No playoffs, but good vibes & more Rex for Jets
John Idzik handed the game ball to a teary Rex Ryan as the New
York Jets players cheered wildly.
Then, the general manager shouted above them, making a
declaration that said it all for the franchise.
”This is our coach!” Idzik yelled. ”This is our coach!”
That was the raucous scene moments after the Jets ended their
season Sunday with a 20-7 win over the Miami Dolphins – and owner
Woody Johnson announced that Ryan would return as coach.
As the players cleared out their lockers Monday at the team’s
facility and headed into the offseason, they were feeling pretty
good about their future despite an 8-8 season and a third straight
year of missing the playoffs.
”Obviously, as a team you want to peak at the end of the
season,” wide receiver David Nelson said. ”You want to play your
best ball at the end of the season and right now we’re doing that.
It’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to make the playoffs
because, the way we’re playing right now, I feel like we could run
The Jets won three of their last four games to finish at .500
and perhaps save Ryan’s job. Ryan was retained as coach after a few
months of speculation that he could be done after five seasons.
”When we found out, it was pure joy in the locker room,”
quarterback Geno Smith said. ”We were all happy for him and also
selfishly, I’m happy to have my coach back because we really enjoy
playing for him and we just look forward to the future here.”
Now, the Jets will focus on that future, with several issues to
consider, including whether Smith is their starting
”I’ve got plenty of room to improve,” he said. ”I’m going to
use this offseason to be extremely critical of myself and find
every single way to get better.”
He was forced into action when he won the training camp
competition by default when Mark Sanchez suffered a season-ending
shoulder injury in the third preseason game. The second-round pick
was up and down all season, looking at times like a bona fide
playmaker with four winning drives in the fourth quarter or
overtime in his first seven games. But at many others, Smith was a
mistake-prone turnover machine.
Ryan benched him at halftime of a brutal showing against Miami
on Dec. 1, a move that could prove to be a turning point in the
young quarterback’s development.
”I think it just lit a fire in me and just gave me that
competitive edge that was always there, but maybe needed to be
pulled to the forefront,” Smith said. ”It just allowed me to see
things from a better perspective and ultimately it was the right
In his final four games, Smith threw for 790 yards, four
touchdowns and two interceptions with three victories. He finished
with just 12 touchdown throws and 21 interceptions, but the last
quarter of the season has some thinking the Jets have their
franchise quarterback in place.
”I think this team believes in Geno,” Nelson said, ”and the
way he’s played the last few weeks speaks for itself.”
Added receiver Josh Cribbs: ”He’s been improving all year. He’s
been making rookie mistakes, but he’s been making errors that you
expect a new quarterback to make in this league. I think that he
will only get better.”
Smith acknowledged that it’s ”extremely important” to know
that he’ll have the same coaches and offensive coordinator Marty
Mornhinweg’s system in place as he heads into his second season. He
also knows he has come a long way from his draft-day disappointment
when he slipped from the top 10 to the second round.
”It couldn’t (have) happened in a better way,” Smith said.
”Not only did it give me that fuel that I needed to go out and to
be that hard working guy every single day, but I landed in a great
spot, with a great team, great organization and I have a bright
Idzik and Ryan will have plenty of other decisions to make,
including the likely moves to part ways with quarterback Mark
Sanchez and receiver Santonio Holmes to save money on the salary
cap. There are also several potential key free agents, including
right tackle Austin Howard, right guard Willie Colon and kicker
The Jets will also look to build on the momentum that capped a
season that they’re far from satisfied with despite grim preseason
”Obviously, finishing with two (straight) wins, which is
something we weren’t able to do all year, was a good sign,” center
Nick Mangold said. ”It’s unfortunate, you hate to miss the
playoffs. That’s obviously one of the big downsides. But I love how
this team kept fighting, stuck together.
”It makes you excited to get the offseason going, get back in
here and get back to work.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org