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POSTGAME: Just Trying to Find a Way to Win

Posted Dec 2, 2012

Transcripts of news conferences and interviews in the Jets' MetLife Stadium locker room following their 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon:

HEAD COACH REX RYAN

The game wasn’t much of a surprise as far as the kind of dogfight we’d be in. That’s a good football team that has an outstanding defense. We knew it was going to be tough sledding. I was really proud of everyone’s effort, especially our defense. I think we gave up 15 yards in the second half and 137 total yards, 40 on the fake punt. I’m really proud of their effort.

I thought all of the coaches did a good job, in particular the defensive coaches — they did a tremendous job. On offense, we had 177 yards rushing against that bunch, which is no easy task. You’d like to put more points on the board than the seven we did, but it was good enough today. You’re going to have days like that. I feel fortunate to be on the winning side.

On if he felt the excitement from the crowd when he decided to insert Greg McElroy

At that time, I felt I needed to make a change. That’s why I made it. I’ll always do what I think is in the best interest of our football team and try to find ways to win. At that time, I thought it was time to make a change.

On if McElroy will start next week in Jacksonville…

I’ll let you guys know who’s going to be the quarterback when I’m ready. We’ll evaluate our situation as the week goes on.

On what made him feel a QB change was necessary…

It’s just something I sensed and felt. When you’re around this game long enough, you get that feeling that "I’ve seen enough and it’s time to make that change." Again, I have confidence in Mark [Sanchez], I have confidence in Greg, I have confidence in Tim [Tebow]. The way the game was being played at that stage of the game, I thought our defense was doing a tremendous job. It was like a hot goalie standing on his head. That’s basically what it felt like. I just felt like it was time to make that move.

On what Sanchez said to him after being replaced…

Mark is a great competitor. He understood that it was my call. He’s a man. Nobody wants to leave the game, but I just felt it was right for our team.

On if he was the one that told Sanchez he was being replaced…

I told Tony [Sparano]. I told everybody that we were going to make that change. When Mark came over, I believe he talked to Tony first and then he came over to me. It was pretty obvious. We were getting ready to play defense, but he knew where it came from.

On what he liked from McElroy…

I really like the way he controlled the clock. It’s no surprise. He comes from a great program. I’m not saying that because my kid might go to Alabama [joking], but he was smart. He knows how to handle that clock, and that’s what he did. He does a tremendous job of it. He’s smart. Like I said before, I never knew that a guy could improve his arm strength during an offseason the way Greg did. Right now I feel comfortable with Greg. I like some of the things he does. The first thing you say about him is that he’s smart and tough. He did a good job today, as did all of his teammates.

On how the game turned after the quarterback change…

We were just trying to find a way to win. We were running the football effectively, and then they had the big hit out of bounds on our quarterback. I thought the way the defense was playing, we were going to get our opportunities to win that game and that’s exactly what happened.

On if he would have made the change if Tebow was active…

I’m always prepared to do what I think is right for our team, but it was just the way the game was progressing. That’s why I made that move.

On Mike Lombardi’s comments about the Jets defense…

No offense to Mike Lombardi or anybody else, but I’ve been doing this a long time. Again, I said judge us when the season is over and we’ll see what happens, but I think this defense is getting better. Obviously, we had some huge mistakes against New England that were quite honestly uncharacteristic. I think our defense has made strides during the season. That’s what I saw and that’s what I know to be the truth, but it really showed today.

I’m really proud of all the defensive coaches: Mike Pettine, Dennis Thurman, Bob Sutton, Karl [Dunbar], Jim O’Neil and Mike Smith. The communication over the headset was great. We were dialed in. The adjustments we needed to make were spot-on. I thought they did a tremendous job.

On why this was the first time he made a quarterback change…

Every game is a different situation and I just thought it was the right move at the time.

On why he never put in Tebow when Sanchez was struggling in previous games…

I’m not going to get into the what-ifs and all that kind of stuff. I just know what we had up and I made the decision to try to win the football game. Fortunately for us, we ended up winning.

On making Tebow inactive…

I never thought he was full-go. He kind of sat back and had a little trouble throwing the football. We did practice him on a very limited basis throughout the week, but it was just something that I felt he would be better if he took this week off to get ready and be much healthier for Jacksonville. He could have played, absolutely he could have played, but it was just a coach’s decision.

On Sanchez…

Mark clearly has had better days than he had today. This opponent has made a lot of good quarterbacks struggle. He was 10-of-21, but their quarterback [Ryan Lindley] was 10-of-31. Sometimes when you play good defenses, you can have games like that.

On if he has injury updates on Joe McKnight and Dustin Keller

No, I don’t. I just saw them both sitting in the training room, but I do not have an update.

