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JOHNSON: We're Making Changes, Moving Forward

Posted Jan 8, 2013

Transcript of owner Woody Johnson and head coach Rex Ryan's joint news conference Tuesday morning at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:

WOODY JOHNSON: Thank you all for being here today and you are valued reporters of the New York Jets. This has been a very tough year for all of us. I want to make, whether it’s an apology, I read all of your statements regarding the delay. The coach is not responsible for this. I wanted him to wait until I had a chance to think a little bit more about the season and Mike Tannenbaum and the changes that we’re making. I probably should have gotten back to you earlier. I think the fans wanted to know and the fans deserve to know. Your comments regarding the delay are valid and I take them for what they are, so I appreciate that. I should have gotten back earlier and I agree with that.

I met Mike the first day that I became involved with the New York Jets. I have a lot of respect for Mike. Mike was a very hard worker here and very diligent, but I felt we had to go in a different direction to improve this team and get us to where we want to be. I’m never going to say anything negative about Mike, because quite frankly the positives outweigh the negatives in all respects. I did feel it was time to make a change and I made that change.

The same day, I talked to Rex Ryan, our head coach, and told him how much I valued his contribution to the team. I think everything I said in that statement that I released last week that came from me, I believe it. I fervently believe that he has a rare ability — I’m sorry, Rex, you can’t listen to this [joking] — as a leader, his specific skill on defense and how he is able to do that. Also, on offense and special teams because he has had to fight against those, so he’s learned a lot and he has great instinct.

We’re going to move forward and make some changes. Rex will talk about what the changes are and what the process is along the way. We’re looking for a new GM, as you’ve written about. Korn/Ferry was hired because we felt that we wanted to really expand the search as much as we could and really try to take a professional process and approach to it. Jed Hughes is doing that and he’s excellent. He’s done a lot of searches in the NFL and we feel that he will help us organize this process in a way that will yield a candidate that will help us.

We’re in the process of interviewing. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the process and who we’ve interviewed, but suffice to say we’ve got a lot of talented people that we’re talking to. We’re excited about that and we’re learning a lot by talking to those individuals about the team, their look at the team and what we’re going to do moving forward to make it better. I’d like to turn it over to the head coach.

REX RYAN: Thank you, Woody. I think first off, with Mike Tannenbaum leaving the organization, personally I’d like to thank him for everything that he put into this, all of the blood, sweat and tears he poured into it for the four years that I was with Mike. We made a ton of decisions together and they were always Jets decisions. Not all of them were right, obviously, but I know the intent was. I certainly appreciate him for everything that he did and how much help he was to me for the four years that we were together. I think we’ll be friends for a lifetime. That’s how I feel about him.

With all of that being said, I’m going to tell you this: I’m approaching this day like it’s the first day, period, my first day as a head coach. Obviously, now I have four years of experience, but that’s how I’m looking at it, the same challenge that I took four years ago. I’ve been given a great opportunity by Mr. Johnson to move forward. This is it. This is a new chance for me and that’s how I’m approaching it. This is a beginning. It’s certainly not an end. That’s not how I’m looking at it. This is a beginning.

Mr. Johnson talked about some of the changes we’ve made. Currently, we’re looking for two coordinators. Ben Kotwica is going to replace Mike Westhoff as our special teams coordinator. Obviously that’s some huge shoes to fill. Mike Westhoff was a legendary special teams coach and it was a privilege for me to coach with Mike for four seasons. If you want to know how big those shoes are, just ask Westy [joking]. I love Mike. He’s basically trained Ben Kotwica for this opportunity.

On defense, Mike Pettine is going to have several opportunities as a defensive coordinator. Today I know he interviews with the Buffalo Bills. I’m hoping he doesn’t take that job, I’m hoping he goes somewhere else [joking]. Mike and I have been together for over 10 years and he’s a tremendous coach. We had conversations, and right now Mike thinks it’s best that he goes to a different team as a defensive coordinator and I wish him all the best, unless he goes to Buffalo [joking]. I love Mike and I respect him.

