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RYAN/IDZIK: Very, Very Encouraged

Posted Jan 1, 2014

Transcript of Rex Ryan's and John Idzik's end-of-season news conference.

John Idzik: Good morning, welcome to Florham Park. This is just a brief summary of our 2013 season in review. We’re fresh off the heels of our trip to Miami. There’s a lot of encouraging things that came out of this season. As we’ve said before, we’ve had a lot of changes. We’ve had a lot of new things occur here with the Jets starting with our staff, myself. We’ve changed our offensive approach, had a lot of new faces on our roster, a lot of new players that had significant playing time, starters. For us to go through that and end the way we did was very encouraging.

We had some ups and downs during the season. We had some inconsistences that we all acknowledged. But how our guys responded said a lot about our players, about our team, about our building. So we were very, very encouraged by the 2013 season. We can’t wait. We had a lot of exit interviews with all of our players yesterday and I think the feeling was just consistent throughout that we want to play. We can’t wait to get started for 2014 which was healthy, which was very good to hear.

On the top priorities heading into the offseason…

Idzik: Well, the first one is to gain a thorough and accurate assessment of what happened so that we can address things going forward. That’s what we’re going through right now. As I said, we really value the input of our players, so we spent the entire day yesterday, the morning through the evening, just getting their impressions. We’ll continue to do that, too.

The next step is to go through with our coaches — we started that yesterday as well — just to get a very detailed and accurate picture of what we have, and we feel like we have a very good nucleus here. And then we’ll translate that into positional needs, where we have to fortify a little depth, experience going into free agency. We have a full array of draft picks going into this year and so we feel like we’re equipped to help our team going forward.

On if there have been any decisions on the coaching staff…

Rex Ryan: I think first off, as John talked about, we’re just now getting through our end of the season player evaluations and so forth. I will say this, I’m really proud of the job that our coaches did. I think we’ve got an excellent group of coaches and I think our guys did a tremendous job. But again, as far as decisions that we make on coaches, players, whatever, we always talk about it, they’re always Jet decisions, every decision. But with that being said, I’m really, really proud and happy with the job that our coaches did this year.

On if they have talked about a contract extension for Coach Ryan…

Idzik: We won’t get into any contract talks or anything like that. But Rex and I talk every day. We’re joined at the hip. We have been since I arrived. Certainly, the topic that is going to come up next is our staff. And as Rex just said, things happen so fast. The season in the NFL ends so abruptly. We are really focused just on the day, the week and that game. When it ends so quickly as it did in Miami, there was such emotion in our locker room, such a positive vibe in our locker room, you just want to take a breath and say, "OK, let’s really ascertain what happened." The first step of that was with our players. Rex and I will sit down this week. We’ll go through each coach individually. We’ll talk to them and we’ll have a much better view on going forward with our staff after this week.

On what they learned about each other…

Idzik: Well, I guess when I came here I had a glimpse of Rex. We had played him as an opponent on several occasions and just from a scheme standpoint I know what kind of coach he is, what kind of challenges he presents. And then getting to work with him on a daily basis, the minute I got here, Rex and I actually met in the interviewing process and we had a little time to just kind of trade thoughts there and you felt like there’s a pretty good vibe there too. And as we spent time together, we just have a lot of similar views on how to build a team, the type of people we want in the building, our style of football, so to speak, our philosophies. We just have a lot of similarities and maybe it’s because we’re from similar backgrounds, the same generation of football. But more than that, when you’re working that closely with somebody, he just makes it fun. Rex, you make it fun. He’s very thorough. He’s a phenomenal teacher, motivator. He’s a great listener and he’s a heck of a football coach. I’ve learned that every day I spend with him. We’re very fortunate to have Rex as our coach and I’m fortunate to be working alongside of him.

Ryan: Not much ... just kidding. It is funny and I think when, obviously, you get a new boss in place, somebody that’s over you, there’s always that little "Oh, I’ll see what he’s like" or whatever. But it was almost immediate to where I felt comfortable. And the other thing as we got to know each other, you talk about the same philosophies of how we look at football, what we think wins in this league, how we look at players, our backgrounds are very similar in the fact we grew up in coaching families. Our dads coached the Jets.

