As the Jets wrapped up the Cortland portion of their training camp today, it was a convenient time to take stock of how much the franchise has changed in the past year. And there's no better place to start than at the top with Ryan himself.
Asked how he has improved from last year, Ryan joked, "I think my language is better."
Laughter erupted, as it often does around Ryan, who was poking fun at his latest controversy. But the difference from the past is that Ryan has people laughing with the Jets, not at them.
Turning more serious, Ryan explained that he's able to see the big picture better now than he did during his first season as head coach. "I'm able to sit back and pull myself away from things more than I did," Ryan said. "Knowing that I've got a great coaching staff allows me to move around more freely and help out where I need to. I'm there for all my coaches." Typically sharing the credit, Ryan added, "I'm doing a better job of staying out of the way, I think."
When he arrived in New York talking as boldly as his father Buddy ever did during his long NFL coaching career, Ryan knew he had to sell himself and his high-risk, high-reward defense not only to Jets fans but to the players. There were some big ups and downs, but he accomplished that when the Jets reached the AFC title game.
"I wasn't really worried about selling myself," Ryan said. "I think I had a decent reputation when I got here about being able to build a defense. I might have opened their eyes a little bit to what the possibilities could be and that, if we really put our minds to it, we could be special on defense. We were."
The Jets were the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL, in fact, and Ryan said he sees more of the same this season even if cornerback Darrelle Revis remains a holdout. "This is a top-notch defense," Ryan said. "Is it a Super Bowl defense? I know one thing: if there's any defense in the league better than this one, you'd be hard-pressed to find it. Our players know it. You've got to hit the field, though, and get it done. Our guys have accepted that. We set a new standard here, a standard that's going to be here for years to come."
Here are some of Ryan's other observations as camp broke before Saturday night's game at Carolina:
On how the team has improved -- "Our defense looked great. Let's see if we've improved since last week's performance. The backups, I assume, will be better. The biggest improvement is Mark [quarterback Sanchez]. His knowledge of the offense, being able to read defenses, knowing where his hot receivers are and being able to check the ball down."
On the improved receiving corps -- "Braylon [Edwards] has been phenomenal, seeing the improvement he has made by learning all the [receiver] positions. Now, Santonio [Holmes] has challenged himself to learn everything. Of course, Jerricho [Cotchery] knows all the positions. We have flexibility…The combination of those three is great to see, and [Laveranues] Coles came out and made some big catches today. We have a veteran presence. We are really where I was hoping to be."
On the approach to the Carolina game -- Ryan said the starters will play about one quarter and said Coles and backup QB Mark Brunell will play a "lot more."
On which Jet would be voted "King Ugly" during Thursday night's rookie show -- "There's a lot of good candidates out there, but I don't think it's right to say who I'll be voting for. [Defensive coordinator] Mike Pettine did get second place last year."