Florham Park, N.J.: Sometimes you have to know when to keep quiet.
Rex Ryan stepped to the podium today and almost, repeat almost, didn’t feed into answering questions about an article put out by the New York Daily News that said about a dozen players anonymously said Tim Tebow simply isn’t good enough to start.
“First off, if a player doesn’t put their name to something [and] it’s an anonymous source I’m not going to comment on specific things that are said in an article that doesn’t have a name to it,” said Ryan.
This is where you expect some St. Louis Rams talk, didn’t you? Again, almost.
Instead, Ryan stood there and defended everything Tebow related: His snap count, his improved mechanics, bringing him on board in the first place. Add a few minutes of discussing team chemistry and it is now official that the Jets’ opponents aren’t their most primary concern on a weekly basis. There was not one question or answer geared towards the St. Louis Rams.
Ryan began with defending Tebow’s work ethic and attitude since joining the Jets. “Every single day when he hits the field, he works about as hard as anybody I’ve seen,” said Ryan. “He stays longer than probably any player we have, working on those skills. He’s a football player and I’ve said that from day one. We never brought him in here to be the starting quarterback. We already have our starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez. I thought I was clear on that the day we brought Tim in here.”
“We ask him, former Heisman trophy winner, first-round pick, a quarterback that led a team to a playoffs, that you know what? We would like you to be our personal protector. We think that’s going to give us an advantage in the punting game.”
It is easy to forget how great the punting game has been when the team sits at 3-6, on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
Rex Ryan said Tim Tebow's effectiveness has mostly shown itself in the Jets' punt game. Is that worth the distraction?
Even though Ryan has made it clear Tebow was not brought on to the team to be a starting quarterback, he discussed Tebow’s improvements as a passer. “I really think his hard work is paying off,” said Ryan. “Fundamentally, I think he’s improving. I think when you look at it statistically, he’s thrown one incompletion this year and that ball actually should’ve been caught.”
There has been Jets conspiracy theorists who say Ryan was forced into bringing Tebow on the team and that the men in management brought Tebow in more for ticket sales than winning.
“I absolutely wanted Tim here,” said Ryan. “I was very honest from day one and have never gotten off of that. I know how tough it is to prepare for. I think he gives you an opportunity that, if a team maybe isn’t as ready to handle it, that you can do some things with him.”
“The personal protector thing is I knew that would give us an edge. That’s what we were looking to do. Not just have a backup quarterback, but being able to do other things and contribute in other ways.”
Mark Sanchez also had a lot to say about the anonymous attack on Tebow. “We talked about it as a team and that’s really all I’ll say about it,” said Sanchez. That’s too bad, I didn’t see that one coming. Tim’s been great. He’s a great football player, that’s why we brought him here to try to help us. So he’s doing everything he can.”
When asked what impact the story had on the team, Sanchez replied, “It really didn’t affect many guys. Of course, (it affected) Tim. I can tell you I’ve been in those shoes. So, if anybody knows what it feels like, it’s me. He’s mentally tough enough to handle that, I know it. He’s a grown-up. He’s a young man, he’s smart, he’s strong, mentally and physically, and it really won’t bother him. That’s all you do in that situation is, keep working hard, keep trusting the guys around you (and) keep playing.”
Sanchez would not take this development as a show of support for himself. “I don’t know either way. Guys know that I’m the starter, that’s nothing new. The team has said that, other players have said that. But at the same time you don’t have to go overboard and blast a guy. He works his butt off so just be supportive of all of us. That’s the coaching point really.”
The end of the Jets 2011 season was ugly. As the season spiraled out of control on the field, it reportedly did the same off the field, as it was found out that there were a multitude of chemistry problems inside the locker room. With anonymous players talking about one another, it is only natural to think those chemistry problems of old are back in the spotlight.
“I don’t think we have the same problem. Even back then, I think that was probably a little more over-exaggerated than the rift was in the entire locker room,” said Ryan. “I don’t think it existed the way it was portrayed, but I do recognize that there was something wrong there and I made it my personal agenda to go out and fix it. If I’m going to be judged on this team, will it come together or not, that’s fine with me and I’ll be here a long time. Will it be 100 percent that you’re going to have total belief in this guy and everybody? I don’t know if that holds water in the entire league.”
One player who did not remain anonymous was Matt Slauson and Ryan was okay with that.
“I have no problem with Matt Slauson because he put his name on it,” said Ryan. “I don’t agree with everything Matt said. I agree with the fact that we have a starting quarterback. I think it’s interesting, my understanding is [Slauson's comments] were made much earlier this season. It’s not like it was a recent comment.”
“I feel I have nothing to hide. I will never say, ‘team you have to do this or have to say that,’ that’s not me. Quite honestly, I feel extremely confident that this football team is coming closer together.”
Rex addressed the anonymous comments with his team. “Did I address it? I absolutely addressed it because I think it’s a cowardly thing. If you’re not going to put your name to it, I think that’s about as cowardly of a thing as there is.”
Sanchez agreed saying, “You hear about it and nobody put their name on it. I said it was a cowardly thing last year. I said I don’t think its professional. My feelings really haven’t changed on it, whether it’s me or anybody else, it’s just not cool.”
When it comes down to it, Ryan could’ve squashed this non-issue that when you think about it, is fairly obvious, and did not. Do you enjoy every one of your co-workers? Every player on the roster has to like every player and coach? This was Ryan’s moment to show he has control of this football team and squash a non-issue. Instead, the players will have to answer questions on Ryan’s comments about the situation.
As easy as it is to like Ryan’s personality for being as open to the media as he is, for once it would’ve been nice to hear “no comment.”