Rex Ryan, emulating the late, great Orson Welles, will name no quarterback before its time. And today wasn’t the time for the Jets head coach to designate his starter for Jacksonville on Sunday.
“I’ll definitely need a little more time to make that decision,” Ryan said one day after Greg McElroy replaced Mark Sanchez, with Tim Tebow sidelined, and rescued the Jets’ 7-6 win over Arizona with a touchdown drive and a clock-draining final drive to the Cardinals’ 1-yard line. “I’m comfortable and confident with all three quarterbacks. I think all three guys now have proven they can win — Greg at the end of the game, Mark’s history here, and the way Tim has played.
“We have three guys I’m confident in and I’ll make that decision as the week goes on.”
So does that mean any of the three QBs on the Jets’ roster has a chance to start against the Jaguars? We’ll leave that odds box for sports editors with time on their hands to pitch to their beatwriters for tomorrow’s sports sections. But it may a measure of the decision ahead for Ryan that there are pros and cons for him to name any one of the three as his fire-starter for the Jags.
To help him in formulating his call this week, Ryan said he might turn to his confidantes in the coaching fraternity for some guidance, but more than likely it will be a decision formulated solely behind the walls of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
“I want to make sure I talk to Tony [Sparano], Matt [Cavanaugh] and everybody, make sure I get a sense of what will be the right decision,” he said. “I think I’ll just lean on the guys in here. Again, the decision will be made based on our situation and our football team, on what ultimately I feel will give us the best opportunity to win.”
The opportunity to win means Jacksonville, of course, but also Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo after the Jags, and conceivably there are considerations for even beyond this season.
“A lot of things go into every decision you make,” Ryan said. “There are three priorities — the team, the team and the team. If you follow that, the decision’s always easier. You’ve got to take away personal feelings outside of it because it’s bigger than just me or this person or that person.”
“Never Let ‘Em See You Sweat”
However it shakes out, McElroy made a statement in his first pro action. Not every Jets QB guides his offense to a touchdown in his first full drive in green and white. Vinny Testaverde did in Game 3 of the 1998 season against then-rookie Peyton Manning and the Colts. Chad Pennington did, too, if you count the last drive of the blowout Sunday night loss at Oakland in 2000. But Sanchez didn’t, nor did Ken O’Brien, nor did Richard Todd, nor did Joe Namath.
It’s not an achievement you put high up on the NFL résumé. On the other hand, it was a TD drive that the Jets needed quickly, and in more ways than one, and McElroy helped deliver.
Then the Jets’ final drive secured the victory as it melted the final 7:55 off the clock. That was the fourth-longest game-ending drive by time since 1990, trailing Kellen Clemens’ monster 11:09 final drive in the rout of St, Louis in 2008, O’Brien’s 9:13 march at Indianapolis in 1991, and Neil O’Donnell’s 8:47 closer in the wind-aided shutout of Tampa Bay in 1997. Fifth on the list was then-rookie Sanchez’s 7:20 deal-sealer in his and Ryan’s first game with the Jets at Houston in ’09. None of those games was as close as this one was.
McElroy explained his rising to the moment on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
“That thing, confident bordering on cocky, I would like to think its leaning a little bit more towards confident,” he chuckled. “But yeah, basically one thing that I’ve always tried to learn, one thing I’ve always tried to approach this game with, is you just never let them see you sweat. And that includes the players in your huddle, the players in the opposite huddle, the players on the opposite sideline, on your sideline. Regardless of the situation, always stay with an even keel, always have a positive mindset, and good things will happen. And that’s been the case up to this point.”
Tebow also spoke with reporters on this “Victory Monday” and said he’s “not sure” how close he is to playing. “I feel like I’m healing up and getting there,” he said. He shrugged off all the questions about if he could have played Sunday, if he’ll start this weekend — in his hometown of Jacksonville, no less — and the unfairness and controversy of it all.
“Obviously, Jacksonville is where I grew up and it will always be a special place for me. It doesn’t matter how many family members or friends are going to be there. You just have to look at it as another game,” he said, adding of his opportunities this season: “I’m thankful for every one I am given. I think you just try and handle every situation the best you can and I’ve tried to handle every situation this year the best way I know how and make the most of every situation.”
