NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rex Ryan has not-so-fond memories of the last time the Jets faced the Giants.
Well, other than winning a preseason game that earned his team a Snoopy-topped bronze trophy.
It was nearly a year ago when the Jets squeaked out a 24-21 overtime victory overshadowed by Mark Sanchez’s shoulder injury — which ended up costing him the entire season. Ryan vehemently defended his decision to insert Sanchez into the fourth quarter of that game, insisting he hadn’t seen enough from him or Geno Smith to determine who the team’s starting quarterback would be.
As the questions about the competition kept coming, Ryan grew increasingly more frustrated. Until, finally, he had enough — and turned sideways at the podium.
“I can answer it a hundred times,” he said, with the MetLife Bowl — aka “Snoopy Bowl” — trophy a few feet away. “I’ll stand backwards and answer the question. I’ll do it sideways.”
It was funny and bizarre, and became a highlight-reel staple.
“Was that my proudest moment?” Ryan recalled this week. “Probably not.”
Last summer, the Jets had a tightly contested quarterback competition, although Smith’s lousy performance against the Giants — one touchdown and three interceptions — appeared to seal the decision in favor of Sanchez. Ryan didn’t see it that way, and he lost his cool after weeks of constant questions about his QBs.
“I think I just got a little tired of it,” he said. “Every day, it was just this and this and I never felt like answering the question and especially after that, it was a different dynamic involved. I guess it just felt different. Sometimes after games, we tell our players to cool off a little bit, and sometimes I need to cool off, too.”
The Jets (2-0) and Giants (3-0) play again Friday night at MetLife Stadium, with the winner getting the Snoopy trophy and receiving a $30,000 donation to the charity of its choice; the loser receiving a $20,000 donation for charity.
Although the Jets’ quarterback situation appears settled this summer since Smith has played an overwhelmingly larger number of snaps with the starters over Michael Vick, Ryan refuses to label the second-year player the team’s starter. He’ll do so, he said, when he feels it’s the right time.
Regardless, Smith will play a good chunk of the game against the Giants, possibly into the third quarter. Vick will also play, but it was still unclear when Ryan would put him in.
“I had a tough outing,” Smith recalled of last year’s game. “I can remember them throwing a lot of blitzes at me. Having a rookie quarterback, they sent a bunch of different disguises and looks at me, and I had a tough one. I look forward to this game and just seeing how much I have improved since then.”
So do the Jets, who hope Smith continues to progress enough to know they’ve got their quarterback of the present — and future.
Meanwhile, the Giants are looking for Eli Manning and the offense to show some life after a lackluster first three preseason games. Manning, still adjusting to new coordinator Ben McAdoo’s West Coast-style offense, has thrown for just 49 yards this summer on 7-of-16 passing.
“We’ve still got to perform better,” Manning said. “No matter how well you game-plan, it’s still the execution on the field that’s the most important thing. We know we’ve got to perform at a higher level and make some plays that are out there and be more consistent.”
That goes for Manning’s receivers, too. They need to get in better sync with their quarterback, part of the process that takes time when a new offense is being installed.
“I feel good about what we’re understanding in the offense,” Manning said. “I think now it’s just a matter of taking that next step and knowing, ‘OK, here’s the play call. How do you get the better plays or concepts based on what the defense is doing?'”
One positive for the Giants is they’ll be going against the Jets’ banged-up secondary, which has been missing projected starters Dee Milliner and Dimitri Patterson because of injuries. Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman have tried anything during camp, including starting safety Antonio Allen at cornerback last week against Cincinnati.
“I think offensively for us ones, it definitely means something,” Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said of the exhibition game against their stadium co-inhabitants. “It means for us to come in there and build some continuity and build some sequence and get a drive going in the right direction.”
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