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REX: It’s a New York Jets Decision

Posted Dec 5, 2012

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's morning news conference before the Jets' Wednesday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center.

Obviously, the reason everybody is here, I made the decision to go with Mark [Sanchez] as the starting quarterback this week. It was really a decision that I feel great about. I had a lot of opinions and I had conversations with a lot of different people, but, at the end of the day, it’s my decision. I’m definitely comfortable with the decision. I’m actually looking forward to seeing Mark play. I’m really for that matter, [excited] to see the entire football team play this Sunday against Jacksonville. It’s one where I obviously have to get this decision right, and I believe I have.

On what the deciding factor was to name Sanchez the starter…

I just think when I looked at everything, the biggest thing that I kept coming back to was what I had mentioned before about who gives us the best opportunity to win, in particular, this week. When I kept coming back to that, I believe the correct answer is Mark Sanchez. With that being said, I understand that he has to play better. He has to protect the ball better. The quarterback handles the football every snap. As a football team, we have to protect the football better than we have been.

There are some things that we’re really doing a great job at right now. A thing that we’ve emphasized since the break was penalties. We’re maybe second in the league at that point, maybe averaging about three a game or a little more than that, so I’ve been really happy with that. The thing that we have not done a good job of is protecting the football. Obviously, Mark is the obvious guy we’re talking about. There are some interceptions that are going to happen. Quite honestly, the interception that [Patrick] Peterson makes in our game, I don’t care who is the quarterback, that was just an unbelievable play by that young man. Those [interceptions] you can live with. Some of the other ones we have to do a better job of.

I believe Mark definitely understands where I’m coming from. I expect that not only Mark, but as a football team, [we need to] protect the ball better than we have.

On when he told Sanchez he was the starter…

Again this was a decision that took a great deal of thought. I’d rather not get into the specifics of this time or that time because, quite honestly, I can’t remember exactly what time it was. I feel comfortable with the communication I had with Mark and the quarterbacks. I did bring the quarterbacks into a meeting this morning, I don’t have the exact time, but I think it was when everyone was informed of who was going to be the starting quarterback. I sat in there and explained why I made the decision that I did. That’s basically what it was.

On the qualities Sanchez has to give the team the best chance to win…

First off, I believe we can win with all three quarterbacks. I know people will criticize that and I quite honestly don’t care. Tim [Tebow] has proven that he can win when given a chance to be a starter in this league. He took a team into a playoff. Mark has done the same thing here. Greg [McElroy], as a backup, you’re supposed to maintain a level or take it to a higher one and he took it to a higher level. He ended up having two really good drives for us to win that game.

I have confidence in all three guys. I keep going back to Mark, who has won a lot of games for us. Now I know the record hasn’t been what it was this year and we had a three-game losing streak to close out the last year, but I believe in Mark. I believe in all of our guys, but I believe Mark has a skillset that is pretty impressive. He can make all the throws. The thing that Mark needs to do a better job of is protecting the ball and know when it’s OK to take chances and know when you shouldn’t. I think judgment, I believe that Mark is going to do a better job at that.

On if Sanchez’s confidence has been shaken…

I’m not sure, you’ll have to ask him that. I will say this, sometimes you learn from when you’re put in that position, when somebody goes in and sometimes it’s as easy as you step back and see somebody else in that role. He really hasn’t had that before. I think sometimes you learn a great deal from that. That’s not just at the quarterback position, I’ve mentioned it before with other positions. It’s the same thing. No matter how good or who you are, sometimes when you take that step back, your view becomes clearer. I believe that’s going to be the case.

On what he has learned about Sanchez in the last two days…

Again, I just think that after weighing everything, this was the right decision. What did Mark do specifically? I never talked to the players or anyone else that way, so it wasn’t that I was convinced by somebody. I just went through and leaned on a lot of people. I wanted to get the pulse from a lot of different people and, at the end of the day, I was going to do what Woody Johnson hired me to do and that’s, in my opinion, make the appropriate and right decision to help this football team win.

On if he talked to Sanchez about his decision…

Well, you guys know that I’ve had conversations directly after the game with Mark. I absolutely did. But again, if I didn’t feel confident that Mark could do the job or can improve in the one major area I think he needs improvement in and that’s ball security, then I would’ve made a different decision. I believe Mark is going to do a great job for us. And like I said, I look forward to seeing him play Sunday as I do watching our entire football team play Sunday.

On if people had differing opinions on who the starter should be…

Again, you know what, I had a lot of open conversations. And with that, there are difference of opinions. When you ask different guys, offensive coach, defensive coach, whoever, the thing I’m impressed with this organization is that we can have open conversations about things. But at the end of the day, I’m going to make that decision.

