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Monday, November 4, 2013
Updated: November 5, 12:24 PM ET
John Idzik: Rex Ryan is 'our leader'

By Rich Cimini
ESPN.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan received a glowing endorsement Monday from his boss, but no commitment beyond this season -- not yet, anyway.

Neither did quarterback Geno Smith.

General manager John Idzik, who drafted Smith and inherited Ryan when he was hired in January, declined to comment on Ryan's future, saying, "We're living in the moment."

It's been great working with Rex and his staff. ... Rex has pulled it all together. He's our leader.

-- John Idzik, Jets GM

But Idzik, speaking to the media for the first time in nearly two months, made it clear he's pleased with Ryan and the progress of the organization, which underwent major changes.

"I think he's done very well," Idzik said during his bye-week address on the state of the team. "It's been great working with Rex and his staff. … Rex has pulled it all together. He's our leader."

Ryan is signed through 2014. Because teams usually don't want lame-duck coaches, the Jets are expected to make a decision on him at the end of the season. They can fire him or extend his contract.

The other big decision that looms in the offseason is the quarterback position. Smith has endured a "lot of ups and downs," according to Idzik, who praised the rookie for the way he has handled different game plans and the intense scrutiny of playing quarterback in New York.

In theory, the Jets have to decide whether Smith is their quarterback of the future or whether they want to start over by picking one in the 2014 draft, which will be deep with quarterbacks. But Idzik downplayed the sense of urgency, saying, "I don't think there's a definite timeline with Geno."

Idzik said there will be no definitive moment when the Jets know for sure whether Smith is the answer. He said there will be "a feeling you get in the building."

With Smith at quarterback, the Jets (5-4) have exceeded expectations, having defeated two elite teams, the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.

"I wouldn't say it's a surprise to anyone of us in the building," Idzik said, adding that "no one is happy at 5-4."

Idzik added context, saying he's pleased with the culture of the organization and how Ryan has fielded a competitive team despite roster and coaching-staff upheaval. The first-time general manager said he and owner Woody Johnson will decide Ryan's fate. Ryan deflected questions about his future.

"Our job is incomplete," he said. "We have a long way to go."

Ryan and Idzik had no previous working relationship, and their pairing was perceived as awkward, considering how they were thrown together. Idzik traded Ryan's best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis, and handed him a rebuilt roster. The Jets have seven new starters on defense, but the defense has carried the team.

"He's the fire. He's the fire behind all this," guard Willie Colon said. "Right now, he's being a great coach and doing a great job."

Ryan has a 39-34 record in four-plus seasons, along with four playoff wins. His star faded the previous two seasons, as the Jets stumbled to 8-8 and 6-10. He survived an organizational purge that claimed former general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

Idzik dodged questions about injured quarterback Mark Sanchez, refusing to say whether the former starter will be on the team next season even though he's under contract -- a telling nonendorsement.

"I'm not looking that far in advance," Idzik said.

Sanchez, recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery, is expected to be released. He has a $13.1 million cap charge in 2014, including a $2 million roster bonus due in March.

"Mark so far has done a nice job with his rehab, and we just want to get him back and get him 100 percent," Idzik said. "That's what we're focused on right now."