New York Jets coach Rex Ryan avoided the fallout of a 6-10 season that cost four of his assistants and his boss, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, their jobs.
Ryan and Jets owner Woody Johnson met with reporters yesterday for the first time since the National Football League’s regular season ended nine days ago.
Johnson said the season was a failure while giving a vote of confidence to Ryan, who announced the firings of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh and strength and conditioning coach Bill Hughan. Ryan also said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who has interviewed for the same job with the Buffalo Bills, won’t return. Johnson said Ryan’s job is safe regardless of who replaces Tannenbaum.
“I’m approaching this day like it’s my first day as a head coach” Ryan, 50, said in a news conference at the Jets’ training complex in Florham Park, New Jersey. “I have four years of experience, but the same challenge I took four years ago, I’ve been given a great opportunity by Mr. Johnson to move forward. This is it. This is a new chance for me and that’s how I’m approaching it. This is a beginning, not an end.”
Johnson said there’s no mandate that the Jets make the playoffs next season for Ryan, who has two years remaining on his contract, to keep his job. Johnson also said that Ryan will have input in finding Tannenbaum’s replacement.
“We failed this year,” Johnson said. “We’re not happy. We’re making changes to correct that. I feel these changes will have a meaningful impact. If you surround yourself with people who are smart in a particular area -- we’re talking football -- you’re going to get a good product.”
The Jets gained the third-fewest yards in the NFL and struggled with three quarterbacks while missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. The Jets’ offense averaged 17.6 points under Sparano, fifth worst in the NFL, and was limited to 12 touchdowns in the final nine games.
“Tony did a lot of good things,” Ryan said. “At the end of the day, I wanted to move this team in a different direction offensively.”
Mark Sanchez had the worst season of his four-year career and was benched during Week 16 in favor of third-string quarterback Greg McElroy. Tim Tebow, listed as the backup after a high-profile preseason trade from Denver, was used sparingly at the position.
Sanchez had an NFL-high 27 turnovers, including 18 interceptions. Ryan declined to say whether Sanchez would be the Jets’ starting quarterback next season, or if Tebow would have a bigger role.
“It’s way too early to say what any of our players’ future is,” Ryan said. “We need to get an offensive system in place and then we’ll make that determination.”
Ryan and Johnson both said finances wouldn’t play a factor in whether Sanchez starts in 2013. Sanchez was the Jets’ first-round draft pick in 2009 and is guaranteed $8.25 million next season. The Jets would face a $17.1 million salary cap hit over the next two years if they cut him.
“Money doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Ryan said. “We’re looking for the best player.”
Ryan, who started his tenure with the Jets by predicting a Super Bowl title, sidestepped a question on whether the current roster has the talent to win an NFL championship. The Super Bowl will be played at the Jets’ MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, following the 2013 season.
“There’s a lot of things we have to improve on,” Ryan said. “We have to take little positive steps and it starts with the hiring of the GM and two new coordinators. I will say this, having that at our stadium, there’s not a coach in this world that doesn’t want to get there and you’re looking at one of them.”
He said he was concerned after the season about losing his job, though Johnson said he didn’t consider making that change.
Ryan said one of the biggest failures in New York has been an inability to stamp his personality on the offense.
“I want a physical, aggressive, attack style of football team, whether its offense or defense,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I’ve done a good enough job of getting that through to the entire football team.”
Ryan said he hopes to run different offensive systems next season and that the team is compiling a list of offensive coordinator candidates. He said the defensive coordinator job probably would be filled by someone in the organization, without being specific.
While saying he was embarrassed at times by the Jets’ performance this season, Johnson said he’s confident Ryan remains the right coach for the franchise. Johnson declined to identify any general manager candidates.
“We’re looking at somebody who can guide us to the next level of success and change the dynamic in a way that yields success on the field,” Johnson said. “The people we’re talking to are exceptionally good and each one brings something different.”
Johnson also said he sympathizes with the frustration of fans, some of whom have sought to sell the personal-seat licenses needed to buy season tickets.
“Our fans are very passionate and they’re going to lash out and express their feelings,” Johnson said. “I don’t blame them, quite frankly. It would be worse if they were apathetic. I want them to care. We work for the fans, we want to produce a better product, and that’s why we’re making these changes.”