On Stephen Hill and Bilal Powell

I told Stephen in front of the team he was going to have to really step up big for us. I thought the first play of the game, we might have been able to get deep. He made some great catches. He battled like crazy against a good group of defensive backs, so I was happy with the way Stephen played. I really like the way he’s blocking as well. Bilal Powell, all of our backs, we have a stable of backs, they’re all tough guys and every one of them has ability.

On if he still feels Sanchez gives him the best chance to win…

We’ll address that going forward, but right now I’m just happy with the win. I believe in Mark, I believe in Greg, I believe in everybody we have.

On Sanchez’s ability to bounce back…

I know the kind of young man he is. He’ll bounce back and be ready to roll. It’s tough sledding. Sometimes you’re going to have games like that. Again, that was the right move at this time and that’s what I believe.

QB GREG McELROY

On how much notice he received before going into the game…

It was kind of one of those things. We had just come off and had sputtered the drive before. He told me to just go warm up,

On if there was any indication at halftime that he would play…

No indication at all. Going into the entire week, I just prepared as always. I played against the defense on the scout team. I was Ryan Lindley during the week. That was my role. That’s what I was expecting to be. Coach Ryan decided to do something differently.

On what advice Mark Sanchez gave to him…

He just gave me a hug and said, “Go get 'em.” It was the same thing I’d say to him. I really appreciate the way he handled it and was very supportive, he was very helpful, and I was thankful for that.

On if he felt the energy in the stadium…

It’s tough to gauge the energy. I didn’t have a decibel meter where I could tell what the crowd noise was [laughter]. It was fun. We were having a good time. It was exciting to get a shot and go in there. Fortunately, my teammates did a fantastic job executing. We were able to stick to the run game. We really did a good job of getting some holes for [Bilal] Powell and Shonn [Greene]. That made my job a lot easier.

On if he ever thought he would play since he was third on the depth chart…

You never know. This is a crazy game. Even if you’re the one, two or three, you’re always a couple of plays away at most. The Arizona Cardinals started their third quarterback today. Things change throughout the course of the season. You just always have to be ready and always study. Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to work with two great quarterbacks in Mark and Tim. I’m really fortunate to have Coach [Tony] Sparano and Coach [Matt] Cavanaugh preparing us, having us understand what the defense is going to be doing and what we’re going to be doing offensively to attack them.

On his touchdown pass…

To tell you the truth, it was a bit of a floater. It was a run-reverse option and I almost didn’t want to throw it, but I had to just let it go. Jeff [Cumberland] did a great job of selling the run and Brandon Moore did a fantastic job getting in up front and trying to skirt the edge. It was just great execution. It was a great call by Coach Sparano. I was pretty fortunate, and luckily we were able to get in.

On if he’s been aware of the fan’s desire for him to play…

I don’t necessarily read the clippings. You try to stay current as an NFL fan, you try to stay current on what’s going on, but I stopped doing that about a year and half ago [laughter].

On how he improved his arm strength over the offseason…

To tell you to the truth, last offseason I hurt my thumb, and honestly, I think that was probably the greatest blessing I could ever have. It was a blessing in disguise. Obviously, at the time, it’s such a disappointment and your season’s over and they put you on IR, but I was able to really focus and do grip exercises. I had a great offseason program, working out at D1 in Nashville. They really helped me out. We had a plan. We knew what we wanted to do. I knew what I needed to do after meeting with Coach Cavanaugh. He told me exactly what he wanted me to improve on and I understand that. Still have a long way to go.

On if he was throwing more and getting more repetitions…

More repetitions, just hand-grip strength exercises, because most arm strength is obviously in-your-core and in-your-grip strength. And I’m not necessarily known for having huge hands, so I had to just really focus on strengthening the muscles within. I thought it was a good plan of attack. Obviously, it’s gotten better yet, but it’s not where I want it to be. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue to work on it and my arm will continue to get stronger.

On how comfortable he felt when he went into the game after playing scout team all week in practice…

I felt comfortable. Coach Sparano does such a great job of explaining exactly how he wanted things to be run, so I felt really comfortable. I understood the game plan. Obviously, I had a great supporting cast and have those guys making plays for us and getting open. The offensive line gave me tons of time. Honestly, those other 10 guys made my job a lot easier, to be honest with you. I felt comfortable, though. Obviously, I didn’t get any reps with the offense this week, but I watched Mark, I always took those mental reps, and that was always so important for me, just to take those mental reps, because you never know when you’re going to get called upon. I just really kind of learned a lot by watching and hopefully that’ll pay a lot of dividends going forward.

On if he expects to start next week…

No expectations at this point. Obviously, just enjoy this one for 24 hours and we’ll see how the week progresses.

