Rex Ryan chatted with reporters at the owners' meetings in Orlando, Fla., today, and the main subject, not surprisingly, was quarterbacks.
In his first public remarks on Michael Vick, signed as an unrestricted free agent on Friday, the Jets head coach said:
"First off, you're getting a guy that is obviously a proven winner, a guy that is a dynamic player. And for us, it's going to give us a guy that's going to provide great competition and I think that's going to be a great thing for us and it's going to be a great thing for Geno. Those two are going to push each other and the end result will be good for the football team."
Geno, of course, is Geno Smith, now a second-year QB coming off his 16-start rookie season as our signalcaller last year. In one telling response, Ryan, asked if Vick has a chance to be the opening-day starter in September, said:
"I would say yes. Anybody, we want that competition and we'll let it all play out.'
But in another telling response, he reminded us not to assume anything one way or the other.
"I think it's going to be really interesting to watch that competition unfold. Geno Smith's going to be hard to beat out. I've said that for a long time and that's how I feel about it, but it is going to be great competition."
Ryan was also making his first public remarks about Mark Sanchez, who was released shortly before Vick was signed on Friday. He still has special feelings for the first draft choice of his head-coaching career in 2009.
"You have the vision that this guy is going to be with you for 10 years. I'm sure every coach has that. Very few make it that far. I think in an ideal world, that's what you would have liked," Rex said.
"Mark knows how I feel about him. I think it's good for him that he moves on and he'll have a chance to start again. He had success here. I'm sure he's got some great memories here and some great moments, and that's more than a lot of people can say. He took a team to two championship games as a young quarterback. Not everybody can do that. He had some big wins here, a lot of come-from-behind wins, things like that that he can be really proud of.
"But he's also got a chance to start again somewhere else.
Rex Ryan then elaborated on Smith's finish to 2013, and the offseason and preseason and '14 regular season ahead, which morphed into his already optimistic feelings about the rest of the team he said so-long to back in North Jersey on Dec. 30 after the rousing season-ending win at Miami the day before.
"I think everybody's going to be surprised at where Geno's at. I'm happy where Geno left off at and we'll see where he is when we get back, but I'm excited about him," Ryan said. "I was so excited about the progress he made at the end of the year and the guys, our beatwriters, they know. We saw it coming. I went on record as seeing it coming, but everyone saw it coming, all the Jet fans saw it coming. He was getting better.
The coach acknowledged Smith's dropoff to start the season's second half but added, "Johnny Unitas would've had a dropoff. We had a lot of injuries. No excuses, but that's reality." But the way Smith and the Green & White finished and the spirit with which they left the Atlantic Health Training Center was inspirational.
"That's why I was so confident at the end of the year that we were playing our best football. I think that's why if I could say anything to our fans, it's, "Hey, look, we can't wait to get started. We can't wait," he said. "I saw it through our entire football team, that it was one of the rare times when the season's over, you're beat to death and, all right, I need a little break, this will be good to get away from it. Our guys wanted to keep going with it. Every one of our guys would have said, "Let's start the season right now."
"That's the feeling that we had on this football team and that's why, watch out for the Jets, man. I'm just telling you.
A fuller transcript of Rex Ryan's interview with reporters in Orlando can be read here on newyorkjets.com.