Odds and Ends
The Jets defense against Arizona set, well, if not an NFL record at least a milestone for other big, bad defenses to try and pass as they ride roughshod over struggling offenses. The Elias Sports Bureau revealed that by blanking the Cardinals on 15 third-down conversion attempts, the Jets posted the first 0-for-15 in the NFL since the 1970 merger. The previous oh-fir mark was 0-for-14, set by Denver against San Diego in 1975 and equaled by the Jets at Tampa in 2009.
The Jets achieved a rarity by getting Sunday’s win despite a minus-3 turnover margin. The last time they won with a minus-3 was Game 7 in 2008, the 28-24 comeback win over Kansas City with Brett Favre at the controls. The Jets all-time are 5-56-3 when they have three more turnovers in a game, 5-105-4 when they have three or more TOs.
Sanchez’s interception on the Jets’ first play from scrimmage was not his first time. He also threw a pick on the opening play vs. Jacksonville in Game 9 of 2009. Interestingly, he’s at least in good company. Vinny Testaverde threw interceptions on the Jets’ first plays in back-to-back games in 1998, against Buffalo in Game 9 (win) and at Indy in Game 10 (loss).
Ryan said of the two injured offensive players that TE Dustin Keller’s ankle injury “doesn’t look like a high ankle sprain” but that he “has some swelling,” and that RB-KR Joe McKnight has a rib injury but that tests “were negative as far as broken ribs or anything.”
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Greg McElroy, Jacksonville Jaguars, Ken O'Brien, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cavanaugh, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano, Vinny Testaverde
Posted in Randy Lange | 175 Comments »
Updated, 6:10 p.m. ET
Mistakes. Funny how innocent, harmless errors pile up on each other until suddenly there is a system overload and things like Sunday night’s 37-16 loss to the Patriots result.
Less than a full day after the Jets’ difficult loss at MetLife Stadium, Rex Ryan was asked how he would explain those mistakes.
“It could be a lot of things,” the head coach said at his news conference this afternoon at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “It wasn’t that we were pressing. I know we were excited about this opportunity. … It’s hard to describe. I don’t know if we were pressing or what it was.”
The E’s were many, from Nick Folk’s opening-drive field goal miss to pass protection to confusion during the Patriots’ no-huddle to Mark Sanchez’s two second-half interceptions.
At least there seems to be an explanation for the timeout after the first half’s two-minute warning. File it under “That Darned Helmet Communications System.”
Ryan explained that when he labeled the timeout that Sanchez called with 1:24 left in the half “the worst play in NFL history” for NBC before going into the locker room, he was referring to his part in the call, not his quarterback’s.
“I was basically saying that about myself,” Ryan said. “The emotion I was still feeling, that was obvious. I know how difficult it is. A great team like that, they don’t need any help. They went down and scored a touchdown after that.
“OK, he physically called the timeout. But through my communication, it wasn’t clear enough to Mark. That’s why it was my mistake.”
The process that led to the TO from Sanchez shows the limitations of the helmet system. Ryan said at no time did coordinator Brian Schottenheimer want to call a timeout when they did. But Ryan and Schotty were conferring about calling a timeout to discuss their third-down call after they had drained almost all the time off the game clock and the 40-second play clock.
“My understanding is I went over to Brian, Brian was going to make the call [to Sanchez] and I said, ‘No, let’s take the clock down, use all the clock and call the timeout,’ ” Ryan explained. “Matt asked, ‘What are we going to do? Take a timeout?’ I think that’s what Mark heard. He never heard the whole conversation I had with Brian. I don’t talk to Mark directly through the helmet ever. I don’t think he heard my and Brian’s comments.”
Had Sanchez waited until a second or two was left on the play clock and everything else was equal, following the Sanchez TD keeper behind Brandon Moore’s block of Vince Wilfork and the Jets’ kickoff, the Pats might have started their drive with around 1:03 left in the half rather than the 1:20 they had. Would 17 fewer seconds have prevented the Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski TD pass for a 13-9 Pats lead with 9 seconds left?
Speculation. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe instead of Gronkowski it would have been Gostkowski, Stephen, for his third field goal and a 9-9 draw at the half.
