NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – This was the year the Jets were going to deliver the franchise its long-awaited second Lombardi Trophy. Rex Ryan guaranteed it. And after two straight trips to the AFC championship game, who could doubt the possibility?
But the Jets never really put it together and it was a somewhat surreal setting on Monday as the players cleared out their lockers.
Most players seemed to think there would be plenty of changes this offseason. The Jets could start with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who has been criticized all year for failing to develop quarterback Mark Sanchez and run an effective and consistent offense, which finished 25th overall.
But Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum reiterated that they “expect” Schottenheimer to return next season — unless he’s hired as a head coach elsewhere. Tannenbaum, who said Schottenheimer has done “a really credible job,” confirmed that New York gave Jacksonville permission to speak to the 38-year-old coordinator for the Jaguars’ head coaching vacancy.
“I think the criticism specifically about Brian,” Ryan said, “I believe, is unfair.”
“To say that you’re considering making a change, that’s not helpful for Brian,” Ryan added. “He’s under contract as the offensive coordinator. It’s certainly going to help his chances of being a head coach.”
Sanchez has also been the subject of lots of criticism as he didn’t progress in his third year as many had hoped, but Tannenbaum said he’ll be the starting quarterback next season.
“I think Mark’s work speaks for itself,” Tannenbaum said. “I think it’s more good than bad and far from perfect. It has to be more consistent and I think if Mark was sitting right here he would be the first one to tell you.”
That vote of confidence came despite Sanchez throwing three interceptions against the Dolphins and doing little to cement his role as the Jets’ long-term answer at quarterback. He threw a career-high 26 touchdown passes, but seven of his 18 interceptions came in the last three games — all losses.
“My job is to come back a better quarterback, a better leader,” said Sanchez, who was unsure if he’d need further tests on his neck and right shoulder which bothered him late in the season.
The Jets will also have several major decisions to make on potential free agents, including Plaxico Burress, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jim Leonhard and Sione Pouha.
“My job is to build a team,” Ryan said. “For whatever reason, I don’t think we were as close as a football team as we were the first two years and now we are sitting on the outside looking in. We’re watching other teams in playoff games that we think we should be in. And I think that’s painful, beyond belief.”
Notes: Tannenbaum said the team will speak with offensive line coach Bill Callahan over the next few days about returning. His contract is up after this season, but Tannenbaum said “we hope to have him back.” … Slauson said he’ll have an MRI exam on one of his shoulders Tuesday to check out the nature of an injury that initially occurred late last season.
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