Rex Ryan asks fans to 'move forward'

Updated: August 6, 2013, 2:10 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Rex Ryan wasn't as colorful as Antonio Cromartie, who said it was "bullcrap" for fans to boo Mark Sanchez during Saturday night's scrimmage, but the New York Jets' coach wished they'd forgive and forget when it comes to the embattled quarterback.

"Our fans have a right to do anything -- I'm not going to say I'm disappointed with the fans -- but I think we need to move forward," Ryan said Monday. "The things in the past are in the past. Let's focus on what we have in front of us. We're all going to make mistakes. ... I had a bad year also last year. Hopefully, our fans are all united 100 percent."

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsMark Sanchez was the target of boos during the Jets' scrimmage Saturday and Rex Ryan hopes fans will "move forward" and forget his past struggles.

Sanchez, battling rookie Geno Smith in an open competition, heard boos after throwing an interception in the controlled scrimmage. If a sleepy crowd of 6,000 in upstate New York can give him a hard time, imagine how it'll be in MetLife Stadium in the fall.

The fans, who watched Sanchez commit 26 turnovers last season, might have a hard time heeding Ryan's advice. In his last home appearance, last Dec. 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, Sanchez was booed loudly and benched after throwing three interceptions.

Sanchez is locked in a close battle with Smith, so there's a chance he could start the season opener -- which happens to be at home. Ryan was careful not to criticize the Jets' fan base, yet he seemed surprised they'd boo in a relatively meaningless scrimmage.

"We don't want our guys getting booed, especially from our fans because we all wear green and white, including the fans," Ryan said. "The game is tough enough. We need to support each other. That's probably where [Cromartie] was coming from."

Sanchez was once considered the face of the franchise -- four playoff wins in his first two years -- but he committed a league-high 52 turnovers the past two seasons, including the infamous Butt Fumble.

"We can't worry about what happened in the past," Ryan said. "It's a brand new year. There should be some excitement based on that, not looking at the negatives. I like focusing on what's in front of us, the positive.

"Of course, we'd like to have a backing from 100 percent of our fans, but our fans can do what they want. They earned that right. They purchased a ticket and they can do whatever they choose."

Actually, the scrimmage was free. Sanchez shrugged off the boos, insisting, "Shoot, I don't care. That's the way it goes."

Ryan claimed the fans' wrath for Sanchez won't factor into the quarterback decision. It will be based on "the best interest of the football team," he said. Ryan said he hasn't decided which quarterback will start the preseason opener Friday night in Detroit.

Smith was progressing nicely in training camp, but he stumbled Monday, throwing two interceptions in the red zone in a 7-on-7 drill. The Jets have emphasized cutting down on mistakes in the red zone, so Ryan wasn't pleased.

"We've talked about it forever. I've seen too many of them," said the coach, hoping Smith can benefit from the mistakes. But Ryan added, "It's not like he's going to be Nolan Ryan and pitch a shutout out there."

Smith, who has yet to throw an interception in team drills, tried to keep Monday's rough day in perspective.

"I don't see it as a setback, I see it as a learning experience," he said.

At the same time, Smith chided himself for forcing both passes, adding, "If I'm a little more cautious with the ball, we don't have those turnovers and we at least walk away with three points."

Smith's performance in the preseason games likely will determine whether he wins the job. The organization knows what Sanchez can do; the objective is to evaluate Smith.

For what it's worth, Ryan singled out only one player for praise Monday after a sloppy practice: Sanchez.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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