New York Jets General Manager John Idzik endorsed Rex Ryan as the team’s coach, declining to guarantee quarterback Geno Smith’s status as the team’s starter next season.
One day after Jets owner Woody Johnson said Ryan would return to coach the final year of his contract following an 8-8 campaign, both Idzik and Ryan said they were encouraged by the season and rookie Smith’s improvement over 16 games. They did not, however, say his starting job is secure.
“We’ll look at quarterbacks, yes, we’ll look at quarterbacks,” Idzik said at a televised news conference. “That said, we’re very excited to have Geno Smith as a New York Jet.”
Smith, 23, completed 55.8 percent of his passes, throwing 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions this season. Though the interception total ranked fourth-highest in the National Football League, he didn’t throw any during the final two games, victories over the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.
“You’ve seen him make great strides as the season went on,” Ryan said. “When I talk about the team ascending, clearly his play was one of the reasons.”
Both Ryan and Idzik declined to say whether there will be talks about extending Ryan’s contract past next season, his sixth with the franchise. The 2013 campaign was their first working together as Idzik replaced Mike Tannenbaum during the offseason following a 6-10 2012 season.
“We just have a lot of similar views on how to build a team, the type of people we want in the building, our style of football,” Idzik said about his relationship with Ryan.
With the team probably having room under the salary cap to enter the free-agent market, Idzik said he “absolutely” plans to improve the team’s skill positions on offense.
The Jets’ former starting passer, Mark Sanchez, would be due a $2 million roster bonus in March and a $9 million salary for 2014 if the team wanted to keep him, according to CBSSports.com. Sanchez missed the entire season after having surgery to repair a shoulder injury. Asked what the Jets’ plans are for Sanchez, Idzik said: “We’ll get to that in time.”
“Our focus is to get him healthy, as it has been the entire season, and then we’ll take it from there,” Idzik said.
A year after the 2012 season ended amid disharmony among players, Ryan said that atmosphere within the locker room had changed significantly.
“This is as close a football team as I’ve ever been with,” Ryan said. “You hear about the team creating a family, a brotherhood if you will, and I feel it with this team.”