On the difficulty of the uncertainty around the team’s future at the quarterback position…

It’s not’s worth speculating about, to be honest with you. We’re football players. What we do, nothing is ever guaranteed, nothing is ever for sure. We just go out every week and we try to learn and we try to get better. I know that’s Tim’s approach, I know that’s Mark’s approach, I know that’s my approach. There’s no need to stress about the uncertain. We’re just letting it unfold the way it happens.

On his strength as a quarterback…

I’m a little nerdy, so pardon me if this comes across wrong. I think one of the things I really try to do and the one thing that Coach [Nick] Saban always tried to emphasize with me as I was a quarterback coming up in his system: Just play the game by the numbers. If it’s first-and-10, we want it to be second-and-5. If it’s second-and-5, we want it to be third-and-manageable, so that’s -2 or -3. If you keep it like that, you’re going to keep yourself sustaining long drives and things like that, minimize turnovers and explosive plays are essentially what wins the game.

And that’s always been my train of thought. Coach Ryan, obviously he and Coach Saban have a lot of similarities and I’m very, very grateful to play for a coach in the NFL that is so similar to what I’ve been used to and what I’ve grown up in, I think just managing the game. I think it’s often overused to a certain extent, but it’s so important and it’s something that I take great pride in. It’s something that I would like to continue to try to do well.

On how much Alabama’s SEC Championship game Saturday ate into his preparation for today’s game…

Not much. We actually had the quarterback meeting with about three minutes left. So A.J. [McCarron] threw the touchdown and then I had to go to the meeting. We find out they’re on the 8-yard line with five seconds left, and my heart starting going for a second. But I found out that we pulled it out. I was happy for them.

On the experience of going from third string to winning an NFL game…

I learned when I was in JV football as a sophomore — I threw three picks in my first five attempts. I learned it’s never too high with the highs, never too low with the lows. Just stay even keel. Obviously, that’s what I’m going to try to do, that’s the way I’m going to approach it. I’m going to enjoy this for 24 hours, I’m going to learn from it, I’m going to watch the film. I’m going to get in there, all of us as a group, all 53 guys, we’re going to get ready for Jacksonville. We’re going to enjoy this one for sure and we’re going to try to learn from it and get better.

QB MARK SANCHEZ

On his play today…

From the get-go, obviously the first play, it just wasn’t my day. Didn’t throw it well, didn’t see the first play very well. I tried to dump it down to Dustin [Keller] late and missed him. I missed Jeff [Cumberland] on another interception and [Cardinals CB Patrick] Peterson made a good play on another one. Obviously not my day. It’s unfortunate, but I’m really happy for the team and I’m happy for Greg [McElroy]. He came in and played his butt off. He got us a big win. He was real smart, took care of the football and played his butt off, so I’m proud of our team.

On how he feels personally…

I’m glad we won. That’s all we needed. We needed to win five games in a row. To do that you have to start with one. Now we just move on from here.

On if he anticipates starting next Sunday at Jacksonville…

I have no idea. I’ll go prepare my butt off, be ready to play and whatever Rex decides to do, we’ll go with that.

On being taken out of the game…

Of course you want to be in the game. I’ve been in a situation like that before. It was a learning experience. We’ll move on and do exactly what Greg does for me and that’s support him, chart the plays, give him my insight from the sideline and do my best to help us win whether you’re on the field or off.

On how he feels about charting plays and holding the clipboard…

I’ve done it in preseason, so I don’t know.

On who told him he was coming out of the game and what he said to Rex when he was taken out of the game…

Coach Sparano.

On what he said to Coach Ryan when he was taken out of the game…

Yeah, I said, “What’s going on, is Greg going in?” and he said “Yeah.”

On what Coach Ryan told the team at halftime…

Just to keep our heads in it, keep fighting, finish this half, win this half, and we have a chance to win the game.

On if he was surprised he was taken out in this particular game and not other games earlier this season…

I don’t know. I didn’t expect it, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the coach’s call. He wants to win the game so he’s going to do his best to do that.

On what Coach Ryan told him after the game…

He was just saying to hang in there.

On hearing the crowd boo him and chant Greg McElroy’s name…

You just kind of tune it out. You don’t really think about it, just keep playing.

On if he understands why Coach Ryan made the decision to put in McElroy…

It doesn’t really matter my opinion on that kind of thing, my feelings towards it. But the most important thing is we won. That’s what we all set out to do today and that’s what happened.

On what he said to Coach Ryan after he found out he was being replaced by McElroy…

I just asked if Greg was going in and he said yes.

On if he had already been told he was being replaced before he talked to Coach Ryan…

Yes, I just wanted to hear it from the head coach, that’s all.