Last night, after thinking about it for a long time, I decided to make a change at the offensive coordinator spot by letting Tony Sparano go. I appreciate the effort that Tony gave here. He did a lot of good things. When you look at it, from a personnel standpoint, this was not the team that we thought we were going to have throughout the season. Obviously, you look a little different when you have Santonio Holmes outside, Dustin Keller as your tight end, Stephen Hill as a developing guy, all of those types of things. Unfortunately, that never happened. When we had the injury to Santonio, it really hurt our team, but I understand the circumstances that Tony was being dealt.

At the end of the day, I wanted to move this team in a different direction offensively. I’m not saying that Tony didn’t do a good job, because he did a tremendous job and he’s a tremendous coach. I think where I’ve come up short, in my opinion, for four years through this experience, I don’t think I’ve done as good a job of implementing who I am throughout this team. I want a team, and there are several individuals on offense and defense that understand it and play that way, but I want a physical, aggressive, attack-style football team. Whether it’s offense, defense and all that, unpredictable in all three phases. That’s what I want.

I don’t think I’ve done a good enough job of getting that through to the entire football team. I certainly think it’s gotten through to the defense more than it’s gotten through to the offense and special teams. I don’t think it’s necessarily gotten through from schematic things or anything offensively. I think that’s what I want. When we search for a new offensive coordinator, I want somebody with that same type of belief that I have and that same passion and energy and that same attack mentality and unpredictability on offense, I think, that I would have as a defensive guy or whatever, but as a head coach, this is what I want.

My first year when I came in here I talked about having an all-weather offense, not a ground-and-pound. The ground-and-pound mentality only came after the team that we knew we had, the type of players we had in place. That year of the ground-and-pound mentality fit our football team. I want to be more of an attack-style team, whether it’s running the Pistol or running different types of offenses, that’s what I’m looking to do. I want to be, as hard as we are to attack defensively, I want to be the same way on offense. I think that’s what we’re looking for, that’s what I’m looking for. I can’t wait to get that process started.

With that being said, everything that I’m looking for, if it lines up accordingly, I’m going to lean obviously on the general manager and get his input into decisions that we’re going to make going forward. Obviously, I think we have a lot of strong candidates internally, especially on defense, to be our defensive coordinator. The ink is not dry so I’m not announcing them today, that will be later. I have a feeling that internally we’re going to run the New York Jets defense, period. I want to lean on the new general manager and get his thoughts as well as going forward. I think that’s what you do. That’s certainly what I did with Mike Tannenbaum and those are some of the things that I’m looking forward to doing with our new general manager as well.

On if he can have the offense he desires with Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback…

RYAN: Well, again, I think first things first, I think our process obviously is in place to getting a new general manager. We’re getting a list together of offensive coordinator candidates right now, and we just started that process today. And then obviously we’ll see what happens. But let’s get the general manager and the offensive coordinator in place before we answer any questions specifically about players.

On if one of the conditions for hiring a new general manager was that Ryan would remain head coach for 2013…

JOHNSON: That was. I believe in Rex. In head coaches, I’m part of that search and [believe] the relationship with the head coach and the owner is critical. The relationship with the head coach and the GM is also critical and that’s why Rex is part of this and he’ll get to know the general manager as soon as we hire one.

On if Ryan is part of the hiring process for a new general manager…

JOHNSON: He will be part of the process, yes.

On other teams dismissing both their head coach and the general manager at the end of the season…

JOHNSON: I never looked at it as a kind of a precedent in terms of management, I’ve never looked at it that way. I’m looking at what’s best for the New York Jets going forward, and so I made the decision on that basis.

