|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- After receiving a strong vote of confidence from his owner, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan ended his nine-day media silence Tuesday, describing 2013 as a "new beginning" and blaming himself for the team's long-struggling offense.
Ryan showed up for the highly anticipated news conference sporting the same green-striped tie he wore four years ago when he was introduced as head coach, underscoring his fresh-start theme. At one point, it sounded like he was reading from his 2009 notes.
"We're going to be a dangerous football team, I can promise you that," he said. "How many wins and all that, I don't know. But I'm going to tell you: You're not going to want to play the New York Jets because I know the mentality we're going to take."
The outspoken Ryan, who admitted he was concerned about getting fired after the 6-10 season, said he did some soul searching on his well-chronicled trip to the Bahamas. He said they have to be more aggressive and unpredictable on offense.
In other words, the old-school approach -- "Ground And Pound" -- is dead. Ryan wouldn't address the future of Mark Sanchez, but he said the quarterback position will be an open competition. Owner Woody Johnson, who also attended the news conference, reiterated his belief in Ryan. Johnson confirmed an ESPNNewYork.com report that the new general manager -- when he's hired -- will be forced to keep Ryan for at least one season. Johnson declined to say if the GM will have control over Ryan's fate in 2014.
Johnson, who fired longtime GM Mike Tannenbaum after the season, also revealed that Ryan will be involved in the hiring process. The Jets scheduled a second interview with Atlanta Falcons director of player personnel David Caldwell for Tuesday. But Caldwell was hired as GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a source told ESPN.
"I think Rex Ryan is perfect for the New York Jets," said Johnson, claiming he never considered the possibility of firing Ryan despite a 14-18 record since their second appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
I look at it like I have an opportunity. I'm excited about the opportunity in front of me. This is a beginning for me, that's how I approach it. I'm going to attack it with the same energy and passion I did from Day 1.” -- Rex Ryan, on whether he's a 'lame duck' next season
After violating the NFL media policy by refusing to speak last week, Johnson and Ryan tried to put a positive spin on an organization in major transition. Johnson actually said the team is "moving in the right direction."
But there are many moving parts.
Ryan confirmed that he fired offensive coordinator Tony Sparano after only one season. He hired Sparano because of their likeminded philosophy in running the ball, but the Jets stumbled to 30th in total offense.
They already have begun the search for a replacement. Norv Turner and Cam Cameron are on the short list. Ryan, often criticized for caring only about defense, admitted he hasn't done a good job of creating an offensive identity.
"I've come up short, in my opinion, for four years," said Ryan, who will be hiring his third coordinator. "I don't think I've done a good a job as implementing who I am throughout this team. ... I don't think it necessarily has gotten through, from a schematic standpoint, to anything offensively.
"I've failed in that area. For whatever reason, it's hard to see that, but I think it's clear that's where I've come up short."
Ryan also is on the verge of changing defensive coordinators. Mike Pettine, whose contract is expiring, is out; he will interview Tuesday for the same position with the Buffalo Bills. Secondary coach Dennis Thurman is expected to be promoted to coordinator.
Longtime assistant special teams coach Ben Kotwica will replace the retiring coordinator Mike Westhoff, Ryan said.
Even when Ryan completes his staff, his future will remain a question. He has only two years remaining on his contract, meaning he'll be working for a new boss in a make-or-break season -- a daunting challenge on a team with so many holes.
Ryan said he's not concerned about the lame-duck perception.
"I don't look at it that way," he said. "I look at it like I have an opportunity. I'm excited about the opportunity in front of me. This is a beginning for me. That's how I approach it. I'm going to attack it with the same energy and passion I did from Day One."
Johnson, too, insisted he's not worried about Ryan co-existing with a new GM. The new GM will have final say on personnel matters, Johnson said, but he also said it would be "a collaborative process." He doesn't think his keep-Ryan mandate scared away any potential candidates.
Johnson praised Ryan for conceding his failures on the offensive side of the ball.
"The only way you're going to get better is admitting what you haven't done so far," he said. "If you kind of gloss over it, you're not going to get better. One of the things that impresses me about Rex as a leader is he knows where he wants to improve and he's committed to do that.
"I trust him. I have total confidence in Rex as a head coach and a leader and motivator and as a play caller, if he has to do it. He's capable of doing all those things."
Ryan also is capable of captivating the media, which he did last week during his getaway to the Bahamas, where a photographer caught a never-before-seen tattoo -- his half-naked wife wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey.
The coach confirmed that he got it nearly three years ago.
"I know what you're thinking: Obviously, if Sanchez doesn't play better, that number is going to change," he said, laughing. "I've been married 25 years and, in my eyes, my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world."ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter contributed to this story.