The New York Jets this season lacked the chemistry they had the previous two years when they fell a win short of Super Bowl appearances, coach Rex Ryan said.
The Jets finished 8-8 and lost their final three games to miss the National Football League playoffs for the first time during Ryan’s tenure as coach. The slump was capped by the benching of captain Santonio Holmes following a verbal altercation with teammates during the fourth quarter of a season-ending loss two days ago in Miami.
“I don’t think we were as close as a football team as we were the first two years and now we’re sitting on the outside looking in,” Ryan said yesterday at a news conference. “We’re watching other teams in playoff games that we think we should be in. That’s painful.”
Ryan and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said the Jets have the talent to challenge for a Super Bowl, so they’ll spend the offseason assessing what went wrong and how to improve. Ryan doesn’t expect drastic changes, saying that Holmes will be back, Brian Schottenheimer will return as offensive coordinator unless he gets a head coaching job and that he still has confidence in quarterback Mark Sanchez.
“A lot of times what separates winning from losing is a team that truly believes in each other, that cares about each other,” Ryan said. “I have always been around that type of team. That’s what I want to build here, and we’re going to have 53 people that believe that way.”
The Jets offense ranked 25th out of 32 NFL teams in total offensive yards, with Schottenheimer and Sanchez receiving the bulk of the criticism from media and fans for the team’s struggles. Schottenheimer has been offensive coordinator since 2006 and Tannenbaum said yesterday that he’s a candidate for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coaching vacancy.
“I really respect the job he’s done, in terms of working with three different quarterbacks, two championship games,” Tannenbaum said. “He’s done a really credible job for us.”
Sanchez threw 26 touchdown passes in his third season, tying Al Dorrow and Joe Namath for the second-highest single-season total in franchise history. He also threw 18 interceptions, including seven in the final three games. Sanchez was intercepted three times in the season-ending 19-17 loss against the Miami Dolphins.
‘Far From Perfect’
“Mark’s body of work speaks for itself. It’s more good than bad and it’s far from perfect,” Tannenbaum said. “It has to be more consistent and I think if Mark was sitting right here, he’d be the first one to tell you.”
While the Jets will look at the quarterback position “as a whole” during the offseason, Sanchez will be the starter next season, Tannenbaum said.
“I’ve steadily improved numbers wise, but I still feel like I have a long way to go,” Sanchez told reporters yesterday. “I have plenty of things to work on, plenty of areas where I can be better. That’s what the offseason is for.”
Sanchez wouldn’t comment on how the situation with Holmes, who failed to catch a pass in the season finale and was taken out after the confrontation with teammates in the Jets’ offensive huddle. Ryan said he made a mistake by having team captains.
“This is something that I think I made a huge mistake on,” Ryan said. “Not just by naming Santonio a captain, but all of the captain things. This is not a reflection of anybody in particular, but we’re not going to have those anymore. The way we built our team is we built a team. And I think that pulls away from the team a little bit.”
Ryan said while Holmes will be held accountable for his actions, the team had more widespread problems and the coach blamed himself for not having a better gauge on its chemistry.
“Normally I’m a guy that really has the pulse of this team,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I had the pulse of our team the way I’ve done in the past.”