Whenever the Jets get back to work as a team, Rex Ryan says the Green & White will be ready to roll.
"They're on their own. It's not like you can organize anything," Ryan told media members gathered in New Orleans for the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday. "Somebody asked me if they were working out. I was like 'I have no idea.' But when we come back, we'll be ready. We also coached three more weeks of football than just about everyone else with the playoffs, so we'll have no excuses. We will be ready."
The Jets are getting ready for a rapidly approaching draft that is set to commence in five weeks. Most pundits believe Ryan and company need to add some youth in their front seven and they should look to add another edge rusher early on.
"Everybody needs pass rushers. We were 10th in the league last year in sacks [actually tied for eighth with 40] and third in the league in defense, and yet we need pass rushers," said Ryan. "If we need them, then how about these other teams? Everybody needs pass rushers. Clearly, if a pass rusher is there and we think he's the best player, then that's the guy we'll take."
Jason Taylor tallied five sacks last season in a reserve role, but the Jets released the 36-year-old vet in March. Money and role multiplicity factored heavily into the decision.
"He had a financial thing — $10 million — and quite honestly, that wasn't going to happen. You're not going to pay that right now," Ryan said. "We'll see what happens. I'm not closing the book on Jason Taylor. Jason may come back. Jason made plays for us. Again, you'd prefer to have a younger guy that can contribute on teams because Jason is obviously a specialist."
New York's AFC representative was special in the playoffs once again, turning away both Colts QB Peyton Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady in the wild card and divisional rounds respectively. Brady was pummeled throughout a 28-21 loss, getting dumped for five sacks, included a Calvin Pace pounding that wound up on a Sports Illustrated cover.
"That was a great picture. His eyes were this big! That one's up on the wall. Nobody can take that win away from us and it was a great feeling," Ryan said. "But man, oh man, just once — I'm not asking for much — just once I want that to be a Super Bowl picture.
"I know one thing — we're going for it. We're all in. We're committed to it. I think we're going to make it happen. Too many facts tell me there's no way we don't belong in that discussion."
Even though Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reportedly skipped the media session, Ryan had some fun with the media by saying he and Bill were in the "team picture" together on Monday.
"It's funny. We have conversations, we talk about baseball, we talk about anything. I personally like Belichick and I have more respect for Belichick than any coach in this league," he said. "But I still want to beat him. And the fact that he's in our division means I'm paid to beat him. I'm not going to just say, 'Bill, don't kick my butt too bad.' No way in hell. We're not conceding one iota. And I feel like at times we're the only team that can beat them, for whatever reason. They lost three games last year — two to us and one to my brother."
Acknowledging that perhaps his team ran "a little" out of gas during the Jets' AFC Championship loss to the Steelers, Ryan believes his team prevented another championship in Foxboro.
"Did we put everything we had into playing New England? Absolutely. Every single thing we had," he said. "And that's what it took to beat New England. They were going to roll to the Super Bowl if they beat us and everybody knew it."
The Jets played down the stretch without safety Jim Leonhard, who fractured his tibia in practice on Friday, Dec. 3. While the prognosis is good in regard to Leonhard's recovery, the Green & White may have a new primary punt returner in 2011.
"I think Jim Leonhard's going to be just fine. He's way ahead of schedule. We probably won't have him as our punt returner because of the injury, though," Ryan said. "We'll probably look at Joe McKnight in that role, and Jerricho [Cotchery], too. I'm excited to see Joe return some balls back there. He's come a million miles. He's clearly the kind of athlete and runner you want back there."
Ryan a Cowboy
Are cows flying? Did hell get a little cooler? One of Buddy Ryan's sons — Rex's twin brother, Rob — accepted a position as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator this offseason. Buddy, who coached the Eagles from 1986-90, was never particularly fond of the men with the stars on their helmets.
"I can say this — I never would," Ryan deadpanned when he was asked if he thought a Ryan would ever coach for the 'Pokes. "Obviously kidding here, but it is funny. My dad is struggling with it a little bit. The Jets made sense, but he looked at Rob like he was Benedict Arnold or something.
"But by the time the season rolls around, the Ryan family's going to be cheering for Dallas — even Buddy."