the middle of a mini-disagreement.

4. One happy boss: Acting owner Christopher Johnson has been around the team since brother Woody Johnson purchased it in 2000, but this was his first season in the big chair -- and he absolutely loved it.

"Honestly, I did not anticipate how much I enjoy this job," he said last Tuesday. "This is the world’s greatest gig. Despite a five-win season, I’m having the time of my life."

Following a pregame routine started by his brother, Johnson toured the tailgates before home games, mingling with fans. They offered him kielbasa, shots of bourbon and plenty of advice on how to improve the team. He described the fan interaction as "just terrific."

Johnson has the innate leadership skills to succeed. The only thing you wonder about is his lack of experience. Time will tell.

4.a. Into the hornet's nest: Johnson had to deal with two potentially volatile issues in his first year -- the tanking accusations and the national anthem protests. His retrospective thoughts:

  • On tanking: "Nothing matters to me more than my integrity, and I would never ask a coach or a player to do anything that would reduce their own integrity, like tanking. ... I don’t know if there are teams out there that actually do it. I just can’t imagine ever feeling good about yourself after that."

  • On the anthem issue: "Linking arms with the players has been, quite honestly, the honor of my life and was very, very powerful, but I’m not going to give myself credit for [unifying the team]." He credited Bowles with that.

5. A vote for Baker: "Game of Thrones" creator George R.R. Martin, a Jets fan who occasionally bemoans the plight of the team in his online journal, already has an opinion on what they should do in the draft."The Jets ... should take Baker Mayfield if he's still on the board," Martin writes in his season-ending post.

Who needs the scouting combine or pro days?

6. Nothing special: Will the Jets ever be good again on special teams? Year after year, they rank among the bottom feeders in the league.

Punter Lachlan Edwards delivered a fine individual season, and kicker Chandler Catanzaro was solid, but the rest of the "team" units pretty much stunk. They regressed in kickoff returns, punt returns and punt coverage. They averaged a league-low 4.5 yards per punt return, which is less than what three teams averaged per running play.

Bowles changed coordinators after his first season, but it hasn't improved under Brant Boyer.

7. Arrow up: I asked Bowles to name the position groups where he felt the team improved from 2016. Safety is the obvious one. He also said inside linebacker, wide receiver and defensive line ("more continuity"). He forgot to mention quarterback, another obvious one.

8. Did you know? What do Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and Mark Sanchez have in common? They're among only four quarterbacks since 2009 who made the playoffs with more interceptions than touchdown passes. Sanchez, of course, did it with the Jets in 2009, his rookie season.

9. HC of the CRT: Congrats to former Jets linebacker Marvin Jones, who was named head coach of the Cedar Rapids Titans of the Indoor Football League. If he discovers a promising quarterback, maybe he could alert his former team. Hey, you never know. Years ago, an indoor team from Iowa produced a pretty good passer -- Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, formerly of the Iowa Barnstormers.

10. Final word: "I'm not going to sit here and guarantee the playoffs [in 2018], but if we do things the right way and we go about it the right way, I think we have a really good chance" -- wide receiver Jermaine Kearse