Published: January 13, 2012
“We’re definitely like-minded people,” said Ryan, and it was easy to imagine him smiling on the other end of the telephone line. Sparano’s approach emphasizes power running and protecting the quarterback — virtues that Ryan holds dear, and two of the Jets’ primary shortcomings during a season that ended in on-field disappointment and off-the-field distress.
“You have to form an identity,” Sparano said in a conference call, “and I want to have an identity here offensively.”
Sanchez has not publicly addressed his detractors, but Ryan and General Manager Mike Tannenbaum defended him on Friday, saying they had no reservations about his ability.
“He has all the attributes and traits we want,” Tannenbaum said.
His plan to revive the Jets’ offense could leave an unambiguous imprint on Sanchez, who buckled under pressure and a mediocre rushing attack. In theory, their running game would improve, making the Jets less reliant on Sanchez, a strategy that ushered them to two A.F.C. championship game appearances.
Sparano’s job is to refine those attributes and traits to help Sanchez become a more effective quarterback. Coaching against the Jets, Sparano said he formed a positive opinion of Sanchez, whose arm and athleticism he praised. He has yet to review much tape, but Sparano intends to apply to Sanchez the same approach that he developed while working in Dallas with Tony Romo and in Miami with Chad Henne.
“Get them back to Square 1 and break them back from a fundamental standpoint,” Sparano said.
Sparano was talking about more than Sanchez’s mechanics, which seemed affected by the neck stinger he dealt with over the final six weeks of the season. Sparano intends to go over with Sanchez all 26 of his turnovers. As he seeks to improve Sanchez’s clock management and ball security, Sparano wants to understand his thought process during those situations and then set about correcting his mistakes.
Ryan has already begun his own self-evaluation. He will continue to encourage his players to express themselves, but not behind the cloak of anonymity. “That’s not being a Jet, so that’s going to change without question,” Ryan said.
He vowed to spend more time in position meetings and in the locker room, trying to regain the feel that he lacked last season. For Ryan, trying to restore harmony to a locker room loaded with fissures will be the most challenging task of his coaching career.
Dealing with the locker room issues could be easier for Sparano, who said he had no preconceived notions of the personalities he would encounter. Sparano characterized his personality as “no-nonsense,” and he is a disciplinarian in the mold of his mentor, Bill Parcells.
“This is a show-me business, a show-me game,” Sparano said. “Once these players get here, it’ll be a blank piece of paper as far as I’m concerned.”
Sparano’s experience dealing with a mercurial receiver in Miami, Brandon Marshall, should help him with Santonio Holmes, who was benched after a skirmish in the Jets’ huddle on Jan. 1 and whose relationship with Schottenheimer was fractured.
The Jets publicly professed that Schottenheimer would return unless he was hired as the Jaguars’ head coach. But in multiple conversations after the season ended, Schottenheimer expressed a desire for what Tannenbaum characterized as a “fresh start.”
“It was a mutual decision,” Tannenbaum said.
As Schottenheimer, who interviewed Friday at the University of Alabama, awaited a resolution from Jacksonville (he did not get the job), the Jets interviewed two potential replacements — the former offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who left for the Cowboys, and Sparano.
“When we met with Tony, I was like, ‘Wow,’ ” Ryan said. “I was blown away.”