The thing I’ll say about this man is he wants to bring a winner to the New York Jets, [he has] a burning desire to do that, and to bring a perennial winner here to where we win on a consistent basis. As a coach, that’s exactly what you want, that’s music to your ears, and that’s exactly what I want. So our philosophies are similar that way. It’s just been a great relationship from the fact that there’s mutual respect. I never felt that I wasn’t John’s coach. I felt that I’m his coach regardless of how the situation was, that’s kind of how I feel. It’s just I know we want the same thing.

Say what you want about us and about me in particular that I know is a lot of negative stuff, but there’s nobody in this league that wants to win more than we do and we want to do it for a lot of reasons. But part of the reason that it was so big for us with this Jet team, we talk about family, we grew up like many of our fans. We were Jet fans. Our dads were heavily involved in this organization and part of that drives us even more to this organization than maybe others. But maybe you got a glimpse of it after the game, because people were like, “Wow, I never realized you guys,” they saw us that way. But that’s the way we’ve been. Again, we just want to get it done and we want to do it the right way. We’re excited about it.

On opportunity to make his stamp on the team this offseason…

Idzik: Well, I think it’s our stamp, to begin with. We’ll have some flexibility going into free agency in the offseason, and we’re going to use all those tools that we spoke of before. It’ll be a challenge for our personnel staff who are excited about it, both from a draft standpoint and free agency. But we feel like we do have some maneuverability going into 2014.

On if he thinks the team can be a playoff team and if it’s a team on the rise…

Idzik: Yeah, that will always be our goal. It was our goal this year too. We are not happy that we’re not preparing for a game this week. Our guys yesterday, you talked to them and they expected to practice today. That was a genuine feeling that you got. It wasn’t one of exhaustion and they were ready to get a little R&R.

Those type of feelings and what we were able to do this season, those are very encouraging signs. They do give you an indication that we are ascending. With that said, every year in this league is a new year. There is nothing promised to us because we won eight games and we finished on a high note and we’re on a two-game winning streak.

The gavel has dropped on 2013. We look at 2014, we have a real fine nucleus here in the building, we have a fine nucleus in the locker room. That doesn’t start us off with any wins. Our guys think that way. If we continue to bring those type of people in and we nurture that mindset, then yes, we will ascend. Yes, we will get to where we want to get.

On if he saw enough encouraging signs from Geno Smith in the final two games or if he will consider bringing in another quarterback…

Idzik: Well, we saw a lot out of Geno. We’ve said it throughout the season. He’s a very resilient young man. For him to start all 16 games, go through the highs and lows of an NFL season and just to see him develop as a player, see him handle a game, see him be more efficient in the pocket, his accuracy, threatening with his legs, all of the things that he did, they were very positive. We’re all excited about having Geno as part of the Jets but we will always look to improve every position in any manner we can and that doesn’t change going into 2014. We’ll look at quarterbacks, yes we’ll look at quarterbacks. With that said, we’re very excited to have Geno Smith as a New York Jet.

On if Smith is his starter going into training camp…

Idzik: We don’t look too far into the future with that. Again, Geno started 16 games for us. You all witnessed how he did, how he finished strong. We’re very, very excited and happy that Geno is with us.

On if Nick Mangold will start…

Idzik: We haven’t put out a starting lineup for our opener. I don’t even know who we’re playing the first game of 2014.

On if there are certain spots on the roster that he knows who will start…

Idzik: I guess what we’re saying is we don’t draw any assumptions. Again, maybe it’s a little difficult to conceive, but there are certainly veteran players that are very good at what they do and they’re going to start for us, but we don’t look at it that way. We look at every day, is there is a chance to get better at that position? I don’t know what free agency, what the draft will bring and even how our players come back.

When I say the gavel has dropped on 2013, we expect our players to come back better. We expect them to come back raring to go in our offseason program. We won’t know that until we get to the start of that program in April. We won’t know until we get to OTAs in May and mini camps in June. I guess what we’re saying is, let’s just let this thing unfold. That’s been our thought process all along.

