Going through a little Rexdrawal?
Although barely a month has gone by since we've last heard from the colorful Jets coach, it probably seems like it's been longer than that. But Rex was back at it today, speaking with the media out out at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis while he's there checking out talent at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"It’s been a while since I got to talk about our football team, brag about our football team if you will," Ryan told the assembled media in what was said to be standing room only setting thanks to Ryan's sudden popularity. "I appreciate everybody's interest in making sure I was still in the papers and all those things."
Whether it getting fined for shooting a bird at a Miami resident during an MMA event in South Florida the night before the Pro Bowl or that unflattering video of Ryan changing jerseys at a Carolina Hurricanes game and allowing the world to see his, uh, abs, there certainly hasn't been all that much down time for Ryan.
He's become a superstar or sorts, which has caught him off guard.
"I was surprised," Ryan said of his newfound national media darling status. "When I was watching ESPN I'm like, 'Ooh, that's not a real good shot.' That's kind of crazy. I mean, don't get me wrong. I get hit on al the time by women. But it is kind of funny. That's part of the deal, especially in New York. You get the New York media and things like that, but it's the greatest city in the world. All last year, it's funny, I used to go into New York all the time. Nobody recognized me or anything."
The same probably could be said about LB Vernon Gholston.
Gholston was, well, a ghost for the better part of the season, seeing most of his action on special teams after Calvin Pace returned from a four-game season-opening suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. He finished with just 13 combined tackles in 15 games.
He's still yet to record a sack and hasn't shed the bust label. Although the Jets could release their 2008 first-round draft pick without taking a huge financial hit because the NFL is facing an uncapped season in 2010 thanks to the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement, they haven’t given up on Gholston yet.
“I think this young man deserves a better chance than what we’re giving him,” Ryan said. “We need to give him more playing time. When Calvin Pace was out for the first four games last year, we were 3-1 and I thought Vernon played really well. But we’ve got to get him in more of a rotation, play him more in nickel packages and things like that. You are waiting to see him come around.
“I certainly can’t say that I was right about that -- that he’d made an impact -- because I don’t think the impact was there last year. But I think it’s more incomplete. I think it’s a matter of time before we start seeing this young man really do some things for us.”
It better happen in 2010. This upcoming campaign will be Gholston's third season and it's about to be make or break time for the quiet Ohio State product who's yet to play with reckless abandon despite his chiseled 6-3, 264-pound frame.
“I think that’s an accurate statement,” Ryan said. “I think generally by the third year, you have to see a guy make strides, and I expect Vernon to really make strides this year.”
The Jets are hoping WR Braylon Edwards makes some serious strides this year, too, and becomes one of the NFL's most consistent threats at his position. Ryan echoed the comments made yesterday by GM Mike Tannenbaum, saying he would like Edwards -- and everyone else for that matter -- to participate in the voluntary sessions.
It's all about commitment and dedication.
"That's huge for us," Ryan said. "One of the reasons why we went to Cortland last year was to grown our football team, to bring that team closer. And I think we accomplished that and this is just another thing. I've got the best strength coach in the country in Sal Alosi. Sure, Braylon and everyone else, we want to have 100 percent attendance. We strive to do that. The players know that Sal is the best, and just learning the system, being around around his teammates I think would be big. But with Braylon, I'll make sure that I talk with him.
"He’s not going to gain anything by not being there or any other player we have. I think you make more strides by being around your teammates."
Edwards would also be wise to spend as much time around the complex as possible so he can find ways to get more on the same wavelength with QB Mark Sanchez. Ryan loved what he saw from Sanchez down the stretch, when he transformed from a midseason turnover machine into someone who figured out that the Jets had a good shot at winning each week if he didn't give the ball away.
"If he can just play like he did the last several weeks of the season, the last probably seven, eight weeks of the season, we’ll take that because that was winning football," Ryan said. "I don't know what our record was. But he understood what we needed and that was the thing we were really excited about. We are still going to have a belief in the 'ground and pound' system. But we are going to throw the ball more than we did last year. I think we had over 700 rushing attempts last year."
Ryan reiterated what he told us during the season -- that he didn't have second thoughts on yanking Sanchize when he was struggling and going with backup QB Kellen Clemens instead.
"No, no thoughts about that at all," he said. "I always thought he gave us the best chance to win. I know people thought I was crazy when we lost six out of seven, my wife probably leading that bandwagon. But it was one of those things where you knew it was just a matter of time. But he's got all the physical tools to be a great quarterback.
"The thing I’m really proud of right now is he’s sitting in with our offensive coaches going over all the cut ups, going over everything right now. He can't work out because he's rehabbing from his knee operation. But he’s in there. He's trying to get better and find away to get better. This really is his offense, but he's trying to learn the defense, the communication, whatever it is. I really think he’s going to have a huge year for us this year."
Of course, Sanchez might not have RB Thomas Jones to hand the ball off to.
‘He’s a great player,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘There are tough decisions that our organization is going to be faced with. So we have some time, but clearly Thomas is an outstanding player.’’
Ryan is fully aware the Jets won't look entirely the same in 2010.
"There’s no excuses," he said. "We have to make some tough decisions. Every team is going to change their personnel a little bit. Ours probably won't be as much a personnel because we are not adding free agents as some of the other teams. But still, you probably won't be able to keep everybody and there will be some changes. But you've got to make sure you are making the right decisions for our football team.
"Our goal is to win a Super Bowl and we’ve got a long way to get there."