On if it will be difficult to work with a new general manager with a long-term agenda compared to a coach with a short term agenda…

RYAN: Well see, I’m pretty sure I’ll have the exact same agenda that the general manager will have and that’s we want to win. I know that I don’t know who the general manager is, but I promise you, he wants to win as bad as I do and that’s something certainly we’ll lean on. Like I said, I look at this is this as a new beginning, just like it will be a new beginning for the general manager who’s hired and that’s how I’m approaching it.

Obviously, I’m no different than 31 other guys. Number one, we all have an incredible opportunity. You’re one of 32 men in this country in the National Football League as a head coach. That is an unbelievable honor and a privilege and certainly that’s the way I feel. But I’m excited. I can tell you this, as I look at it, and I do look at it as a beginning, we are going to be a dangerous football team, I can promise you that.

How many wins, 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 that we’re going to take and that’s what I’m looking forward to. But as far as working with the new GM, I’m sure we will be all on board as an organization. We all want the same thing and we know what we want to accomplish.

On Tim Tebow’s future as a Jet…

RYAN: Right now I think it’s way too early to say what any of our players’ future is. We need to get an offensive system in place and then we’ll make those determinations. Tim is under contract right now with our football team and that’s something that I know.

JOHNSON: That’s true. We’re not going to make any player decisions, particularly on offense, until we have a coordinator around and we analyze the whole roster and see what fits and what [doesn’t].

On if he still wants Tebow with the Jets for three years…

JOHNSON: I think we’ll make those determinations once the new offensive coordinator is here and we can plan the whole offensive strategy.

On viewing 2013 as a pivotal season knowing that there will be a new GM and his contract has two years left…

RYAN: Like I said, I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as I have an opportunity and I’m excited about the opportunity in front of me. And like I say, this is a beginning for me and that’s how I approach it, that’s how I’m looking at it and that’s how I’m going to attack it. I’m going to attack it with that same energy and passion that I did from day one.

I don’t look at it that way, as I’m no different than 31 others. I take that back. I think, in many ways, I’m in much better shape than some guys are. I have the best facilities in the National Football League. I have an organization committed to the wellness of their players like no other organization in this league. I have an owner that’s committed to winning, that has a passion for winning, that loves this football team and I get an opportunity. I have a group of core players that I think can be outstanding. And so those are the things that I’m focused on. I’m not focused on what we don’t have, all this kind of stuff. I’m focused on all the things that we do have that are so positive.

On why he has not been able to imprint what he wants on offense after four years…

RYAN: That’s a great question. I think I just have failed in that area. And for whatever reason, it’s hard to see that but, I think it’s clear that that’s where I’ve come up short. When I talk about an all-weather offense, I wanted to be able to run the football in terrible weather, I wanted to be able to throw it and all that type of stuff, but when I mentioned the ground-and-pound, I think that carried over for years and years, but that was more based on really what was best for our team and how the best way for our team to win was at that time. That’s kind of where I look at it as we do want to be unpredictable. Quite honestly, we’re so unpredictable we don’t know who the offensive coordinator is right now [joking].

On how he plans to make his imprint going forward…

RYAN: When I look at it, this has to be part of it. This is what the New York Jets fans signed up for and what Mr. Johnson signed up for when he hired me. And that’s why it’s like, this has to get done, it’s not a question will it get done, it has to get done. I’ve failed to this point, but I have confidence in myself and this organization that we will succeed.

On what he is looking for in a general manager…

JOHNSON: We’re looking at somebody that can guide us to the next level of success and really change the dynamic in a way that yields more consistent success on the field. In terms, of specific characteristics, I can’t get into that yet. All I can say is that the people we’re talking to, the candidates we’re talking to, are exceptionally good and each one of them bring something different, as well as internal candidates. So I’m very encouraged by what I’m seeing so far.

On if they will allow the new coordinator and GM to determine whether or not Sanchez will be the starting quarterback…

RYAN: I’d just say this, whoever the offensive coordinator is, his system, all those type of things, there’s going to be a lot of things that go into it, but money, the financial part of it, will not be a consideration for it. We’ll play the player that fits what we do best, what we believe gives us the best chance.

