After closing a disappointing season with another loss, coach Rex Ryan was eager for another chance to lead the New York Jets to the playoffs.
Who’ll be on that team — at quarterback, offensive coordinator and even general manager — remains the question as the beleaguered coach and his turmoil-riddled team prepare for an uncertain offseason following a 28-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
”I want to be here,” Ryan said. ”This is the team that I want to coach. Nobody else’s. Obviously with only six wins and all that stuff I’m sure there will be some Jets fans that maybe wish I wouldn’t coach the Jets. But guess what: I know I’m the right guy for the job.”
There are questions at quarterback, with starter Mark Sanchez’s job security increasingly unsettled after another sloppy performance. Nor did he help the status of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who’s expected to be released after one season. And GM Mike Tannenbaum’s on the hot seat, too.
The Jets (6-10) closed their second straight year with three consecutive losses. Since taking the Jets to those AFC title games, Ryan has gone 14-18.
Sanchez says he and Ryan can rekindle the magic that allowed the Jets to make it to two consecutive AFC championships.
”This is where it all started, and this is where we’ve had a bunch of fun,” Sanchez said. ”We know we can be successful here, so hopefully things work out and it happens.”
Sanchez didn’t ease any criticism. The 2009 first-round draft pick finished 17 of 35 for 205 yards with an interception, his 18th of the season, and a lost fumble. He also directed an offense that once more lacked finish, settling for two field goals on three trips inside the Bills 20.
It was Sanchez’s first start in two weeks after he turned over the ball five times in a 14-10 loss at Tennessee. He got the start after third-stringer Greg McElroy complained of concussion-like symptoms on Thursday.
”There’s a lot of potential in this organization,” Sanchez said. ”We’ve had success here before, and I know we can do it again.”
The Jets trailed 14-9 at the half despite gaining more yards than Buffalo (204-132), getting more first downs (13-4) and holding a whopping edge in time of possession (23:15-6:45).
On a cold, sunny afternoon in a half-empty Ralph Wilson Stadium, a foot of snow that fell this week was completely shoveled away only three hours before kickoff. And what happened on the field was overshadowed by the various changes that could be coming for both teams.
Bills coach Chan Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix are on the hot seat, particularly after a spending spree that brought defensive end Mario Williams for a $100 million contract.
It’s also possible that, like Sanchez, Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has appeared in his final game with his team.
Plus, Tim Tebow was a nonfactor once again for New York, just as he has been all season. Tebow was in for just a single play in what is likely his final game with the Jets. New York will try to trade the popular backup quarterback or release him this offseason after acquiring him from Denver last March.
”This year has had its ups and downs, but it was a great learning opportunity for me,” Tebow said. ”I try not to speculate on the `what ifs.’ I just tried to help this team however I was asked, and just tried to stay ready to go.”
C.J. Spiller had 59 yards rushing and scored on a 66-yard catch and run in a game between two AFC East rivals with no playoff implications. Safety Bryan Scott returned an interception 20 yards, while Brad Smith scored on a 4-yard run, and Tashard Choice on 13-yard run for the Bills (6-10).
Despite snapping a three-game skid with their first win in seven tries against New York, Buffalo still finished fourth in the division for a fifth straight season. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs for 13 straight seasons.
”We just didn’t execute, and it starts with the quarterback,” Sanchez said. ”I have to be better.”
NOTES: The Bills had the sticker ”WWFD” on the back of their helmets, honoring two West Webster Fire Department firefighters who were shot and killed while responding to a fire in the Rochester, N.Y. suburb on Monday. … Jets PK Nick Folk kicked three field goals, including a 47-yarder, and also had a 30-yard attempt blocked by DT Marcell Dareus. … Bills PK Rian Lindell missed wide left from 50 and 46 yards.