Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's morning news conference before the Jets' Thursday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center:
Guys who will not practice:
Yesterday’s practice was really good. This is a defense with the Rams that gives you a lot of multiple fronts, multiple coverages, blitzes, so it’s a lot of work and preparation for our offense. The interesting thing with their offense is, I’m looking forward to seeing the cat-and-mouse between Schotty [Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] and our defense because we do know each other so well. Having spent three years with each other, we would do breakdowns on how we would attack a defense and our defense and offense. That’s what I think is going to be really interesting.
Obviously, this is a team that has a lot of talent. They have some young pass rushers in Chris Long and the [Robert] Quinn kid, who is a tremendous pass rusher. I think he has 8½ sacks already. Then they have those two big dudes in the middle with Kendall Langford and [Michael] Brockers from LSU, the first-round pick, the tackling machine, [James] Laurinaitis, back there at middle linebacker. The guy that I really like is Cortland Finnegan. I think he’s a physical player, an outstanding nickelback. When he’s in the slot, he plays that nickelback position. Really, he’s a guy that combines man-cover skills, he can blitz, he can tackle, really a physical-type player. He’s a guy that I’ve always admired.
On offense, obviously, it starts with their quarterback, Sam Bradford, a really talented guy who can make all the throws. You look at all three levels. They have a big-time playmaker, Steven Jackson — before I did the preparation I was hoping he was slowing down. I don’t know if that’s the case or not. I know one thing, he’s as big as he ever was, strong, determined, and he still has speed. A guy that really has all the skills, can obviously run the ball inside and outside, can catch the ball and also is a good pass protector. Then you have the [Danny] Amendola guy, however you say his name, you say, "Oh, here we go." He kind of looks like Wes Welker, but his game is a lot like it, too. He also makes a lot of vertical plays as well. Those are three big weapons and obviously it’s a talented group.
Having Jeff Fisher, I remember all these guys. You have Jeff Fisher over there, you have Chuck Cecil over there, who played with us in Arizona, obviously Brian Schottenheimer and some other guys. It’s going to be interesting to say the least and I’m looking forward to it.
On Stephen Hill’s illness…
When it says "illness," generally guys will play, unless you really get an illness the night before a game or two nights before. Generally, it doesn’t take five days to play, so I’m hopeful that he’ll be able to play.
On if he still has the breakdowns he did with Coach Schottenheimer…
As far he knows, we threw everything out [joking]. No, we kept them all and I’m sure he did as well. What you’re trying to do, you let him see how you would break him down and how you might attack it and vice versa. It was always a thing that I thought was very good. It’s also a look at tendencies, how you’re doing tendency-wise, you’re running this and all those things that you pick up.
The other thing is we’ve had a lot of conversations with each other through the years that "I really like what you’re doing here." You kind of wish you held that back, but you have to be prepared for it and obviously he shared some things as well. That’s why I say it’s going to be an interesting cat-and-mouse game.
On the pass rush…
He’s a multiple protection guy. Brian runs multiple protections anyway, so it’s not like you’re going to just get one protection. It’s not like we run one blitz. For each protection, there’s probably a better blitz. That’s kind of where that cat-and-mouse comes in. You mentioned the 16 sacks, most sacks occur in the fourth quarter and most sacks occur when you’re ahead. Most times, there’s some team that will be struggling like us that will have a lot of sacks, but their scheme is straight up the field, but we’re really not that way.
Again, if you went back and looked at when we have gotten the sacks, it will probably be a common theme that if we can get ahead of somebody and make the quarterback hold the football, we’ll probably have more opportunities at rushing the passer and sacking the quarterback.
On letting go of Coach Schottenheimer…
I don’t even want to go down that road because there are several things that went into it. It was this person’s decision or that person’s decision, all that type of stuff. I’d rather not revisit it. We won a lot of football games together and we had three years together. I really admire and respect Brian. I thought he had a great work ethic, really was a student of the game. I think he’s going to end up an excellent head coach, and when you look at the bloodlines, I don’t think there’s any doubt he will follow in his dad's footsteps. He’s a young guy. I’m sure he’s going to be a head coach soon and be a head coach for a long time.
On the familiarity between him and Coach Schottenheimer…
Sometimes you have to play the game a little bit. What hasn’t he showed? I know Schotty, he’s going to look back at this, this and this, so you kind of anticipate that as well. It’s not that you’re chasing ghosts, but I think that you know each other so well. Schotty knows me, he knows [defensive coordinator Mike] Pettine, so he’s probably anticipating certain things from us and we’re anticipating certain things from him.
On if the offense is better than it was last year…
When you look at it, every year is different and sometimes the parts are different. I think the mark of a good coach is to maximize the talent that you have around you. I think, without question, you do that. I don’t think you ever compare this offense to last year’s, the year before’s. I don’t think it’s really relative, just like comparing this defense to our first year when we got here, Baltimore’s or anybody else’s. This year is different.