JOHNSON: I concur. That’s a determination you make in the future, but it doesn’t have anything to do with what we’ve done retrospectively or whatever. We’re looking for the best player at the start of the season, the start of the preseason.

On if the starting quarterback position is wide open for 2013…

JOHNSON: I mean, every year, I think pretty much every year  there’s competition among players.

RYAN: That’s exactly right and I think when you look at it, right now, understanding that there’s things that we need to do at first, we have to get an offensive coordinator in place and then we’ll address it from there.

On if there’s a mandate for Ryan to make the playoffs next year and if Johnson has created the perception that Ryan is a lame-duck coach…

JOHNSON: No, there’s no mandate. No, I don’t think I’ve created that perception at all. The first day, in the press release — I should’ve talked to you guys earlier, I’ve already gone through that — I expressed my confidence in Rex. The only way you’re going to get better is admitting what you haven’t done so far. If you just 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 that he knows where he wants to improve and he’s committed to do that, and I trust him because I’ve seen him lead this team to the team we had. I think he took us two years to a very high level. It was just a question whether we made it all the way in those years. And the ball has to bounce your way a few times, too. But I have ultimate confidence in Rex as a head coach, as a leader, as a motivator, as a playcaller, if he has to do it, he’s capable of doing all these things, so no.

On the reaction from general manager candidates regarding Ryan remaining head coach…

JOHNSON: I really haven’t had any reaction, no. I think everybody feels like they’re pretty fortunate to have Rex because of what they know. They know that he’s a good coach and you can’t always say that. So it takes one of the uncertainties out of the equation so I haven’t heard any negative around that at all.

On if he’s bothered that the public perception is that the Jets are a circus…

JOHNSON: I feel very confident in the process that we have here and the people we have in the building and our commitment to winning and our commitment to putting the best product on the field that is humanly possible. There’s no shortage of effort, there’s no shortage of brainpower, and so I feel good, I feel very, very good about the direction of the New York Jets and where we’re going to go from this point forward. And that’s as positive as I can be. I’m very confident that we’re going to accomplish our objective and that’s all. That’s all we’re working for.

On if he miscalculated when he hired Coach Tony Sparano…

RYAN: I don’t think I miscalculated, I just think that the mentality, I think back, when I spoke about running the football and those types of things they were really based on our personnel, a lot of that. Our personnel are probably going to change. There will be some changes, obviously, in the personnel. Just that attack and unpredictability that we have on defense, I think, needs to be filtered throughout this football team because I think that’s where I’m at 100 percent now. That’s what I feel.

I think before, maybe I misjudged the thing about I just want to ground-and-pound, that type of mentality. Maybe I bought into that more than maybe I should have. Maybe I needed to be more open-minded and look at things a little bit differently, but we have to have it. We have to have that kind of mentality and we have some players certainly capable of playing with that kind of mentality.

That’s why I’m so encouraged. You look at our offensive line, we have D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, we have this young, up-and-coming right tackle in Austin Howard who nobody knew about, who was a real positive for us, not a negative. There are some huge positives on both sides of the ball that I’m really excited about, but I think they can play to that kind of mentality.

On if there will be more changes to the coaching staff…

RYAN: Right now, the changes we made, I never mentioned them all. Matt Cavanaugh is not going to be here as a quarterbacks coach. Bill Hughan has been replaced by Justus [Galac] as the strength coach. Could there be other moves? Perhaps there could be, but right now that hasn’t been determined.

On if they have enough talent to go to the Super Bowl next year with the game at MetLife Stadium…

RYAN: Obviously, there are a lot of things that we have to improve on. I think we just have to take little positive steps. That obviously starts with the hiring of the general manager, the hiring of two new coordinators, those types of things. We’ll address all of that going forward. I will say this, certainly having it in our stadium, there isn’t a coach in this world that doesn’t want to get there and you’re looking at one of them.