Yeah, we’re satisfied with the likes of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, we’re satisfied with Geno. By that, I mean we’re happy that they’re a part of the Jets. I don’t think we anoint anything [yet]. Let’s just let 2014 take its shape and then we’ll be able to assess that as we go forward through training camp and eventually as we get into the regular season.

On how much focus will be on improving the skill positions…

Idzik: There will be an emphasis there but there will be an emphasis on improving every single position. Yes, we’re going to improve the skill positions, absolutely, we’re going to improve the skill positions. Improvement comes in many forms. It could be a new face from free agency, it could be a new face from the draft, it could also be right in our locker room. They come in and we add a lot of valuable experience. I think we said it Sunday night, there’s no teacher like experience.

The players that we have in our locker room, we believe they’re going to be improved, they’re going to come back a different player, a better player. That emphasis will be in a lot of different forms. It will come by way of looking at how we can improve through free agency, the draft, potential trades but also how we can get the fine nucleus that we have here to improve.

On if the team reached out to other candidates for the head-coaching position…

Idzik: Well, a couple of things on that front. One, what is said in team meeting and what is discussed internally will remain so. Secondly, I think you saw what transpired after Miami. Rex is our coach, Rex is our football coach.

Rex said it earlier. When I first came here, it felt like I was coming home in more ways than one. My dad coached here, I was in the locker room with Bill Hampton Sr. I had so many fond memories. Then I come in and I get to work alongside this guy. There was really a synergy there. My assumption all along was this is our football coach, this is who I’m working with. That assumption carried through from the day I got here.

I know there has been a lot of speculation. That goes with the territory. Quite frankly, we don’t pay attention to too much of that speculation. We just pay attention to what we have and what is real right here. What I felt throughout the entire season, including right through to Cleveland week and right through Sunday was Rex was our coach. I feel good about that, I always have.

On if he did not to other coaching candidates…

Idzik: I’m not going to comment on anything that we may or may not have discussed internally. That’s for us and for our ears only.

On why the team did not address Coach Ryan’s status until after the Miami game…

Idzik: Well, again, I think you’ve heard it, and hopefully you’ve witnessed it now. We focus on the task at hand. We focus on the next practice, we focus on the week, we focus on game-planning, we focused on beating the Dolphins, doing everything in our power to defeat the Dolphins. The week before, our focus was purely on the Cleveland Browns. That’s the way we go about things and we don’t want anything to get in the way. We want to minimize the distractions. We realize that they’re there, we acknowledge that they’re there.

Our players have taken to that, they really have. They have shown the ability to just insulate themselves and hunker down on what’s important. Last week, it was our Dolphins game, that was what was important. You asked about the staff, we’ll get to the staff. You asked about free agency, we’ll get to free agency. Let’s just focus at the task at hand.

On him thanking Ira Akselrad after being hired and the nature of Akselrad’s role in the organization…

Idzik: I thanked Ira. I was fresh off of our interviewing process with the Jets. Ira was involved with that process. He was one of the few individuals that I got to spend extensive time with in sharing views about the New York Jets. That’s the nature of that comment.

On nature of Akselrad’s exact role…

Idzik: Again, that’s going back in time. Since then, what Ira’s role is? Again, I don’t see how that is really relevant. When we use organizational decisions, that’s going to entail people in the New York Jets. It’s going to be a New York Jet decision. It starts with Mr. Johnson, of course Rex and myself and then it flows through our staff. I don’t know that I understand the nature of the question. What I was saying is when I thanked Ira, he was involved in that process, in the interviewing process.

On Akselrad’s role in the organization…

Idzik: Yeah, again, our Jet decisions are made with people within our organization.

On if he expects Mark Sanchez to be back next season…

Idzik: We’ll get to that in time. He is a Jet. We consider all our guys Jets until we make a decision or something happens that changes that. So with Mark, I met with him yesterday as well, our focus is to get him healthy, just as it has been really the entire season, and then we’ll take it from there.

