Every team can use a slogan, and while this is by no means the official catchphrase of the 2010 Jets, head coach Rex Ryan used it to give his players and coaches guidance as they head into their all-too-short off-season before beginning the ’10 campaign with the start of the off-season strength and conditioning program in early April:
"Find a way to get better."
"What I told the players," Ryan said at his final news conference of the ’09 season, one day after the Jets’ Sunday title loss to the Colts, "is that next year — this year — when we come back, we can’t make the assumption we’re going to get back to where we were in the AFC Championship. We have an excellent team, no question. The work ethic, the resiliency, all that’s why we were in that situation, what we did in the off-season, putting in a brand-new defense, having this all-weather offense, and watching it come together especially the last couple of months.
"But we enter this season zero-and-zero, so there’s no guarantee we’re going to get back. My challenge to myself, our players and all our coaches is to find a way to get better individually, whatever that is — I don’t know what it is. But everybody get a little bit better and when that happens, maybe that’ll put us over the top."
One reason to get over the top is to proceed toward the stated goal of winning a Super Bowl. Another reason is to avoid the gnawing sensation, the pit in the stomach, that all the Jets feel today.
"This is two years in a row that I helped coach a team that got beat in the AFC Championship Game, and that’s brutal," said Ryan, referring to the Ravens’ loss at Pittsburgh a year ago. "You get so close, yet you don’t find a way to get it done. It definitely hurts, no question."
But as his players eloquently put it in their Lucas Oil Stadium locker room Sunday evening and again in their own locker room today, their bitterness and emptiness are mixed in with a pride of accomplishment shared by Ryan.
"Most teams, when you’re 4-6, or you lose two of your best players, Pro Bowl players, a lot of times teams would not necessarily quit but would not find a way to get it done," he said. "Our team found a way to get it done. We believe in each other, we believe in our system, in our way of doing things. That’s great. Going into the season, I told our players I wanted to be the team nobody wanted to play, and we’re there."
The Jets are there for even more reasons. In rookie QB Mark Sanchez on Sunday, Ryan said, "We just saw our future." Their No. 1 rushing offense will get back Leon Washington. Their No. 1 defense, Kris Jenkins.
And Rex noted an interesting twist on "changing the culture" of the Green & White. It changes not only for those already here but for others who would like to come here.
"It’s definitely me being me," he said of the role of his personality in the alteration. "But it’s a belief I have in our guys. It’s something I wanted them to know, how I see our players, how I see our system, how I see our coaches, how I see our organization. It’s a true belief I have. Is that changing the culture? Maybe it is."
Yet that means players old and new need to buy into the culture.
"I want guys who play loose and have fun," he said. "But you also have to be accountable, not just to me but to your teammates. That’s where our team is at right now. That’s why I have so much confidence in this group. Whoever we bring in in the future has to play, has to study to a certain standard, or else you’re an outcast and you’ll be gone."
One other messages he sent the players away with today had to do with hunger.
"Let’s come back hungrier than ever," Ryan said he told the players at his last team meeting of ’09-10 after they underwent their exit physicals this morning. "Let’s try to get a home game and play this game in front of our fans in our stadium, the New Jets Stadium. I can’t wait, man. We’re not the visitors in our stadium. This is our stadium. We’re the biggest show in town."
Another had to do with the wearing of the green, and he wasn’t talking about St. Patrick’s Day.
"I’m wearing Jets gear from now on," he said. "I told our players to wear their Jets stuff, too, be proud of it. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be proud to be New York Jets. And I want fans to wear Jets stuff, too. Not every day, but at least two or three times a week would be fine."
More on All-Star Shaun
In my earlier blog this afternoon, I speculated that Shaun Ellis, although selected as an alternate to play in Sunday’s Pro Bowl, likely wouldn’t make it to the game due to his broken left hand. But Ryan seemed to think Ellis would make it for one more game this season.
"He’s going to be out there with his club and he’s ready to roll," the coach said. "I told all those guys, too, that are going to the Pro Bowl, you represent yourself but you also represent the Jets. Outwork everybody there. Just show ‘em what the Jets are all about. I’m proud to have Shaun out there. He can use that club to start wearing people out with it."
Ryan was especially complimentary toward the Colts and Peyton Manning, who put up 461 yards of offense and 360 net passing yards. "After looking at that film, we still lost. And we deserved to lose," he said. "Our defense let us down yesterday, but really I don’t know if it was as much our defense letting us down as Peyton Manning and Co. beating us. No question they were outstanding."
Rex said he "definitely" wants WR Braylon Edwards back in Green & White. But he declined to say one way or the other on Kerry Rhodes, adding that he and his safety had a recent private conversation. "We’re the only ones who know what was said in there. It’s not a bad thing. … I’d rather just keep it individual."
Ryan said five coaches on this year’s staff won’t be continuing with the club for 2010. Assistant defensive backs coach Doug Plank won’t return. Three coaches have contracts that are expiring and won’t be renewed — Kevin O’Dea (special teams), John DeFilippo (assistant quarterbacks) and Brian Smith (quality control–defense). And Chuck Smith, who was a defensive consultant, is accepting the defensive line coach’s position at the University of Tennessee.
Jets-Colts: Ratings Grabber
The Jets-Colts game on CBS drew 46.9 million viewers to rank as the most-watched AFC Championship Game in 24 years. On Jan. 12, 1986, the Patriots’ 31-14 victory over the Dolphins in Miami on NBC drew 47.5 million viewers.
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Indianapolis Colts, Kerry Rhodes, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Shaun Ellis, Super Bowl
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