I’m going to let Shonn handle that. I’ll let him handle that today. I’m not going to go into that. For me, I’m just going to focus on this opponent and that’s it. Let him handle it.
On hiring offensive coordinator Tony Sparano…
Without question, I believe this is an outstanding football coach. He’s been a head coach. Going up against him, I knew what we would get, the kind of mentality he has and we have it. He’s a guy that really understands the game, is passionate and is a tireless worker. He’s also a guy that I lean on a bit, having a former head coaching background. He’s been a huge help. I knew he would be and I knew he was a guy that I really wanted.
On one of the three phases carrying the team…
As a team, each side sometimes will be called on to pick the other side up. There’s no doubt, in my past, sometimes the defense has almost had to carry the team, there’s sometimes where the offense has to and there’s sometimes when the special teams has to carry the day. Right now, we’re 3-6, so we just have to tighten that thing up. I believe our defense will get better. I believe our offense will as well and I don’t think we’ll have the inconsistences that we’ve had on special teams, either. We have to play that way.
All three phases have to get better for us to win, but to think one side for every single game has to carry the day, I don’t think that’s the winning formula. It might be for a game that one side has to be the one that really picks it up. Maybe the challenge for the other side is facing that week, that side has to be particularly playing well. I don’t think it’s fair to saddle that on either side of the ball.
On Coach Sparano…
I’m happy with the job he’s done. I’m not happy with our results, but to say I’m going to pin that on Tony, there’s no way. I see how he works. Sometimes it’s a combination of everything. I look at myself first, how I can get better, how we can get better. I know he attacks it as much as anybody I’ve been around and he wants to get better. There’s a burning desire. Sometimes we’ll have what looks like is going to be a big play and the execution is just a little bit off. Sometimes there’s a lot of things that factor into that.
Again, the season isn’t over. I think we will get better. I think we are getting better. I know we never scored against Seattle, and we certainly had some opportunities, but that wasn’t the case, and that’s disappointing. I see us getting better, whether it’s not as big of a leap as we would like and showing on the scoreboard and things like that, that’s probably true, but I definitely see us getting better.
On where he sees improvement even though the results don’t show it…
Well again, we turned the ball over a couple of times when we were in scoring position. We’ve had some different things happen, but I do [think we’re getting better]. I see us running the football better. I see our protections and I see our offensive line get better. Now the protections weren’t great. Obviously, there were some instances where we might have had this player out [of position] or this player out, miss a protection and that’s obviously unfortunate.
Those things happen. Again, it’s not acceptable. You have to find a way to get better and regardless of the circumstance we have to do that. I know our offense is getting better. I know our defense is getting better. The defense gives up 360 yards but if anybody saw that game, they would know our defense is getting better. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
On how Coach Sparano has helped improve the offense…
First off, there are some things you’re definitely going to stay the course on and that’s definitely just belief. That’s getting better at fundamentals and technique and all that type of stuff. It’s pushing guys that way. I definitely see that, trying to put our guys in a position where they can be successful and I can see him doing that.
This past week, it might not have generated a lot of things, but he’s like, “All right we’re going to start throwing the ball more with Tim in the Wildcat.” He’s doing different things that he thinks will help. Sometimes it doesn’t show up necessarily, but believe me, there were plenty of plays out there. I’m not a guy that says it, but believe me, there were plenty of plays out there. Unfortunately, maybe it’s a poor decision, the execution is just off a little bit and obviously the result was not what we wanted.
On if he has concern about the culture of the team…
Again, a lot of those things we did talk about yesterday. Anytime something in the newspaper is said, sure you’re going to be like, “Oh man,” but at the same time, he knows for maybe one comment here, there are 50 positive comments about him. Whether you choose to write them or anybody else, is on you. I know the way this football team is and I know the culture of this team, as you want to refer to it, is a heck of a lot more positive than it is negative. There might be negative people outside of these walls and this organization. We’re not perfect.
Now the one thing we are is honest. I think when you see, we don’t put muzzles on our guys or anything. Maybe it’s easy to say well that’s what you should do, well fine. To me, I’ve never been a person like that. I believe that guys have the right, covered by whatever amendment that is, I’m just kidding, [laughter] but seriously I know this team is close. Whether people choose to write about it or talk about it, that’s up to them. Are we perfect? We’re never going to be perfect, today, tomorrow, the next day or 20 years from now.
On if he is confident the focus is where it needs to be in the locker room…Absolutely. Nobody wants to win more than we do, this football team. This week, we’re obviously disappointed with how things are going right now, how the season is going, but we can’t fix what’s behind us. We can only fix what’s in front of us, and we plan on doing that this week against a good football team.