On getting an offensive coordinator with the attack mentality he described…

RYAN: Let’s see the candidates who we have. I just think it’s important to make sure that we get a guy who understands exactly what we want, that this is what we want to be. That same kind of mentality, that attack mentality, get guys on their heels, that whole kind of attack and unpredictability — you don’t know exactly who we are. I like that kind of flexibility. We have it, certainly, we have it in our system on defense, we have it on special teams, we’re going to get it on offense.

That’s not to slight Tony whatsoever because he did a tremendous job. When you look at the job that he did, I don’t know if you know it, but Santonio Holmes was on pace to have a monster year, 1,200 yards receiving and 90 catches. You take that out, obviously, you’re going to be different. We had to make adjustments on defense when we lost Darrelle Revis, so we’re excited to get him back healthy. Those are things that we look at, I think when I sat back and took that time off, these are the things to me that are important.

On if anything happened during the season to damage his relationship with Pettine…

RYAN: No, we had some great candid conversations. I’m not going to share our conversations specifically, but Mike Pettine is a guy who I have a ton of respect for. We spent 10 years together. But I just think when Mike and I talked, he’s going to get several opportunities out there. It’s not like Mike’s not going to get a coordinating job. He is, we both know that, so we’ll let you talk to Mike about that.

On if the new general manager will have the final say on all personnel decisions…

JOHNSON: Yes, that’s the way we’ve done it, but it’s always been a collaborative process. Yes, Rex picks coaches and the general manager picks players in the draft.

On what he would say to fans about the season…

JOHNSON: I’d give them the same that I’d give members of my own family, who are also fans, and the people I talk to in the parking lot. I have ultimate confidence in this organization to be able to put a consistently winning team on the field. We failed this year and I talked to you about it. We’re not happy and we’re making changes to correct that. I feel confident that these changes will have a meaningful impact both on personnel and coaching.

If you surround yourself with smart people, and people who are smart in a particular area, we’re talking football here, you’re going to get a good product. You’re committed, you work hard and you focus on what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to improve in each area. I brought [New York Jets president] Neil Glat over, as an example. Neil brings a lot to the table.

I think this organization, I’m confident that it’s going to go forward and give the fans what they want. They’re going to have a great product. They’re going to be proud of their team and they’re going to see a very well-run organization that makes very good decisions. Not all of them are going to be correct, but most of them.

On if he considered firing Coach Ryan…

JOHNSON: No, I never considered that because my confidence in him as a coach, obviously, gives me the confidence to keep him as a coach. Having been in business and in football for quite a while now, you can recognize talent when you see it. I hate excuses, but there are some extenuating circumstances that I think we can improve and get better.

I think Rex Ryan is perfect for the New York Jets. He’s just like a New York Jets fan in many respects. He’s hardworking, he’s very smart, sophisticated. He’s 100 percent into this team, 100 percent. There’s nobody that’s more committed to this team and has the skills to bring it forward than Rex. So I don’t know how to say it any other way, but I’m totally happy with Rex as head coach and I think when we make these changes that we’re talking about today and refocus ourselves, I think it’s going to produce something really good.

On if he was concerned about getting fired…

RYAN: I was concerned because I know the year that we had was nowhere close to the expectations that we had as an organization. I know how committed Woody is to the fan base and everybody else, that he wants to build a winner, a consistent winner. The fact we won six games, we were 6-10, obviously wasn’t close to what Mr. Johnson’s expectations were and what our expectations were. Absolutely, I was concerned.

On if he has talked to Mike Tannenbaum since he was let go last Monday…

JOHNSON: Yes, I know that Coach Ryan has.

RYAN: I talk to Mike all the time.

