FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - In the face of another late-season swoon and three straight years with non-winning records, Rex Ryan still believes in his ability to lead.
The Jets lost any hope of reaching the postseason when the Ravens won Monday night, but as far as Ryan is concerned, there's "no doubt" he should remain their coach.
"Of course I believe it," he said yesterday after being peppered by questions about his job security following the Jets' 30-20 loss at Carolina Sunday.
"No question, I believe it. There's no doubt about it. But again, I'd rather get out of this press conference and go to work."
Ryan tried his best to shift the focus from his future with the franchise to the Jets' final two regular-season games. But the elephant in the room couldn't be ignored any longer by either Ryan or his players.
"I'll stand on a soap box and say it: Rex is my coach," right guard Willie Colon said. "He's one of the main reasons I came here. I love the guy to death. I love his passion. I love his heart.
"I think if he doesn't come back, it'll be a step back for us as a team.''
The retention of Ryan seemed all but certain when the Jets took a 5-4 record into their Week 10 bye. But they have lost four of five games since then, and with each passing week, Ryan's future has become increasingly murky.
The Jets (6-8) were eliminated from playoff contention Monday night when the Ravens (8-6) came back to beat the Lions, 18-16, on Justin Tucker's 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining.
The Ryan Era began with a bang in 2009 -- the first of back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game. But the Jets missed the playoffs and finished 8-8 in 2011 and 6-10 in 2012. This won't be a winning season, either.
But Ryan is resolute that the team is headed in the right direction. "I think this team is on the right path," he said. "It might not be reflected in our record right now. I understand that."
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith said the team doesn't feel pressure to play well in hopes of keeping Ryan around. "We're going out there and playing for Rex because he's our head coach and we want to play hard for him and we want to win games for him,'' Smith said. "He coaches us hard, he puts the time and effort in, and he deserves for our team to go out, and that's what we do every single week.
And regardless of the decision the front office makes, Smith said, "I love Rex" and "my feelings towards him will never change."
Although Ryan made it clear he believe he's still the right man for the job, his words were devoid of the bombast of years past, when he was a larger-than-life character known best for outlandish overconfidence. No matter how much faith he has in himself, Ryan knows he has no control over his own coaching fate.
"I'm not the guy making that decision," he said, referring to first-year general manager John Idzik and owner Woody Johnson. "If I was, it'd be easy. And you guys wouldn't ask me the question anymore.''
And just before Ryan put his head down and walked off the dais, he stated his case one last time. Not because he wanted to, but because he knew the questions wouldn't end unless he did.
"I'm a competent guy, even though I know that'll be questioned a zillion times . . . and that's fine," he said. "But I know I'm a good football coach, I believe in this team, I believe in this organization. And I'm determined to bring a winner to this team.
"And I believe that I'm the right guy for it."