But this error came at a critical point in the game. The Jets were playing at their best, with Jamaal Westerman’s strong pressure forcing Brady, struggling through 3-for-8, 31-yard second-quarter passing, into a safety-inducing intentional grounding in his end zone, followed by the 65-yard drive to that Sanchez TD and the Jets’ only lead of the night.
However, that moment passed, Brady and the Pats lit it up in the second half and the Jets did not. Any corrections from the game were made during today’s late practice and will be implemented in their short-week preparation before they take off Wednesday for their next primetime appearance Thursday night at Denver.
“We know we have to put it behind us. We play in, what, three days or whatever it is,” Ryan said. “We can’t focus on what just happened. We know what happened. We made enough mistakes that, you play against a good team, you’ve got no chance to beat ‘em, you make the mistakes we made.”
Ryan, asked about the Thursday availability of RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who left the game late with a lower leg injury, said: “I hope so. We’ll see. That’s not the official word yet. … I have no idea the extent. … We think he’s going to be OK. We’re certainly hoping.”
The official word has just come from the Jets. There was no full practice today, just a walkthrough. The participation report is an estimation due to the Broncos having the day off. If the Jets had practiced, Tomlinson (knee) would not have participated, nor would WR Jeremy Kerley (knee), S Brodney Pool (knee), WR Patrick Turner (kidney) or TE Shawn Nelson (illness). Limited would have been WR Plaxico Burress (low back), DT Marcus Dixon (shoulder), LB David Harris (ankle) and WR Santonio Holmes (foot). Eight others were listed as full participants.
The Broncos’ report will come in shortly and we’ll post a summary here.
Westerman was a little chagrined to hear that he doesn’t get much of anything officially for forcing the Brady safety. No sack, because Brady unloaded the ball as he was hit. No safety — it’s listed as “Team” because it was caused by Brady’s intentional grounding in the end zone.
And the satisfaction of getting an unofficial “quarterback hit” and causing the play was diluted by the events that followed.
“If you lose the game … ” he said. “We had a couple of other chances to get him on the ground and we didn’t, so it’s rough. But definitely, whenever I get on the field, I try to do positive things, keep improving my game.”
Westerman’s also a part of a record stretch of safety creation. No matter whether individual or team credit, the play was still a “deuce” for the defense, and that makes five defensive safeties for the Jets since last Thanksgiving night against Cincinnati. So the Jets, who scored only 14 defensive safeties in their first 50½ seasons, now have five in the last 18 games, including the AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh.
What’s more, the Jets are in the midst of one of the most safety-intensive stretches in league history. Some hasty unofficial research shows that only one team, the 1999 Tennessee Titans, who also had five defensive two-pointers in an 18-game span in that Super season (including their last one, of then Jaguars QB Mark Brunell in the AFC Championship Game).
One Other Rex Mistake
Ryan admitted to one other error Sunday night, that he had a profane exchange with a fan in the MetLife stands during halftime.
“It was right after halftime, obviously,” he said. “We made the mistake with the timeout, gave up the touchdown. I was emotional, it was an emotional time coming in, and I obviously made a mistake. I was just full of emotion and just popped off. Obviously, I know I represent the National Football League, I know I represent the Jets and I know it was a mistake. I apologize for it.
“It’s who I am sometimes. I made a mistake. I’m about as big a competitor as there is and at that time I was in no mood to hear anything, but I also understand that I have to handle that better.”
GM Mike Tannenbaum issued a statement early this evening.
“Rex and I have talked about it,” Tannenbaum said. “Obviously he let his emotions get the best of him. He knows that his behavior was not acceptable.”
Because the incident was a game-related matter, any discipline of Ryan would be handled by the NFL.
There was some thought that the Jets-Bills game on Nov. 27 could be flexed but the NFL announced today that game will remain at its original 1 p.m. ET kickoff at MetLife Stadium. … The guests on the 10th anniversary show of “Inside the Jets” at Grasshopper Off the Green in Morristown, N.J., from 7-8 p.m. tonight are Tannenbaum and senior personnel adviser Terry Bradway, the Jets’ GM before Mike T.
Tags: Brian Schottenheimer, Jamaal Westerman, Mark Brunell, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cavanaugh, Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan
Posted in Uncategorized | 65 Comments »