Florham Park, NJ– The standard season-ending press conference was originally scheduled to take place eight days ago, since the delaying of said press conference there has been outrage, frustration, ridicule and every possible conspiracy theory one could possibly think of to explain the reasoning for the delay. Today reporters gathered themselves, shoulder to shoulder in the cramped media room, to hear what owner Woody Johnson and coach Rex Ryan had to say, not only about the failure of this season, but the direction of this franchise for the future and one thing was made clear, change is coming.
“Thank you all for being here today, you’re valued reporters for the New York Jets, and you know this has been a really tough year for all of us. I want to make little bit of an apology, I’ve read your comments about the delay and coach (Rex Ryan), isn’t responsible for this, I wanted him to wait until I had a chance to think a little bit more about the season and Mike Tannenbaum and the changes we’re making, but I thought we probably could have gotten back to you earlier.” Johnson said to open up the press conference. “I think the fans wanted to know, the fans deserved to know. So your comments regarding the delay are valid and I take them for what the are, so I appreciate that.”
As they say better late than never and that applies to much more than just the presser it also applies to all the changes that have been and will soon be made.
“Mike (Tannenbaum), I met Mike the first day that I became involved with the New York Jets, I have a lot of respect for Mike. Mike was here, he was a great hard worker, he was very diligent and all that but I felt that we had to go in a different direction to improve this team and get us to where we want to be.” Johnson said, “I’m never going to say anything negative about Mike because quite frankly the positives outweigh the negatives, but I did feel it was time to make a change and I made that change.”
But one change that will not be made is at the head coach position as Johnson once again threw his full public support behind Ryan.
“On the same day (Tannenbaum was fired) I talked to Rex Ryan, our head coach, and I told him how much I value his contribution to this team and I everything I said last week in that statement I released last week came from me and I believe it and I fervently believe he has a rare ability to, sorry Rex you can’t listen to this (joking), as a leader and a specific skill on defense and how he’s able to do that and also on offense and special teams, he’s learned a lot and he has great instincts.”
Johnson told the crowded room of reporters that whoever the new general manager is, they will not have the option to fire Ryan before the season and all the candidates are aware of this. Again Johnson expressed his belief in Ryan and even went as far as to say Ryan, “will be part of the process,” of selecting the new general manager. “The relationship between the head coach and the GM is also critical so that’s why Rex is part of this and he’ll get to know the general manager as soon as he’s hired.”
The decision to keep Ryan while hiring a new general manager has led many to speculate that Ryan will be a lame duck coach heading into next season and will have a mandate to win a certain amount of games if the gregarious coach hopes to stay with the Jets past next year. Today Johnson eagerly debunked that notion.
“No there’s no mandate, no I don’t think I’ve created that perception at all.” Johnson said, “The only way you’re going to get better is admitting what you haven’t done so far, if you just kind of gloss over it you’re not going to get better. One of the things that impresses me about Rex as a leader is that, he knows where he wants to improve and he’s committed to do that and I trust him because I’ve seen him lead this team.”
While many critics and fans thought Ryan’s job may have been in jeopardy after a disappointing 6-10 season Johnson said he never considered firing Ryan because, “having been in business and football for quite awhile now I think you can recognize talent when you see it and maybe we had, I hate to make excuses, but there were some extenuating circumstances that I think we can improve and get better and I think Rex Ryan is perfect for the New York Jets.”
“There’s nobody more committed to this team and has the skills to bring it forward than Rex, I don’t how to say it any other way but I’m totally happy with Rex.” Johnson said, but Ryan himself admitted he had some concern.
“I was concerned because I know the year that we had was nowhere close to the expectations we had as an organization. I know how committed Woody is to the fan base and to everybody else, he wants to build a winner, a consistent winner and the fact that we were 6-10 obviously wasn’t close to what Mr. Johnson’s expectations were and our expectations so absolutely I was concerned.”
But his concern was unwarranted because his boss clearly believes in his ability to lead this team and both the owner and the coach spent most of the 40 minute press conference promising changes, changes they are convinced will lead to brighter days for this Jets franchise.
“With all that being said, I’m going to tell you this, I’m approaching this day like it’s the first day, period. My first day as a head coach, obviously now I have four years of experience and all that, but that’s how I’m looking at it.” Ryan said, “The same challenge that I took four years ago, I’ve been given a great opportunity by Mr. Johnson to move forward and this is it, this is a new chance for me and that’s how I’m approaching it.
“This is the beginning, it’s certainly not an end, that’s not how I’m looking at it, this is the beginning and Mr. Johnson talked about some of the changes that we’ve made; right now currently we’re looking for two coordinators, Ben Kotwica is going to replace Mike Westhoff as our special teams coordinator. Obviously that’s some huge shoes to fill, Mike Westhoff is a legendary special teams coach, it was a privilege for me to coach with Mike for four seasons and if you want to know how big those shoes are just ask Westy.” Ryan joked. “But I love Mike and he’s basically trained Ben Kotwica for this opportunity.”
Westhoff’s retirement was planned and documented before the season even started so this was one change the Jets have had ample time to prepare for which is why you see such a quick decision has already been reached. As for the other two coordinator positions, the offensive coordinator job is still up in the air and will probably have to wait for a new general manager to be in place before that decision is made, but it sure sounds like Ryan plans on promoting Dennis Thurman to defensive coordinator and reports are already surfacing that that is indeed the case.
