For the first time since the hiring of new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan spoke about several issues swirling around the team. In a tenuous offseason that has started under a shroud of uncertainty, one thing was made crystal clear this afternoon: There will be change in 2012.
"I have a great deal of confidence in me," said Ryan. "I've always been successful. I can't wait for next season to start. I can't wait for our players to get here."
The page has already been turned. The collective eye of the front office is fixed on the future and the metamorphosis from an 8-8 team to a postseason club has begun. The first major move was announced on Tuesday night with the departure of former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
"Brian, myself and Mike – this was a mutual decision," said Ryan, adding of the Sparano interview. "When we met with Tony, I was like, 'Wow!' I was blown away."
Sparano comes to the Jets after a tenure of almost four seasons as Miami's head coach. In 2008 he led the Dolphins to the AFC East crown and an 11-5 record, one year removed from 1-15. It was Sparano's first season, and their 10-game improvement is tied for the biggest single-season improvement in NFL history.
"What we're getting in Sparano is a really good football coach," said Tannenbaum. "He knows all facets of the game, especially on offense."
Ryan also expressed his admiration for Sparano, who held a 4-3 record against the Jets as Miami's head coach.
"I've coached against Tony a number of times and always admired the way his teams were," said Ryan. "I pride myself on having a tough, physical football team and I thought the same of his."
Besides Sparano replacing Schottenheimer, the Jets have other coaching voids to fill. Assistant head coach/offensive line Bill Callahan, who also interviewed for the Jets' coordinator job, has moved on to Dallas, where he will assume the role of the Cowboys' OC. Wide receivers coach Henry Ellard and outside linebackers coach Jeff Weeks have both moved on from the Jets as well.
It remains to be seen who will round out the remainder of the coaching staff, but Ryan and Tannenbaum said they are hard at work finding the right sideline recipe. Former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley was in for an interview this week, as were former Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee and ex-Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. Lee has since accepted the quarterbacks coach position with the Bills, but Dunbar and Haley remain viable candidates.
"We will make the decisions that are in the best interest of our team," said Ryan. "Whoever we hire, I'm excited. I'm confident we'll put together a tremendous coaching staff."
Coaching is not the only area of focus early in this offseason. Reports about the support in the locker room for QB Mark Sanchez have been a hot-button topic in recent days.
"If it's not all of them, a majority of our football team have a great deal of confidence in Mark Sanchez," said Ryan. "An anonymous source doesn't speak on behalf of the entire team. There are a lot of people that I know in this organization that have a great deal of admiration for him."
The open-door policy toward players' comments that Ryan brought with him in 2009 has allowed for a close glimpse into the psyche of the Jets. This season, it was what was being said behind closed doors that has come to light, and is not something Ryan had intended or supports.
"We encourage players to express themselves," he said. "But saying things and not putting your name on it? That's not being a Jet, and that's going to change, without question. When you look back at the 2011 season, I didn't have the pulse on the team that I normally have. That's the biggest thing we have to fix, but I also think it's the easiest."
Rex said he was not exempt from blame in this case, admitting that losing the "pulse" of the locker room was a result of him changing his approach off the field.
"I need to be in the locker room," said Ryan. "I need to be around more. I got away from that this year, thinking that as a head coach I needed to act differently, and it hurt me. What gave us a huge advantage in the first few years was how close a football team we were. I take responsibility and it won't happen in 2012."