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REX: Fortunate to Have QBs That Are Tested

Posted Dec 3, 2012

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's news conference Monday morning at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:

First off, I thought the game, I know it’s been described as ugly and all that stuff but anytime you are one point better than the opponent or 30 points better, it’s a beautiful game. I thought that was a beautiful game, obviously, anytime you find a way to get a win. I thought the defense was, that’s about as good as we’ve played in a long, long time. Statistically, they had that 40-yard fake punt, I don’t know what that would’ve given them had we had prevented that, but it was really a great game on defense. The 0-for-15 on third down obviously was huge for us. We’ve been struggling at getting off the field on third down and we came up big.

But the play on the backend in particular, guys like Ellis Lankster and Kyle Wilson had a big game. [Antonio] Cromartie, the type of game he had, Larry Fitzgerald’s about as good a receiver as there is in this league and he gives up one catch for 23 yards and he just continues to play at a super Pro Bowl level, and obviously I know the voting for that but they shouldn’t even have one if that kid doesn’t get in there. Muhammad Wilkerson’s still, that’s another guy that just keeps continuing to make plays. I'm really happy with the defense in particular.

And then on offense, two guys that don’t get a whole lot of attention, Jason Smith, I thought, had his best game. I thought he did a tremendous job playing that big tight end for us. I thought he had a tremendous game, did a great job of finishing those blocks. Then Austin Howard, he just keeps getting better and better and I thought he had a super game. Brandon [Moore], you expect that from him as a Pro Bowl player and things but he was tremendous as well.

One other guy too, Robert Malone, I think when you look at the game that he had. You’re going against one of the premier punt returners in the game [Patrick Peterson] and our thing was, look, just kick it out of bounds. Whatever you do, just kick it out of bounds. Finally, Peterson got so frustrated, he fielded that ball on the 2-yard line, made us all hold our breath. I thought the game he had was absolutely tremendous and I think, without question, he’ll be getting a gameball for his efforts.

On who the starting quarterback will be on Sunday…

Well, I think right now, I definitely need a little more time to make that decision. I’m comfortable and confident with all three quarterbacks. I think all three guys now have proven they can win in this league, with Greg at the end of the game, and obviously Mark [Sanchez]'s history here, and the way Tim [Tebow] has played. So I’ve got three guys I’m confident in but I’ll make that decision as the week goes on.

On if Tebow could be the starter…

I’m just saying this, I think when you look at Tim, he is a proven winning quarterback in this league. Each game’s different, I think when you look at who you play, the opponent you’re playing and things like that, I make decisions on what gives us the best chance to be successful to win. And really this week, obviously, is going to be about competing and beating Jacksonville and that’s what will go into all decisions.

On if Tebow has a chance to be the starter…

You can put him in there, you can put whoever in there. Tim, we’ll have to monitor his situation as the week goes on. He was cleared to play, but it was my decision, I never felt that he could, I just never thought that he was where I think he should be. He might be able to play, but I don’t think he’s near 100 percent and I think I just wasn’t comfortable. Quite honestly, I let Tim talk me into activating him the week before and I think that was something I regretted and I wasn’t going to let him talk his way into it this time. That’s basically what happened.

On if he’s not announcing a decision yet for competitive reasons…

Right now, I haven’t made that decision. But again, obviously, that could be a thing that I’ll consider as the week goes on. But right now I’m not ready to say that. I want to make sure that I talk to Tony [Sparano], Matt [Cavanaugh], everybody, and make sure that I get a sense of what will be the right decision. I know nothing about Jacksonville, I haven’t watched one film on Jacksonville as far as their defense is concerned. There are a lot of things that go into every decision you make, even how we’re going to play Kyle Wilson. Is Kyle going to play corner or is he going to play the nickel? Those are decisions you make based on opponent specifics.

On how he’d describe his quarterback situation…

Well, I have three good quarterbacks and I feel good about all three quarterbacks. I think we’re in a lot better situation than probably a lot of teams.

On what McElroy provided in the win that was “ugly” by some standards…

Beautiful by mine, clearly. I just thought at the time, it was the right move, that sometimes you have better days than others and it’s just something I felt needed to be done and gave our team the best opportunity to win. That’s what it’s always about and that’s why I made that move.

On if he has confidence in McElroy playing on the road…

I think he’s played and all these guys have played in big games. He’s not foreign to big games, he’s won a national championship, Tim has won a national championship, Mark’s obviously played in big games before. We’re fortunate to have guys that are tested that way.

On how he will divide practice reps for the quarterbacks…

As the week goes on and the days go on, I’ll make that decision and we’ll make that decision as a staff.

On why Coach Sparano told Sanchez that McElroy was going in…

Tony went over, I told Greg, I told Tony. And he just grabbed [Sanchez], and clearly I would’ve, but we were playing defense, right away, we were up on defense. I saw Tony had grabbed Mark, obviously I was going to find my way to tell Mark myself, but I wasn’t going to go grab him and let him know. Tony already did it. So when he asked, when I stepped back, I reached over, I told Greg, I told Tony, Tony went to him and then I saw him with him and then I was over on defense.

