Rex loose, focused after Jets’ final full practice
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
The Associated Press | December 29,2013
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, center, greets fans after an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won the game 24-13. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Rex Ryan walked into the press room, noticed the boxes of pizza on a table and joked about how his Lap-Band procedure has limited him to just a bite or two.
No worries, though. He smiled while acknowledging that he can still chow down on Mexican food — his favorite dish.
That’s how Ryan’s final news conference Friday after his last full practice of the season began. If the New York Jets coach knows what his future holds, he’s certainly not letting on. He was loose and playful, appearing anything but a coach on the hot seat.
“We were flying around,” Ryan said about the team’s performance Friday. “We’ve had some excellent practices. Really, it’s been a great week of preparation. It’s been a great week of practice and just the spirit and enthusiasm, we’re looking forward to this game.”
That has been Ryan’s focus, at least publicly, all week: trying to beat the Miami Dolphins, despite the uncertainty surrounding his job status.
Ryan pointed earlier in the week to the teams’ last meeting as the Jets’ lowest point, a 23-3 loss on Dec. 1 at home in which quarterback Geno Smith was benched and New York looked woeful on offense, defense and special teams. While the Jets (7-8) are out of playoff contention, they have a chance to ruin the Dolphins’ postseason plans if they can win in Miami on Sunday.
As sweet as that would seem to be, Ryan insisted his team isn’t being driven by that prospect this week.
“If that was New England, I would say clearly that would be true, but they’re not your archrival like New England is,” Ryan said. “The satisfaction is going to come from us competing against them and knowing ourselves, proving to ourselves how much we’ve improved. I think that’s what we’re looking forward to the most, getting back out there (against) a team that totally whipped us in every phase and having the opportunity to go out there and prove it.”
Ryan has one year remaining on his contract, but it’s possible general manager John Idzik could be looking to bring in a coach of his choice. Neither Idzik nor owner Woody Johnson has commented on the situation.
It’s possible — and likely — the decision has already been made, but mum has been the word so far.
Meanwhile, Ryan has received an avalanche of support during the last several days with countless fans, players and ex-Jets rallying behind him to remain coach. An online petition urging Johnson to keep Ryan has received nearly 500 signatures, and several in the media have stated cases for why Ryan should stay.
Key veterans such as Antonio Cromartie, Calvin Pace and Willie Colon, along with rookies Smith and Sheldon Richardson have used the word “love” to describe their feelings for Ryan.
“Anytime you get something positive said about you, you’re going to feel great about it,” Ryan said. “Like I said, the thing about the opportunity in front of us with Miami is really the focus, but I certainly appreciate positive remarks, as anybody would.”
Rather than the idea of winning one for him, Ryan has turned finishing .500 into a rallying point for a team that many people expected to be among the league’s worst.
“That’s why we’re going down there, to win,” he said. “That’d be big for me because that’s why you take the field. Again, I think part of that is 8-8 is better than 7-9, without question. Hey, I even figured that one out.
“Even my biggest enemies will say, ‘OK, you got that right.”’
Ryan has had his share of critics during his five seasons as New York’s coach, from his brash approach during his first few years or his perceived shortcomings on the field. He was asked, though, if ending the season with two straight wins — which would be the Jets’ first winning streak all year — could increase his “autonomy” given his current uncertain status.
“I see how you angled that one. That’s pretty good,” he said, smiling. “I’m just worried about Miami. Focused on Miami.”