Rex Ryan is no dummy.
He understands he won't be the Jets coach for much longer if his 1-4 team can't find a way to save its season. But he remains the ultimate optimist and a believer in struggling quarterback Geno Smith and the long-term vision of general manager John Idzik.
That's why Ryan is convinced he'll find a way.
And if he doesn't . . .
"If we don't get this thing on the right track, I don't think for a minute I'll be here. I know I won't,'' he said Tuesday during an ESPN New York radio interview. "But I believe this team is going to right itself and we'll find a way. I believe that.
"I've been around this league a long time. I know what happens if you don't win. I see that, but I'm not afraid of that. I think this team's going to win.''
Four straight losses have the Jets on the doorstep of irrelevancy in the AFC, and their schedule doesn't get easier with Peyton Manning and the 3-1 Broncos coming to town Sunday, followed by a trip to Foxborough four days later to face the Patriots and Tom Brady.
"It doesn't get much tougher than that,'' Ryan said. "But we're not conceding anything.''
On Saturday night, Smith and some teammates missed a team meeting in San Diego because they said they were confused by the three-hour time zone difference and were at the movies. The following day, the entire team failed to show up in a 31-0 loss to the Chargers.
Ryan said he understands why the Jets are viewed as dysfunctional, but he promised his team will be "more than competitive'' against the Broncos and Patriots, and that they will be much improved by season's end.
"It's going to be far from an embarrassment when the season is over,'' he said. "Have we played our best yet? No. We haven't. But we're getting ready to. That's the way I feel. I think at the end of the day, everything's going to work out and this team is going to be one that the fans can be proud of.''
Despite having more than $20 million in available salary-cap space -- and plenty of roster holes, especially at cornerback -- Ryan said he believes he has "plenty of talent.'' He also stressed that his relationship with Idzik is "good'' and not just about business.
Although Ryan admitted he's not involved in the "financial part'' of building the roster, he did say his opinions "are recognized.''
"There's a plan in place and we've just got to be patient. This is built on long-term success,'' he said, noting that he and Idzik are "in it together.''
But ESPN host Michael Kay quickly reminded Ryan he could be fired if he takes full responsibility for the state of the Jets.
"Well, you know what? I'm not afraid of it,'' he said. "Obviously, I get it. We're 1-4, and if the season would end today, then you're probably dead on. There's no 'probably' about it.''
Some question whether Smith, who also was fined $12,000 last week for cursing at a fan, has the talent and mental fortitude to handle the pressure of playing in the New York market. But Ryan remains undeterred in his decision to keep him as his starter.
"I definitely believe in Geno Smith,'' he said. "I see things that a lot of fans and people outside this building don't see. I see the work ethic, I see when he's in here at 8 o'clock in the morning on his day off and bringing like six or seven guys with him. I see those types of things.
"The commitment's there from a preparation standpoint. I think he has ability, and I think it's only a matter of time before we start to see his play pick up, and our play pick up.''
But to play better, the Jets must start practicing better. After Sunday's loss, linebacker Demario Davis said guys aren't practicing like a "championship team.'' Ryan disagreed, saying he was "shocked by those comments.''
"I think this team prepares great,'' said Ryan, who said he spoke to Davis Tuesday about his remarks. "I will agree that the results haven't been where we want them to be. But I like the way this team practices.''