On how he plans to continue trying to be the quarterback he wants to be…

Just keep working, go study this film and keep trying to improve, understand where the mistakes came from, keep studying, keep preparing, be ready to play next week and see what happens.

On his performance…

I missed a couple and then bad reads on another couple. Just overall, not my best day.

On if he will be disappointed if he does not start next week…

We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

On how tough it would be psychologically to come in at quarterback again in the future after being benched…

I’m used to playing, so I think that would be easier.

On if he finds it ironic that McElroy is the one that came in for him after he answered questions about Tim Tebow all season…

I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it like that. Good question, sorry.

C NICK MANGOLD

On when he knew Greg McElroy was coming into the game…

My job is to get the ball to the quarterback so I had to make sure I had to get a couple of snaps with him. Tony [Sparano] let me know to go get a couple of snaps with him so I had the feeling he was coming in.

On what they improved on as the game went on…

It was a good thing we got the ground game running so that helped out a lot. I thought once we minimized the mistakes, we were able to finish the game.

On if there was a different demeanor in the huddle with McElroy…

No, we understood that we need to do our jobs and execute. When anyone else comes in, we still need to execute.

CB ANTONIO CROMARTIE

On the defense not allowing a third-down conversion…

It was just great playcalling. Guys were playing relentless. Our biggest focus was to make sure we got off the field and we did a great job of that. I think Coach Ryan and the staff made some great calls. We just wanted to go out there and make sure we executed and did the things we needed to do.

On the mindset of the defense…

Our biggest thing was to keep them out of the end zone. At the end of the day it might look ugly, but a win for us is just a win to get us out of the losing streak we were in.

On if the defense found its groove…

Definitely. I think the biggest thing that helped us was the communication throughout the week to make sure we were doing the things we needed to do defensively to make sure each guy was in the right spot. We had to communicate well and just play football the way we knew how. I think Coach Ryan and the staff called a good game. It’s just something to grow on. We kept them 0-for-15 on third downs. That’s something you look at and just want to continue to work on.

S YEREMIAH BELL

On if there was a change in energy in the stadium when Greg McElroy took the field…

Well, you can definitely tell that the stadium was happy about it. But as a team, we just want to get out there and play the best football we can. We knew if we kept playing good defense that we’d give ourselves the best chance to win and that’s what we did.

On if it was their best defensive game of the year…

I’d have to say so. I’d have to say it’s probably our best defensive game of the year. I think they were 0-for-15 on third down so that’s a nice improvement from where we came from.

On if they can run the table…

The way we look at it is we’re looking at the next game, and that’s it, the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s as far as we go. We know we have to take care of business there and we can’t afford to look ahead. We’re going to go to work this week, concentrate on Jacksonville and try to come out with the same game plan we did today.

On going against the Cardinals offense…

We knew if we did what we were supposed to do and each guy took it upon himself to play his role in the defense, then we’d be fine. We played a complete game today and I think that’s something to be proud of.

LB DAVID HARRIS

On the defense not allowing a third-down conversion…

Yeah, that was huge for us. We knew coming into the game that they were going to keep the game conservative and run and take their shot at the passing game. We did a good job on stopping them on first [down] and not allowing any big plays. We were glad we could help the offense out.

On preparing for Arizona’s offense…

We knew that they had to bring a new quarterback in because they had a couple of injuries on that side of the ball. We knew that we had to take control of the game. We knew that they were going to be conservative with their new quarterback, so we knew that we had to do a good job on stopping them on first because that’s what they tried to establish, and also not allowing big plays.

On if the win gives the team momentum going into the regular season's last four games…

Yeah, you have to take it one game at a time. We’ll take a W any way we can. We can’t look down the road. We have to take it one game at a time.

DT MIKE DeVITO

On the effort from the defense…

That was huge. That was so important to bounce back and put that Jets defense back out there. You know, we’ve had some rough ones this year, but today really showed, and it built our confidence back up and showed that we know that we can we go out there and play in this system, play the way we know we can play. We can be a scary defense.

On if they felt the energy on the field from the fans in the stands…

Yeah, it’s always awesome when the fans are behind you. We know how tough it’s been for them this year as well as us, we know how disappointing it’s been. To see them fired up and getting into it built a lot of energy and I think that really helped us going out there.

On Greg McElroy’s first series in the game…

It’s really encouraging. That’s a tough spot to be in. I don’t know when he came in, the third quarter? It’s not like he’s been taking reps during practice, during the first three quarters of the game, so to come in and play the way he did is so encouraging. Times like that, they happen. There have been games I haven’t played great. You can talk to anybody in this room. Tough decision, but it was the one that was right for the team and it was good to see us come out with a W.

Preseason Live: New York Jets

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