Rex, Woody excited for Jets' new 'beginning'
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The big, bold statements are back -- and so is Rex Ryan.
The New York Jets coach, kept on board despite owner Woody Johnson firing general manager Mike Tannenbaum last week, had no Super Bowl guarantees -- but this certainly was Rex: Reloaded.
"I'm approaching this day like it's the first day. Period," a fired-up Ryan said Tuesday. "Like my first day as a head coach. This is a new chance for me. This is a beginning, certainly not an end."
During a nearly 40-minute "season-ending" news conference that came nine days after the Jets' 6-10 season ended, both Johnson and Ryan -- each decked out in green ties -- spoke about being excited for the team's future.
And, as far as Johnson is concerned, that future begins with Ryan, who acknowledged he was concerned he might be fired after the season because he "failed" to leave his imprint on all aspects of the team. But Johnson said that was never a scenario in his mind.
"I think Rex Ryan is perfect for the New York Jets," Johnson said. "He is 100 percent this team."
It sounded a bit the way Ryan's introductory news conference did four years ago, when the talk was about how the Jets would meet President Obama soon and how the franchise was going for the Super Bowl. While Ryan has toned down that talk during the last few seasons, he made no mistake that he is rejuvenated -- after a few days in the Bahamas -- and rededicated to bringing the franchise where he always has intended.
"We're not going to be bullied," Ryan said, his voice stern. "We might not win every game, and no team does. But you've got to stand for something. We're going to be the team you don't want to play."
That wasn't the case this season, of course, as the Jets failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year after consecutive trips to the AFC championship game in Ryan's first two seasons.
While Tannenbaum was fired and the Jets continue to search for a replacement -- a process Johnson said Ryan will be part of -- significant changes are being made to the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was fired after one season in which the offense ranked among the league's worst.
"I want to be more of an unpredictable offense," Ryan said. "As hard as we are to attack defensively, I want to be offensively."
Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is also out after four seasons.
Neither Sparano nor Cavanaugh could get starting Mark Sanchez to make the next step in his development, and he actually regressed this season -- culminating in the first benching of his career. Sanchez's 52 turnovers the last two seasons are the most in the NFL, and Ryan and Johnson insisted money wouldn't factor into any decisions on personnel -- despite the fact Sanchez is owed $8.25 million in guarantees and would cost the Jets a $17.1 million salary cap hit if they cut him.
The Jets also couldn't figure out a way to effectively use backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who failed to get into the end zone all season as he stood mostly on the sideline after being expected to be a major part of Sparano's offense. Tebow is expected to be traded or released -- but personnel moves will largely depend on the next general manager.
"It is way too early to say what any of our players' futures are," Ryan said.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whose contract is expiring, also won't be back. Ryan has worked with Pettine the last 10 years, but said Pettine was interviewing for the same job in Buffalo and the two felt it was time for him to look at other opportunities.
Ryan hinted that Pettine's replacement would come from within the franchise, likely secondary coach Dennis Thurman, but didn't want to announce anything since "the ink's not dry."
Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff retired after the season, and will be replaced by his assistant, Ben Kotwica.
Ryan's much-discussed tattoo of his wife wearing a Sanchez jersey -- photographed while he was in the Bahamas -- also came up. The coach said he has had it on his right arm for nearly three years, and was able to joke about all the commotion.
"I know what you're thinking: Obviously, if Sanchez doesn't play better that number is changing," Ryan said, smiling. "I've been married 25 years and, in my eyes, my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world."
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Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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