On getting the team back on track…

JOHNSON: Nobody is going to try harder to do that, I can guarantee that. There are some things we can do with the cap, there are some obvious things to get us down into a pretty good position, so I think the flexibility for the general manager is great. You can have my assurance for the fans, you’re going to be talking to the fans, that as Mike used to say, “No stone will be left unturned.” We are going to commit ourselves 100 percent to finding answers and to putting this team on the right track.

On when they will hire a general manager…

JOHNSON: As they say, “When the process is over, it’s over.” We’ll keep looking until we find somebody that we’re comfortable with that fits our vision of where we want to take this team.

On Coach Ryan’s tattoo…

RYAN: There’s a question, "Is that a real tattoo or not?" I’ll keep you guessing. No, it is funny. It’s actually a tattoo I’ve had for three years now. I know what you’re thinking. Obviously, if Sanchez doesn’t play better, that number is changing, that’s pretty much a given [joking]. I’ve been married 25 years, and through my eyes, my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world, so that’s what it is.

On the fans’ frustration…

RYAN: I can understand the frustrations. As a fan, we’re 6-10. I think the big thing is, as a fan, you want to identify with everything about the organization. When Mr. Johnson brought me in here to be the head coach, I told him what my vision for the team was and I think that in some aspects I lived up to it, but as far as a collective thing and winning consistently, it hasn’t been there.

To me, I would tell the fans that, number one, we’re going to have a team, we’re not going to get bullied. Fans don’t like for their team to be embarrassed. We were embarrassed at times last year. That’s not going to happen. We might not win every game. Obviously, we won’t, no team does. But you have to stand for something, and the thing that we’re going to stand for is we’re going to be the team that you don’t want to play, that we are a dangerous football team, we’re going to attack you from the minute that whistle blows, we’re going to attack you on offense, defense and special teams.

That’s what I have to give the fans. That’s my job, my responsibility, I understand it. That’s exactly what we’re going to give them this season and beyond.

On if he will address Coach Ryan’s contract situation before next season…

JOHNSON: I never discuss contracts. That’s something I’ve never discussed and don’t intend to. But my confidence in Rex, I’ve already stated multiple times. I think that the general manager, whoever we select, it’s very important he establishes a very good relationship with Rex, with the head coach, which I’m sure he’ll do. This is what general managers do, this is their job. That’s all I’m going to say on that. We’re going to have all the pieces to put something really great on the field, led by Rex.

On a reporter getting emails from fans saying they might default on their PSLs…

JOHNSON: I've gotten the same things. The fact is we have a lot of passion, our fans are very passionate and they feel very strongly. They’re going to lash out and express their feelings. I don’t blame them, quite frankly. It would be a lot worse if they were more apathetic and they said, “Um, I don’t really care about this.” But they do care and we want them to care. I listen to them, I talk to them. We work for the fans and we want to produce something better. That’s why we’re making these changes. We’re listening to the fans.

On if he will take fans to court if they default on their PSLs…

JOHNSON: I’m not going to comment on legal issues. You can talk to the legal department on that. We work for our fans. They’re frustrated and I feel very confident we’re going to change this thing.

On if he is concerned that the Jets' brand has been tarnished…

JOHNSON: No, I’m not. We want to protect the brand because it’s really the fans’ brand. We’re always trying to be a better organization, and when we fail, we try to look back on why we failed and we’re remedying those. We’re doing a lot of major things this year to put ourselves on a different footing long-term. Coach Ryan talked about long-term. We have to build for the first game next year. We have to build for sustainable success. Coach Ryan is committed to making those decisions in that light.

That’s where we’re going to run it and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We are working very hard here and we fell a little short this year. That’s sports, that’s what happens. We don’t accept it. We don’t accept wanting to be a 6-10 team. We’re going to try to get better. But our fans will stick with us because our fans love their team and we work for the fans. It’s a great relationship. They’re frustrated, I understand that. I’m frustrated. And we’re doing everything we can to improve that.

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