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Jets' Ryan admits mistakes, looks forward to starting over

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The Canadian Press
1/8/2013 2:48:35 PM
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson sat a foot away from each other, both decked out in green ties and appearing as united as a coach and owner could be.

It was almost like old times for the New York Jets, back when Ryan was making big, bold statements when he was hired four years ago.

"We are going to be a dangerous football team," Ryan warned Tuesday. "I can promise you that. I'm going to tell you: You're not going to want to play the Jets."

Sound familiar?

While there were no Super Bowl guarantees this time around, Ryan was certainly back to his confident, brash ways. During a nearly 40-minute "season-ending" news conference that included lots of spin and came nine days after the Jets' 6-10 season ended, both Johnson and Ryan seemed excited for the team's future.

"I trust him," Johnson said of his coach.

Still, Ryan acknowledged he was concerned he might be fired after the season because he "failed" to leave his imprint on all aspects of the team, particularly on offence.

"I don't think I've done as good a job of implementing who I am throughout this team," Ryan said. "I want a physical, aggressive, attack style."

Despite that admission -- which would have gotten most other coaches fired -- and the fact the Jets have failed to make the playoffs in two straight seasons, Johnson said getting rid of Ryan was never a scenario in his mind.

"I think Rex Ryan is perfect for the New York Jets," Johnson said. "He is 100 per cent this team."

The Jets' press room was packed with dozens of reporters and cameras, eager to hear from the two men leading the franchise while everyone else is heading out the door. Gone are general manager Mike Tannenbaum, offensive co-ordinator Tony Sparano, defensive co-ordinator Mike Pettine and special teams co-ordinator Mike Westhoff.

But Ryan is back. And he isn't planning on going anywhere anytime soon.

"I'm approaching this day like it's the first day. Period," Ryan said. "Like my first day as a head coach. This is a new chance for me. This is a beginning, certainly not an end."

Ryan sounded rejuvenated -- after a few days in the Bahamas -- and rededicated to bringing a winning identity to the franchise -- rather than the circus label it has earned the last few seasons.

"We're not going to be bullied," Ryan said. "We might not win every game, and no team does. But you've got to stand for something. We're going to be the team you don't want to play."

That wasn't the case this season. But the Jets are going through a period of change, with Ryan and Johnson leading the way.

New York is searching for a replacement for Tannenbaum, a process in which Johnson said Ryan will be a part. San Francisco director of player personnel Tom Gamble has been considered by many to be the front-runner, but he has attracted interest from several teams. So has Atlanta director of player personnel David Caldwell, who was expected to get a second interview with the Jets.

The team also met with Marc Ross, the Giants' director of college scouting, and in-house candidate Scott Cohen, the Jets' assistant GM under Tannenbaum. Johnson acknowledged that the team has told candidates they will have to be willing to work with Ryan, who brushed off any talk that he could be considered a lame-duck coach.

"I'm pretty sure I'll have the exact same agenda as the general manager," Ryan said. "We want to win."

Significant changes are also being made to the coaching staff. Sparano was fired Tuesday after one season in which the offence ranked among the league's worst, and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is also out after four seasons.

"I have failed in that area," Ryan said of establishing an "all-weather," winning type of offence.

Neither Sparano nor Cavanaugh could get starting Mark Sanchez to make the next step in his development, and the quarterback actually regressed this season -- culminating in the first benching of his career. Sanchez's 52 turnovers the last two seasons are the most in the NFL. Ryan and Johnson insisted money wouldn't factor into any decisions on personnel -- despite the fact Sanchez is owed $8.25 million in guarantees and would cost the Jets a $17.1 million salary cap hit if they cut him.

"We'll play the player that fits what we do best," Ryan said, refusing to commit to Sanchez.

The Jets also couldn't figure out a way to effectively use backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who failed to get into the end zone all season as he stood mostly on the sideline after being expected to be a major part of Sparano's offence. Tebow is expected to be traded or released -- but personnel moves will largely depend on the next general manager.

"It is way too early to say what any of our players' futures are," Ryan said.

Pettine, whose contract is expiring, also won't be back. Ryan has worked with Pettine the last 10 years, but said Pettine was interviewing for the same job in Buffalo and the two felt it was time for him to look at other opportunities.

Ryan hinted that Pettine's replacement would come from within the franchise, likely secondary coach Dennis Thurman. Westhoff retired after the season, and will be replaced by his assistant, Ben Kotwica.

Ryan's much-discussed tattoo of his wife wearing a Sanchez jersey -- photographed while he was in the Bahamas -- also came up late in the news conference. The coach laughed at the question, adding he has had it on his right arm for nearly three years.

"I know what you're thinking: Obviously, if Sanchez doesn't play better that number is changing," Ryan said, laughing. "I've been married 25 years and, in my eyes, my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world."

Rex Ryan (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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