The Jets will take the field at training camp on Friday with rock-bottom expectations, no surefire starting quarterback and without the core of veterans that led the team to two consecutive AFC title games in 2009 and 2010.
Just don’t tell that to head coach Rex Ryan.
“No one player is going to carry our football team,” Ryan said, “but the combination of those 53 men that we have, I think through hard work, preparation and competition, we’re going to have a lot of success.”
“Success” is not a word often associated with the Jets as of late. It’s not a term used to describe Mark Sanchez, either. The incumbent starting quarterback turned the ball over 21 times during the team’s 6-10 campaign last season. But Ryan still hasn’t forgotten Sanchez’s early triumphs.
“Is it fair to say Sanchez hasn’t been an impact player? I mean he’s won four road playoff games and I think that puts him second in the history of the National Football League,” Ryan said. “So I think Mark has done a lot of good things. I don’t think he gets credit for some of the good things he’s done.”
By all accounts, this is a make-or-break year for Ryan, who survived the Jets’ offseason purge of general manager Mike Tannenbaum, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, among others.
Despite new faces all around, Ryan believes the cloud of skepticism surrounding Gang Green could help his team regain its playoff form.
“I approach it like its no different than my first year,” Ryan said. “... There was a lot of change then also.”
In 2009, Ryan’s first season with the team, he hand-picked Sanchez to develop into the future leader of the franchise. Four seasons later, Ryan is still waiting for the former fifth overall pick to become a capable pocket passer.
With second-rounder Geno Smith itching to strip Sanchez of his job, Ryan said the team will take its time during training camp to make the right decision on who will be the signal caller come Week 1.
The quarterback situation is “way better now than it was my first year when I came here,” Ryan said. “Whoever wins that job is gonna have to earn it. I think that’s through competition. Let the best man win the job.”
Surgery opens coach to new opportunities
Just days before the Jets’ 2010 AFC Championship matchup with the Colts, Rex Ryan walked into Gang Green’s weight room and, on a whim, stepped on the scale.
What happened next saved his life.
“I was shocked. 348 pounds,” Ryan said. “... So I knew then that I was in trouble and I had to do something.”
After multiple failed attempts at diet and exercise, he decided to undergo Lap-Band surgery in March 2010.
“It is major surgery,” Ryan said. “They’re putting you under. But let me tell you what having the Lap-Band is. I had the surgery in the morning. I was home in the evening, and I was working full-time the next day.”
Three years later, Ryan has gone from the brink of morbid obesity to a manageable 230 pounds. Earlier this month, he ran with the bulls in Spain, an event he said he never would have been able to participate in before trimming one-third of his weight.