NEW YORK (AP) Rex Ryan leaned through the window of a busy ice cream truck and told a bundled-up fan to make an important playcall.
”Rainbow sprinkles,” the New York Jets coach asked. ”Or, chocolate?”
Ryan had a whirlwind day of Super Bowl-related promotional appearances Friday that included handing out soft-serve vanilla ice cream cones on Broadway for New Era cap’s ”Embrace the Cold” event, and meeting fans at a midtown restaurant renamed ”Jets House” for the week.
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Ryan played the role of the Good Humor Man for about an hour, serving a few hundred fans who posed for pictures with the Jets coach and didn’t let the 32-degree temperatures get in the way of enjoying a frosty treat.
”Didn’t drop any of `em,” the sure-handed Ryan said, laughing. ”But I definitely had a few leaners.”
Oh, and that fan, by the way, picked rainbow sprinkles – as did many others.
”Yep, rainbow dominated,” Ryan declared.
This week has been a bit bittersweet for Ryan, who has enjoyed the spectacle of the NFL’s biggest game being held in the town in which he coaches. But, it also bothers him that it’s the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks playing in it and not his Jets.
”It’s a bummer,” said Ryan, who’ll watch the game from home rather than at MetLife Stadium. ”What else are you going to say? Obviously, the fact it’s here, you want to be a part of it. It just drives you even more and more.”
Ryan, who completed his fifth season as coach, received a contract extension after the Jets finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
”You’ve got to earn your way to get here,” Ryan said. ”We certainly didn’t earn our way. These two teams did, and it should be a great Super Bowl.”
Peyton Manning and the Broncos have set up shop at the Jets’ facility all week as they prepare for Sunday’s game.
”Well, it could’ve been worse,” Ryan said. ”It could’ve been New England. We kid about that all the time. I mean, you don’t want anybody there, but the fact that Denver earned that trip here, I understand it. I will say this: It does show the league about our facilities and about the commitment this organization has to being a championship team.”
Despite not getting to the postseason, Ryan feels good about how the Jets won three of their last four to finish at .500.
”We’re heading in the right direction, that’s for sure,” Ryan said.
He added that rookie quarterback Geno Smith did ”a tremendous job” of improving after some midseason struggles.
”We saw him get better and better as the year went on,” Ryan said.
Smith finished with 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, but only two of those picks came in the Jets’ last four games. But Ryan still wouldn’t commit to Smith as the starter for next season, saying the team will see who is on the roster once they start preparing. It’s likely the Jets will either bring in an experienced veteran to challenge Smith, or draft another young quarterback to compete for the job.
Mark Sanchez is widely expected to be released by the team this winter after he missed this past season with a shoulder injury. Sanchez, the team’s first-round pick in 2009, has three years remaining on his contract, but his $13.1 million salary cap number for next season makes it highly unlikely the Jets would keep him at that amount.
”We all know Mark is a great competitor,” Ryan said. ”I know anybody that has that kind of competitive spirit is going to come back and be at their very best, absolutely.”
Ryan can see the Super Bowl returning to the New York-New Jersey area again sometime in the future, despite the always-present threat of wintry weather that worried some.
”This area is outstanding, and really, it’s the best,” Ryan said. ”Why wouldn’t you want a great event like the Super Bowl here? Hopefully, we’ll get another opportunity to host it as well. It’s a level playing field. It doesn’t matter whether you’re indoors, outdoors, rain, snow. It doesn’t matter what the weather is. Both teams have to play in the elements.”
As for his Super Bowl pick, Ryan offered no guarantees – he’s out of that business these days.
”I have to take the AFC team because we play Denver next year,” the coach said, smiling. ”We don’t play Seattle next year, so I’m definitely going to pick Denver.
”If it was the reverse and we were playing Seattle, I’d say Seattle.”