NEW YORK (WFAN) — Rex Ryan has been more reserved of late, but every now and then glimpses of the guy from years gone by resurface.
The Jets’ head coach spoke to WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Thursday and touched on a ton of issues as his team speeds toward the end of the month and the first organized team activities of the 2014 season.
There was once a time when Ryan was filled with mostly bluster and arrogance, making wild predictions and telling anyone who would listen just how great his teams were. And for two years the Jets backed up their coach’s bravado.
But three non-playoff years have gone by since the Jets’ second consecutive trip to the AFC championship game and the roster has undergone a dramatic makeover. Ryan has mellowed a bit, perhaps out of necessity. He told Francesa he could tell late last season that they were on to something as the Jets won three of their last four to finish a season that many thought would be a disaster at 8-8.
“This football team, I’m certainly excited about it. We’re going to play a brand of football I think our fans will be proud of, that’s just tough, hard-nosed football and we’ll see at the end of the day just how many wins we get,” said Ryan, who received a multi-year contract extension during the offseason.
Ryan said he liked the moves that were made during the offseason, which included the signings of free agent wide receiver Eric Decker, quarterback Michael Vick and running back Chris Johnson, and added he’s not overly concerned about the Jets’ apparent issues at cornerback. He told Francesa that he thinks second-year defensive back Dee Milliner will be “special” and expects free agent signing Dimitri Patterson to start.
As for the draft, the Jets used all 12 of their picks, reeling in hard-hitting safety Calvin Pryor in the first round, big pass-catching tight end Jace Amaro in the second round and corner Dexter McDougle in the third. The Jets later addressed wide receiver, linebacker and quarterback, among other positions.
“Obviously, you have that many picks, you’re excited about it, but we got a lot of really good players,” Ryan said. “We think several of these guys can really contribute to what we’re doing next year. Overall, I thought the process was outstanding and the scouts did a great job. We feel really good about this draft.”
The Jets went a combined 20-12 in the regular season and 4-2 in the postseason during Ryan’s first two seasons. Since then they’ve gone 8-8, 6-10 and 8-8, missing the playoffs each season. Francesa asked Ryan if his team has turned a corner.
“No doubt this team has turned the corner,” Ryan said. “I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m not so sure there’s too many teams that want to play us.”
Despite the signing of Vick, who has accomplished quite a bit during his 11-year NFL career, Ryan told Francesa there will be a competition, but that, in his opinion, the starting quarterback job remains Geno Smith’s to lose.
“Geno Smith is going to be hard to beat out and I truly believe that. Just seeing him throw the ball around here, he’s got a much better understanding of what we want at that position,” Ryan said. “He knows the offense forward and backwards and he is really throwing the football well. So, again, I’ll stay to my statement about that.”
As the interview went on Francesa baited Ryan with many questions that to be answered would require the old Rex to show up somewhat.
He did, somewhat.
When asked if the Jets will make the playoffs in 2014, Ryan said, “I’m not going to guarantee playoffs or all that, but absolutely, I know what our goal is and I believe we can reach it.
“I still think we’re tougher than any team we play,” Ryan added. “That’s certainly the type of team we want to build.”
Rex said a lot of other things, including addressing his contract status, his admiration for his coaching staff, life with general manager John Idzik, the departed Mark Sanchez, the 2014 schedule and the Seattle Seahawks team-building model. You can hear all of it in the audio clip above.
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