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Continuity Helps Callahan Get More Comfy


More often than not, if you want to find Bill Callahan at the Atlantic Health Training Center, you'll track him down in the back of the darkened 30-seat offensive line classroom, watching widebodies digitally flash forward and backward on the front screen.

He was asked if he's been able to get away from football much to take his family out on the town or to restart his very successful Callahan Charities Inc. from his four years coaching Nebraska. No such luck.

"I haven't and I'd like to," Callahan said. "Because of the way the season ended, it was disappointing for all of us and there was uncertainty where everything was headed. So I didn't delve into that aspect as much as I will now. I'll be here for a few years, so I'm excited about getting that up and going."

Coaching continuity is so important these days, so it was good to hear that head coach Rex Ryan wanted to retain Callahan. And continuity on the offensive line is equally important, and Callahan is pumped to know that all five of his starters from 2008 are returning along with him.

"I'm anxious to get working with them again," he said, taking a break in the action. "We'll have the opportunity to get into football school here in a couple of weeks, where we'll sit down and reinstall the offense and go over the cutups from last year and make the necessary corrections for improvement that we want to get.

"I think our guys are genuinely excited about that. Just talking with them in the off-season about their own personal performances, I feel they want to get better. It's always a good sign when it comes from them. Talking with Alan and Brandon and Nick and Brick and Damien, they're all focused professionals who want to get better."

There is always room to improve, but the Jets' run blocking was at times awesome in 2008. Their 2,004 yards was ninth-best in the NFL, their 4.7 yards per carry fifth-best in the league and the highest in franchise history. Their 20 rushing TDs were tied for fifth and the best by a Green & White outfit since the 1979 team ground out a franchise-record 23.

Thomas Jones and Leon Washington combined for four 40-yard-plus rushing TDs, the first time that was ever done by the Jets. Left guard Alan Faneca and center Nick Mangold both played in the Pro Bowl, the first time the Jets sent two O-linemen to the NFL's all-star game since the 1982 season.

"We definitely showed improvement running the football," Callahan said. "I thought those guys did a great job providing plenty of room and space for Thomas and Leon. That's a reflection of the work that the offensive line did. We finished fifth in the league in average per carry, which was very strong and I think that's an important statistic when you look at the progress of your running game.

"Now that you've had a little taste of success, you want to go back and get more. We know we can improve on where we're at."

Callahan has made the cross-country coaching tour in his career, moving from primarily the upper Midwest to Philadelphia to Oakland, Nebraska and now the New York area. He loves it here, from the City that Never Sleeps to the Jets' fantastic complex — "probably the best in the National Football League" — to owner Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum.

But it always comes back to the Jets O-line, which, in a rare development for any NFL team, returns its starters, its coordinator (Brian Schottenheimer) and its position guru intact.

"These are really good guys, the staff and the players," Callahan said before retraining his focus on the still frozen image of an O-line about to fire out on the screen. "I'm blessed, fortunate to be around these guys that I'm with. Boy, they're great people. It makes it easy for me because they're willing, they're interested, they've got great dialog amongst each other, and the dynamic has been very positive."

"I think there's something to say for stability, continuity and cohesiveness," Callahan said before retraining his gaze on the line play on the front wall. "I really believe the ability to play alongside one another and play off of each other's calls and knowing each other's strengths and weaknesses provide you with a firmer foundation for your whole system. So I'm really encouraged by that and I know our players are.

"They have a lot of fun in the classroom, they like each other as people, they go out with each other — that chemistry is hard to find. When you've got a group that gets along with each other, works hard and plays for each other and for this team, I think that's a real positive ingredient."

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