- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rex Ryan's postgame news conference started off with an award ceremony and ended with fireworks as the New York Jets' head coach angrily defended his decision to put quarterback Mark Sanchez into the game in the fourth quarter of a 24-21 overtime win over the New York Giants on Saturday.
"That was coach's decision all the way," Ryan said. "That was my decision. You're talking about competing all week. You're talking about competing and winning the game."
But by the end of the nearly 10-minute news conference, a visibly annoyed Ryan turned his back to reporters and was invoking his right to free speech.
"I understand being second-guessed when an injury happens," Ryan said, "but that's football."
Ryan's decision might have gotten his presumptive starting quarterback hurt. After rookie Geno Smith threw three interceptions in the first half, Sanchez's return to the starting spot looked clear. When Smith came out of the game in the fourth quarter, Ryan tapped Sanchez over Matt Simms, whose helmet was already on.
"If it wasn't important, I would not have put him in there," Ryan said.
Ryan did not offer an update on Sanchez's condition, even though an X-ray had been taken inside MetLife Stadium during the fourth quarter. He instead said that the Jets didn't know the extent of the injury.
"After the injury, you always have reservations, but we're competing," Ryan said.
He said you could make the same criticism about another player, like Antonio Cromartie, but Ryan failed to note that the starting cornerback had been taken out of the game in the first quarter.
Ryan insisted that the goal had been to win the third preseason game, which the Jets did. For that, the Jets were awarded the "Snoopy Trophy."
"Do we have to correct a lot of things? Absolutely," Ryan said. "But I'd much rather do it with a win."
Toward the end of the session, things got heated. Ryan was asked if it was irresponsible to put in the likely Week 1 starter, and Ryan said they hadn't picked a starter and that you couldn't assume Sanchez would have been named.
Ryan was asked by a reporter to answer the question, and Ryan bristled.
"Hey, I'll make that call," Ryan said. "I don't have to answer a question. I'll answer it the way I said. And from Day 1 I said we'll make the announcement of a starting quarterback when we think it’s the appropriate time."
Ryan then got heated, "I can say anything I want. That's the beauty of this country."
He stood with his back to the reporter to make a point before turning around to answer a few more questions before exiting.
The news conference might have been over, but no doubt the second-guessing has just begun.