The message was clearly delivered, he knew exactly where it was coming from. I made that decision. I made sure that Tony knew that that was my decision. He went and told Mark, I saw him there, I wasn’t going to go over and pile on. I’m trying to get focused on the defense.

On if he has made up his mind about who will be the starting quarterback…

I just want to make sure that I get all of the facts and everything else. It’s a big decision. Obviously, the decision, I think, has to be made in what gives us the best opportunity to beat Jacksonville.

On if the decision is open for discussion among the staff…

I want it to be an open discussion, so I don’t want to say there is definitely a way I am leaning. I want to make sure that everybody knows that it’s an open discussion. I want honest feedback.

On if practice has anything to do with who will be the starter…

We’ll see.

On it sounding like he has decided to make Sanchez the starter this week…

It sounds like you’ve already made your opinion. But again, I haven’t. To me, it’s a decision that you make based on the moment, on who gives you the best opportunity to win that particular game. I have more time. I will make what I think is the appropriate decision on who gives us the best opportunity to beat Jacksonville.

On if Tebow would have been the No. 2 quarterback if he'd been active Sunday…

Again, I really don’t want to get into the “what ifs” and all that stuff because each situation is different. I just felt like I’ve never really pulled Mark before in a game, but I just felt that for our team, the best move was that we were going to make a change. I thought that was going to give us the best chance of winning. Sometimes if you step back and look at things, obviously the quarterback position is different than any other position. That’s why I’m slower to make that move. I’ve benched a lot of great players as a coach, a lot of great ones, on defense in particular. I just felt like I needed to make that change.

On comparing the short and long term when making his decision…

I just have to focus on it. My job is to win games and I’m going to focus on what gives us the best opportunity to beat Jacksonville.

On his conversation with Sanchez after the game…

I think anybody that goes through that, when it’s a decision that I personally made to put a guy down, I think you have a little more time to explain why. I thought I needed to do that, so that’s what I did. Obviously, nobody wants to be pulled from anything, Mark and everyone else I’ve ever put in a situation like that always believes that they would give us the best opportunity to win. I think that’s why they’re so competitive. That’s just the nature of the man that’s playing, so I understand that. Anyway, it was a conversation I thought I needed to have.

On if the fans will impact his decision…

There will be no impact that way.

On why he made the quarterback change…

I just thought at that particular time, in that game, that I needed to make a change. I just felt it. We were fortunate that we ended up finding a way to win the game, but that was the reason.

On if he would have felt comfortable replacing Sanchez is Tebow was active…

Again, I don’t want to get into the what if’s and all that stuff. The fact is that Greg was the guy that was active. I thought the decision was in the best interest in the team, that’s why I made that decision.

On if yesterday was the "final wakeup call” for Sanchez…

Mark Sanchez has won a lot of football games for this franchise, has won some big games for us, has produced a lot of big wins for us and has been a good player for us. ‘Final wake-up call,’ I don’t know about that.

On making a run at the playoffs…

It’s just about finding a way to beat Jacksonville. That’s where it is. We’re a sub-.500 team, so we’re just trying to scratch and claw our way back into it. Obviously, you want to be playing at the end of the year for an opportunity to get in. It’s hard to get in the playoffs, but you want to fight like crazy to get in there if you can.

On making tough decisions as a coach…

There are a lot of decisions you make as a coach that are tough decisions. A lot of times, they’re easy decisions if you always put the three priorities first: the team, the team and the team. When you do that, the decision is sometimes easier. But as a head coach, there are a lot of tough decisions. You have to take personal feelings outside of it because it’s bigger than just me, this person or that person.

On McElroy…

I think with Greg, you see every day the improvements that he makes, albeit running the scout team. This is a smart guy. He grew up under Nick Saban, who’s a great coach, obviously. He’s had a lot of advantages even going back to his high school [Southlake Carroll] in Texas. You talk about big games, the national championship game probably pales in comparison to the state championship game he quarterbacked in. He’s grown up that way. I’m sure he’s comfortable with any situation he’s in.

On Dustin Keller and Joe McKnight’s injuries…

Dustin’s doesn’t look like a high ankle sprain. That’s good. We’ll know about him later. He has some swelling there. Joe McKnight’s ribs were negative as far as being broken, so that’s good. We’ll know more about the other guys as the week goes on.

On Bilal Powell getting the early carries instead of Greene…

Both guys got a lot of carries. I think Shonn might have had [24] attempts, so that was just something we decided to do.

On if he will consult other NFL coaches he is close to about who to play at quarterback…

It’s certainly a possibility, but I think I’ll just lean on the guys in here. The decision will be made based on our situation, our football team and what ultimately I feel will give us the best chance to win.

On if he will decided the starting quarterback by Tuesday night…

I’m not going to get into it 100 percent, but that would be my initial thought.

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