“On defense Mike Pettine is going to have several opportunities as a defensive coordinator, today I know he’s interviewing with the Buffalo Bills, I hope he doesn’t take that job I hope he goes somewhere else, but Mike and I have been together over 10 years. He’s a tremendous coach, we’ve got into conversations (and) right now Mike thinks it’s best that he go to a different team as a defensive coordinator and I wish him all the best unless he goes to Buffalo.” Ryan joked again. “But I love Mike and I respect him.
“If it lines up accordingly I’m going to lean, obviously, on the general manager and get his input into decisions that we’re going to make moving forward. Obviously I think we have a lot of strong candidates internally especially on defense to be our defensive coordinator and the ink is not dry so I’m not announcing him today so that will be later but I have a feeling that internally we are going to run the New York Jet defense, period, okay. But I want to lean on the new general manager and get his thoughts as well as going forward.”
Ryan said the decision to fire Sparano came down to the decision and need to make changes in personnel and with such a drastic change in personnel Ryan felt it was the right decision to go in a different direction and find a offensive coordinator who shares his vision for an aggressive, physical and unpredictable offensive style.
“I think that’s where I’m at 100 percent right now. I think before it was like, you know, maybe I misjudged the thing where I was like I want to just ground-and-pound, that type of mentality, maybe I bought into that more than I should have. Maybe I needed to be more open minded and look at things a little differently, but this is what I know is, we have to have it, we have to have that type of mentality and we have some players and we have some players that are certainly capable of playing with that type of mentality and that’s why I’m encouraged.
“When we look in this search for an offensive coordinator I want somebody with the same type of belief that I have, that same passion, that same energy and that same attack mentality, unpredictability on offense that I would have as a defensive guy. But as a head coach this is what I want. My first year here I talked about having an all-weather offense, not a ground-and-pound.” Ryan said, “The ground-and-pound mentality only came after the team that we knew we had, the type of players we knew we had and that fit that year of a ground-and-pound mentality, that fit our football team, but I want to be more of an attack style team whether it’s running the pistol, running different type of offenses, that’s what I want to do. As hard as we to attack defensively I want to be the same way on offense so I think that’s obviously what we’re looking for, that’s what I’m looking for and I can’t wait to get that process started.”
Ryan and Johnson both repeatedly said it was too early to make any personnel decisions, the questions today obviously revolved around Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. Both said they will wait until a general manager and offensive coordinator are hired and decide then who fits best within that particular systems, but it’s still an incredibly safe bet to think Tebow won’t return. Sanchez will likely return because of his contract, but the owner and the coach both agreed Sanchez’s contract will play no part in deciding who will be the starting quarterback next season.
“Obviously the situation, whoever the offensive coordinator is, you know, his system all those types of things, there’s going to be a lot of things that go into it, but money, the financial part of it will not have any of the considerations for it.” Ryan said, “We’ll play the player that fits what we do best, who we believe gives us the best chance.”
There is no new news yet on who the Jets will hire as their new general manager but Johnson said, “I’m not going into the specifics of the process and who we’ve interviewed, but suffice to say we have a lot of talented people that we’re talking to and we’re excited about that and learning a lot by talking to those individuals about the team and how they’re looking at it and what we can do going forward to make it better… We’re looking at somebody that can guide us to the next level of success and really change the dynamic in a way that yields more consistent success on the field.”
Sweeping changes aside the coach and the owner know and understand they have their work cut out for them when it comes to satisfying and appeasing this Jets fan base, it’s why the changes are being made and they say they share the fans frustrations and will do everything in their power to correct past mistakes.
“Well I can understand the frustrations as a fan. We’re 6-10, I think the big thing is as a fan you want to identify with everything about the organization and that’s where I said when Mr. Johnson brought me in here to be the head coach I told him what my vision for the team was and I think that in some aspects I lived up to it, but as far as a collective thing and winning consistently it hasn’t been there and so to me, I would tell the fans that number one, we’re not going to be bullied and fans don’t like for their team to be embarrassed. We were embarrassed at times last year, that’s not going to happen.” Ryan said, “We might not win every game, obviously we won’t no team does, but you got to stand for something and the thing we’re going to stand for is we’re going to be the team that you don’t want to play and that we’re a dangerous football team, we’re going to attack you from the minute that whistle blows, we’re going to attack you on offense, defense and special teams and that’s what I have to give the fans. That’s my job, my responsibility and understand that’s exactly what we’re going to give them this season and beyond.”
“The fact is we have a lot of passion, our fans are very passionate and they feel very strongly.” Johnson said, “They’re going to lash out and express their feelings and I don’t blame them quite frankly, I mean it would be a lot worse if they were more apathetic and they said, ‘oh I don’t really care,’ about this, but they do care and we want them to care. We work for the fans, we want to produce something better and that’s why we’re making the changes.”
Ryan has long since moved on from his days of guaranteeing super bowls, but despite two straight years of missing the playoffs his confidence has not be shaken and while he won’t be predicting win totals anymore he won’t stop promising to give everything he has to this team and if he can accomplish the goals he laid out today the frustration Jets fans have felt over the past few years could disappear just as quickly as they surfaced.
“I can tell you this, as I look at it and I do look at it like from a beginning, we are going to be a dangerous football team and I can promise you that. How many wins, all that? I don’t know, but I can tell you, you’re not going to want to play the New York Jets because I know the mentality that we’re going to take, that’s what I’m looking forward to, but as far as working with the new GM, I’m sure we’ll all be on board as an organization, we all want the same thing and one day we want to be, we know what we want to accomplish.”