FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The "dark cloud" that Darrelle Revis said hung over the Jets for most of the season caused a fractured locker room that never seemed to heal. And at least one Jet is convinced that the cloud of internal problems led directly to the team's miserable, losing year.
"It didn't help us," receiver Quincy Enunwa said on Monday. "You look at our record, it really hindered our play. A big reason for that is when you see the bad things that are going on, you kind of feel like you almost lose your purpose. You go into the season and you don't want to play for self. You want to play for team. But when team doesn't feel like a team, then you've got to start playing for self."
That is a damning assessment, and it seems to sum up the 5-11 Jets perfectly - a team that never really seemed like a team. They all came into the season feeling, as Enunwa said, "that we were a really good team." Then they were blown out in Kansas City in Week 3 and that served as a flashpoint for their new reality.
But when Brandon Marshall and Sheldon Richardson started an argument on the sidelines that spilled over into the locker room that day, the Jets' chemistry and their willingness to play for each other began to get progressively worse.
"There were a lot of struggles on and off the field and that kind of made things go not the way we wanted it to," Enunwa said. "That definitely added in. Losing didn't help. But I think it was kind of a mindset. And it spread. And it wasn't good."
At the center of that mindset and the swirling controversy was Marshall, the 32-year-old receiver who has never been to the playoffs in his 11 NFL seasons. He had a season-long feud with Richardson that occasionally spilled over into the press. And he reportedly angered many of his teammates with a fiery halftime speech in the midst of a blowout loss on Christmas Eve in New England.
Marshall admitted on Monday that his "timing" might have been a problem, but he had no regrets about his approach to leadership. Enunwa, though, understood how Marshall's message often got lost in his delivery, and how that led to so many things going wrong.
"For me, with Brandon, I always make sure I hear the message rather than the delivery of the message. That's not easy for everybody," Enunwa said. "A lot of times people are going to say things in the heat of the moment and they're not going to always mean what they say. But sometimes there's a hidden message. You've got to sit back and take it rather than take it at the surface.
"I might be biased," Enunwa added. "When I sit down and talk to him I know why he's doing what he's doing and saying what he says. It's frustration. … But at times the things he was saying didn't come across the way he intended them to."
Marshall is no lock to return to the Jets next season, but whether he does or not it's obvious the Jets need stronger locker room leaders. Some of that falls on Todd Bowles, who will be back as coach next season. But Enunwa said the issues the Jets had this year should've been cleaned up by the players themselves.
"It's about policing ourselves," Enunwa said. "I applaud Coach Bowles' effort. He did what he was supposed to do. He did what he needed to do. But I think we also have to be able to police the locker room."
So can the locker room be fixed so the Jets can avoid another meltdown next season?
"I think it can be fixed," Enunwa said. "We know what we needed to do. Hindsight is 20-20. We know. Coach Bowles knows. There are going to be a lot of changes and I think it's going to be for the better.