- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan vehemently denied a report that he would welcome being fired if owner Woody Johnson fails to make offseason changes.
"That is totally untrue," Ryan said. "The fact is -- and it's simple -- this is the only team that I want to coach, period. And I think anybody that knows me knows that I'm telling you the truth."
Ryan, who was "mad as a hornet" after he read the New York Daily News story, held a team meeting where players described him as both angry, and so upset that he openly cried.
"Rex has always been a fighter and he taught us how to fight," running back Joe McKnight said. "... It hurt him to say stuff like that. He was crying too, he was that mad, that hurt. You hurt a man like that and he cries."
The article suggests Ryan is looking for a way out after what has been a difficult and, at times, comical season. It's a criticism that Ryan felt he needed to address publicly, not just with his team.
"I don't want to coach anywhere else," Ryan said.
"I'm not stepping down, no chance and that's the truth," Ryan added. "It bothers me that I feel I have to comment on it because it was so strong out there."
Some players were upset as well, and a few reacted when the media were let in during the scheduled access with players. Most didn't want to discuss the report, but defended their coach.
"This is a family to us," offensive lineman Austin Howard said.
Linebacker Bryan Thomas called Ryan a "defensive genius" and said he wishes Ryan had been his coach for his entire professional career.
The report cited anonymous sources who said Ryan was eyeing the exit if Johnson doesn't invest in the offense, which has been notably weaker this season. That included, according to the report, "almost certainly" firing coordinator Tony Sparano.
"I called Mr. Johnson as soon as I read the article and let him know that absolutely 100 percent is not my intention," Ryan said. "No way in heck, and I'm not putting an ultimatum to the man that hired me, no chance."
The Jets are preparing to travel to Buffalo for the final game of the season on Sunday. At 6-9, the Jets are not preparing for the playoffs, but off-the-field drama has kept the team in the headlines.
Ryan has two years remaining on his contract worth $6 million, but said Friday he hopes to be a Jet for 15 more years.
The story also said Ryan declined to comment for the report, something that Ryan said he did. Ryan said he was contacted by the reporter before the story ran and issued a denial.
"I spoke to the reporter and for whatever reason, he elected not to put my response in," Ryan said.
Ryan doesn't often come out and issue denials to published stories. He internally addressed an earlier report that cited anonymous Jets sources in trashing quarterback Tim Tebow earlier this season. Last season the Jets issued a statement in response to another report using anonymous sources.
He said he had not talked to his staff, who could have served as anonymous sources for the story, and said he doesn't feel like that's his role. But when his own reputation was at stake, he made an exception.
"Let's face it, I wear Jets stuff every single day," Ryan said. "I'm proud to be a Jet. Sometimes I'm proud to be a Jet more than others -- this season has been a rough one -- but this is my team. That's how I approach it. I believe that we can accomplish what I set out to do when I took the job. And that's the truth."