On if he wants Dennis Thurman to return next season…

Ryan: Well, again, I think when you look at it, just like I won’t discuss my contract, I’m certainly not going to discuss Dennis’ or anybody else’s contract. I think we all know how I feel about Dennis. I think Dennis has done a great job along with all the other coaches.

On if he wants Thurman back…

Ryan: I think it would be pretty clear what the Jets think of our coaches here in the next few days.

On stating that he did not have the pulse of the locker at the end of previous seasons…

Ryan: I get burned by that one because really what happened is I never saw the little rift coming between certain individuals. I always felt that that’s probably one of the strengths of myself, is having the pulse of a locker room and our locker room. I probably misspoke a little, but I never saw really a rift coming and when it happened on the field, that was the deal. I think it was an isolated incident. But again, I might have misspoke or whatever, because usually I’m right on top of everything. I know our players. I know this team.

I will tell you about this football team. This is as close of a football team as I’ve ever been with and I’ve been with a lot of excellent teams, a lot of teams that cared for each other. You hear about the team that maybe is creating a family, a brotherhood if you will. I feel it with this team. A lot of it is what I see off the field, what I see outside of meetings. But I see how they practice, obviously, together, how they prepare in meetings together. I’d walk down and I’d see this, open the door and there’d be 20 guys watching the tape outside of the requirements, if you will. But they were close that way. I see the way they interact with each other. And part of when we go away for training camp is to build that closeness and things, where we have each other.

But this team relied on each other. That’s what we’re so encouraged about because our whole is greater than the sum of our parts and we believe that because that kind of gives us an edge on maybe other teams. I feel it. I feel it with this entire organization. There’s trust in this organization with each other. There’s also accountability. I think that’s what I’m really encouraged about.

On if Smith could be part of a playoff team…

Ryan: Well, I think we’ve seen him make great strides as the season went on. When I talked about our team ascending and things, clearly his play was one of the reasons. It’s easy to say, "Well, let’s don’t turn the ball over." There’s a difference in protecting the football. Just like with any offense, we want to score, obviously. But we also want to prevent points and you do that by taking care of the football.

I thought Geno improved by leaps and bounds in this area as the season went on. Some of the interceptions happened, but the way he protected the football in the pocket is something that is hard to teach a lot of times. But this young man really took to it. You might recall even one of my concerns was when he was at West Virginia, he fumbled quite a bit, and he improved that since probably maybe the fourth or fifth game just going forward. He did a tremendous job that way.

And sometimes as a rookie quarterback, coverage is so tight in this league that if the ball’s not accurately thrown, bad things happen. I think you realize that here, that the skill level of the players playing in this league is much greater than what’s playing on Saturday. But I’m confident that he got better. I know he got better. And I believe he will get better in the future.

On how he would feel to coach next season under his existing contract…

Ryan: Again guys, I think with me, I’m so excited about the future. I’m not different than our players or anybody else in this organization. I can’t wait to get going and you pull back up through here, it’s like “Let’s go.” Yeah, we have a good feeling. We have momentum heading into the offseason with two wins, we understand we’re back to 0-0, but I think the way we feel, the way we know, the way the locker room is, the preparation, all that, we see the results of it and we’re excited about it.

John mentioned earlier how our players, if you said we could start the season right now, our guys would say, “Let’s go for it.” And I don’t know how many times you can really say that at the end of the year. Most guys are, “You know what? I need a little R&R" and all that. Our guys would hit the reset button right now. That’s how they feel about it. That’s the kind of energy that’s in the building and that’s kind of the excitement that we have as an organization going forward.

On if he is comfortable coaching in the last year of his contract…

Ryan: I’m comfortable. With me, I’m a guy that looks for opportunities. I have an opportunity right in front of me to coach the New York Jets and that’s all I need. To me, I love it. This was my team growing up just like all the fans I mentioned. I think that’s why I relate with our fans because I’m just like one of them, just given an unbelievable opportunity. To me, that’s how I look at it. Regardless of what my contract situation is, I can’t wait for this [next] season.

