Geno Smith doesn't need a vote of confidence from his coach. As far as he's concerned, this still is his team. And he still is the Jets' starting quarterback.
"Regardless of anything, as long as there's a season next year, I'll be starting,'' Smith told Newsday on Friday.
Smith, who was promoting New Era Super Bowl merchandise on board an ice cream truck along Super Bowl Boulevard, also said he's not concerned about the effect the draft and free agency will have on his spot on the depth chart.
Rex Ryan, however, was far less certain about Smith's situation earlier in the day. Ryan -- who spoke to a handful of reporters from the same ice cream truck -- wasn't ready to publicly commit to Smith as his starter in training camp.
"We can say it, but . . . you don't know who your roster's gonna be,'' Ryan said. "So it's probably not the best thing to just say, 'Well, this guy's going to be a starter at this or that.' Let's just let it play out.''
After a strong start, Smith struggled at midseason and was benched three times. The rookie did start every game, however, and had 3,046 passing yards, 12 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions for the Jets (8-8).
Ryan praised Smith's strong finish in the final four games -- an 83.6 rating and 58.6 completion percentage.
"There are very few players that grew as much as Geno did, and he had to come a million miles -- and he did,'' Ryan said. "When you look at the way he closed out, we saw our team ascending. And part of that was the way Geno played. Statistically, he had [one of the highest] quarterback ratings over the last month of the season. So I think that's something that people don't focus on, but that's a fact.''
Even so, Ryan wouldn't say Smith will take the first-team reps at the start of camp -- a statement he made last season about Mark Sanchez.
"Again, I think we'll just see who's on our roster before we make that decision,'' he said.
When told that Ryan said he still isn't ready to commit to him as the starter, Smith said: "I don't think those were his exact words, though.''
Asked for his understanding of Ryan's stance on the issue, Smith said he has said: "He's not a guaranteed starter.''
Smith, who recently made headlines when he left a flight after a disagreement with a flight attendant, doesn't appear worried about losing his job, but he's determined to improve in Year 2.
"We went 8-8, which is not good enough for our team,'' he said, "so we've got to get better.''
Rex happy with contract
Ryan apparently has no issues with the multi-year contract extension he signed. "Guys, I'm always happy," said the coach, who recently returned from a Hawaiian vacation. "This is the team that I want to coach. And so, I get that opportunity. I've always said it's never about me, and nobody believes it but it's the truth. I'm way more concerned with guys that coach with me than it would be about my own contract."
The team hasn't announced the terms, but Ryan's extension reportedly is based heavily on incentives for making the playoffs. Ryan downplayed that, however, saying all contracts have incentives. "I'm not going to get into specifics," he said, "but it's not out of the ordinary."