On how much Sanchez’s contract impacted his decision…

Absolutely zero.

On if he’s lost some confidence in Sanchez considering it took him two days to decide…

I don’t believe that to be a true statement. I think the young men we have behind Mark, I feel more comfortable about them than I did previous quarterbacks as well too, that may contribute to this. The fact that you have to tip your hat to McElroy for stepping in and doing a tremendous job for us. And it did make me think about what the appropriate decision was. But again, I wanted to take my time, not just react on the fly, I wanted to take my time with that decision and I think I made the right decision.

On if he’ll put in a backup if Sanchez struggles…

Absolutely, if, but again, I don’t want to play the what-if games. But obviously, I made that decision for a reason the last time and that’s with any player. I’ll say this: I think Mark’s going to play well. As far as answering the question on who the No. 2 guy is, I think we have to see what happens with Tim. Right now, and that old word, we’ll monitor his situation, I think that that’s a true statement. If Tim was healthy, in my eyes, I know he can play, I know he’s been cleared to play, but I don’t believe he’s been healthy for what I think he should be. If that was my son, I would not want him playing. And that’s how I look at this. But if he was completely healthy, then Tim would be our No. 2.

On how important the remainder of the season is for Sanchez…

I think it’s important, but I think it’s important obviously for our entire football team. We know that we have to win this game, period, and that’s where our entire focus is. But it’s important that we go out, that Mark plays well, that we all play well.

On if this is Sanchez’s last chance to prove he’s a starting quarterback…

Again, all that kind of stuff, I know that he’s got an opportunity to be our starting quarterback, and I believe that he’s going to do a tremendous job for us.

On if owner Woody Johnson pressured him in his decision…

I don’t get any pressure from Woody. I’m fortunate. I have a great relationship with Woody. We have open conversations all the time and we can say things to each other and all that. Where I’m real fortunate is from the day Mr. Johnson hired me, he said it’s 100 percent my decision on who plays and what their role is and that’s it. So that’s never been, one way or the other, it’s always been this way and he’ll remind me of that from time to time as well.

On if Mr. Johnson agreed with his decision…

Absolutely. It’s a New York Jets decision and everybody in this organization may have difference of opinions and things like that, but, at the end of the day, this is a New York Jets decision and we feel good about it and I truly believe that.

On if Sanchez stepping back and watching the game from the sideline will help him…

I’m not sure. I think you have to ask him. But I think the big thing is, sometimes when you step back, and I’ve mentioned it, the vision becomes clearer. You would think it’s obvious, but sometimes I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen before. Whether that’s when you put somebody else in that, “Oh.” We’ve had some of these issues in the past, his first year in 2009, we had the red, yellow, green, all that kind of jazz. Well, I guess you can say we’re in red right now.

On if perfection is expected out of Sanchez…

Not perfection by any stretch, but we’re striving for perfection. He just needs to play quarterback, period. The way we want him to do that, the Jet way, we have to protect the ball, regardless of who [is] the quarterback. We have to do a better job protecting the football, and that’s obvious with some of the things that have happened to this football team. Not just the quarterback, but all of us have to, that’s the next step. I think we can be a really good football team, but we can’t keep putting ourselves at risk by not protecting the football.

I think it’s clear how we want to play it. Red doesn’t mean that we’re just going to run or throw the ball 50 rows up in the stands. When there are throws to be made, you complete the pass. We expect you to do it. It’s just not forcing the ball. Interceptions may happen. If he throws one interception, it doesn’t mean he’s going to get benched, necessarily. Guys make plays. Guys get paid on the other side as well. We’re just trying to get rid some of the mistakes.

On Sanchez’s mental toughness…

I think he is mentally tough. I don’t think there’s any doubt. I think to play quarterback in New York, you better be tough, mentally tough. Here it is, his fourth year. It’s not like everybody is always positive here. [joking] Quite honestly, it’s probably a little different. With any place in the NFL, you’re going to get more of the praise when you win [and] more of the criticism when you lose, but I think here, the fact you have another guy who shares the stadium with you and has won two Super Bowls probably adds to it a little bit. I think Mark is plenty tough. I don’t think there’s any doubt he has the mental toughness that it takes.

On how long it took him to make his decision…

I don’t want to get into that. I wanted to be thorough with the decision. I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just a flying off the handle move or something you would do haphazardly. I wanted to make sure I was thorough with it. I know it’s a huge decision, but it’s one I feel great about.

On when he decided Sanchez would start…

Again, I don’t know the exact time. I guess you could say yesterday or last night with how it was going to go.

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