On how long it will take for the Jets to win the Super Bowl…

Idzik: We don’t put timelines on anything, but I can say this: Every season we line up, that’s our goal. Our goal is to get there. Our goal is to win our division. Our goal is to play in the postseason. Our goal is bringing the prize home for our Jets fans, for New York, New Jersey, everyone that’s behind us. That will always be our goal.

When Rex speaks about the feeling that we get in our locker room, it’s genuine. That’s what we got from not only this season, but you felt it Sunday, you felt it yesterday when we were going through our discussions with the players here. Everyone is on board. They’re all excited. When you talk about a good vibe in the building, when you have that, yeah, everyone’s eyeing that, but nothing’s handed to you. The real challenge in our league, it’s very difficult to go to the White House, it’s very difficult to hoist that silver trophy. So many things have to come together.

But our guys feel that. They have a genuine desire. They care for each other. We have a lot of selfless guys in the locker room. When you have that kind of unity and you set those types of goals, they become real.

On if he believes the Jets can win a Super Bowl during a Chris Christie administration…

Idzik: [Laughs] I don’t know how long anything will last. We’ll just take it from next season.

On if he hopes to agree to an extension with Coach Ryan…

Idzik: Again, we won’t talk about anything contractual. Again, we’re happy to have Rex as our coach, as the coach of the Jets.

On if he could understand if he was let go after this season…

Ryan: I would have seen it as a mistake [joking, laughter]. But you know what? I’m glad I don’t have to really worry about that. The one thing I’ll say about Mr. Johnson is he has a couple of real loves in his life. He wants to find a cure for lupus, I think that’s a huge driving force in his life. Another one is the New York Jets. He’d do anything.

Look at the facilities that this man built here because he wanted there not to be an excuse for his team not to be able to have the best of everything. He provides that for this team. I think you see it in these buildings. That’s something you can see, but his commitment to his fan base and everything else is that he’ll do whatever it takes to bring that winner home, to build a championship team with sustainable success. That’s what this man has wanted since the day that I met him. I feel great that he believes that I’m the man that should be the head coach of this team and so does John.

On if they understand why there would be skepticism that the team is ascending since the team is heading into next season similar to previous seasons with uncertainty at quarterback …

Ryan: Is that going to John? Go ahead, John [laughter]. I get it every day.

Idzik: I defer on that [joking]. Well, again, I think we have answered some questions. Geno is a quarterback on our roster. He’s had a little bit of a body of work that is very encouraging. So we know a little bit more, at least I know a little bit more about our team, as opposed to when I first got here. There have been very encouraging signs with not only Geno but others on our roster. So we’re not starting from ground zero.

It’s really no comparison to years past. We look at it as 2014, everyone’s on an even keel, but we know what we’re starting with in this building, we know what we’ve got in that locker room. And because we’ve got that kind of spirit, we’ve got talent in that locker room, we’ve got spirit in that locker room, we’ve got togetherness. Those are all signs of optimism that we’re on the ascent. They’re real signs and I think we saw it play out this season. We saw how we improved down the stretch of the season, how we played hard in games that mattered to us down the stretch. So, those are all real positive signs going into 2014.

On if Idzik would agree with Ryan giving the 2013 draft class an A grade, given that two of the draft choices were inactive for all 16 games…

Idzik: Well, I don’t necessarily put letter grades on everything, but I appreciate the grade, Rex [laughing]. Assessing a draft class is not done in one season. It’s not done in a couple weeks in the preseason. Everyone’s anxious to kind of stamp these guys as a success or a bust or somewhere in between. Suffice it to say that our draft class from 2013, we’re very pleased with it. Five of them ended up significant starters in significant time. The two that you mention, they improved. You didn’t get a chance to see it, but Will Campbell and Oday Aboushi, we saw them improve on a weekly basis. We’re very encouraged by them.

Yeah, as a whole, when you have your draftees taking steps and some of it was visible for everyone because they got out on the field, they started, they played, they hit their rough patches, but then again, they got through them too. And I think they’re going to be better for it. So yeah, we’re very pleased with the 2013 draft class, so far. Now, they’ve got to continue to improve.

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