Ryan NFL Combine News Conference

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Transcript of Jets head coach Rex Ryan's news conference at the NFL Combine workouts in Indianapolis on Friday morning:    

On what he's up against as new coach of the Jets against the other teams in the AFC East…

I'd rather focus on what they are up against [laughing]. We are going to have a team that's going to be a physical football team. We are not going to back down from any challenge. I understand and respect the conference. Anytime you go up against Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells a team there in Miami, Buffalo. We know it's very competitive, but right to be honest with you I am focused on where our team is putting in the style of play we want, regardless of who we are playing.

On what Ray Lewis would add to the defense…

Right now, I'd rather add our draft picks because I'd rather not talk about any potential free agent out there with the tampering rules with everything else the way they are. I'd rather just hold on to our draft picks right now. I'll avoid that question.

On bringing in Jim Leonhard…

Let me hit the rewind button here if you don't mind. I'd like to keep our draft picks.

On if there is another player that resembles Ray Lewis in the draft…

I think somebody has the first name.

On the biggest adjustment so far…

I think first off you take a job on paper this would be the staff that if you ever got that position you're fortunate enough to get a head coaching job that this is the staff you feel confident in and when I got there I started interviewing guys on the previous staff that may have an interest. You start that way with a plan in place, but then there is other coaches that become available. I want to surround myself with the best possible coaches that I can and just like you do with your players. You want your best players that you think you can win with. It was great. There is no way that I could envision putting together this kind of coaching staff. This is an all star staff that I feel extremely fortunate to have.

I think this staff can match up with any staff in the National Football League and I know that is a big statement, but when you are able to keep a Brian Schottenheimer who has a great reputation. To add a Mike Pettine from Baltimore who has been with me forever. Both those guys are rising stars in this league. You always here that quote, but that is the truth. And then Bill Callahan who to me is one of the premier offensive line coaches in the National Football League. That's a great start. And then Mike Westhoff comes aboard. I talked to John Harbaugh about him and I said, "This Mike Westhoff guy, I can't believe his résumé." He goes, "Keep him, whatever you do, keep him." He came in, we met, and we hit it off right away. I was fortunate enough that Mike wanted to stay.

And what I try to do, too, is extend everybody. They are not just on their remaining contracts that we try to extend everybody and let them all know if they were out there they would be treated no differently than the new coaches coming in. It started there. We were able to grab guys there and it was a long process selecting your coaches. We were able to add Anthony Lynn and Henry Ellard on the offensive staff with the reputations they have. I remember Wilbert Montgomery talking to me about Henry Ellard and how he raved about him and then when I met him I almost felt like I knew him, but that was a great hire for us. Anthony Lynn's reputation is a Bill Parcells guy who thinks we knew in our opinion that we got the best running back coach that was available.

Matt Cavanaugh, our former coordinator in Baltimore in 2000 gets on board to coach the quarterbacks and then on defense, obviously I was very familiar with Mike Pettine and Dennis Thurman and then to add a Kerry Locklin that I coached with 27 years ago to coach the defensive line and a Jeff Weeks who actually was a college roommate of mine.

It's going to be a great staff and I feel very fortunate. I am about as confident guy as there is, but I am confident in my abilities, but I am a lot more confident in the abilities of these men. It's not something that these guys are working for me, they are working with me. It's our collective efforts that will lead this football team. I just think it's a great opportunity for us. I think we put together a group of great teachers and with that being said that was basically my phase one of taking over this new job. It even took a little longer than I anticipated.

On his QB situation...

I have confidence in these three guys and the great thing is being able to keep Brian. (Kellen) Clemens is going to be in the same system going now on year four so it's not like you are taking a rookie and trying to throw him in. You basically know what you have. We won against Kellen Clemens in Baltimore and he almost beat us. I think there might have been a dropped pass away from that game being a little closer than we wanted. I can tell you that. He has some run ability and I think he has the arm to be a good one.

Brett Ratliff did was lead the AFC in passer rating in the preseason last year. He hasn't seen any game action. Last year was probably tough when he had Brett Favre sitting in there to replace him. Brett Ratliff put up some great numbers, monster numbers in the preseason. He had a quarterback rating of, I am not sure, I think it was 122.5 and if he can do that in the regular season we can win a lot of games.

We have Erik Ainge, a fifth-round pick, but he has the size. He has led a Tennessee team for a long time and obviously in that family the bloodline looks pretty good. I am very confident in those three young quarterbacks.  

On if he thinks his QB starter is on the roster...

Yes, I do. I think if you ask the organization, it's probably split right down the middle who they think can do it. And then you've got Erik Ainge. It's funny because he's the dark horse, maybe he doesn't get the exact reps of the other two guys, but he's definitely going to get an opportunity as well. It's definitely an open competition.

On if he wants to bring in a veteran QB...

Really, the first thing I would think is to do what? To be the backup quarterback and things? So what I look for is if I can bring in a guy with 16 years' NFL experience and, let's just say, two Super Bowls, I'd bring that guy in. And that's what I did in hiring Matt Cavanaugh. We have a veteran quarterback presence right there, so I'm very comfortable with Matt being the mentor for these young quarterbacks.

On if he's got his kind of players on the Jets roster right now...

It's interesting. There's no magic formula for this. You make assumptions and things like that. But I've been doing it a long time and I just want guys that I think can represent our football team, you know, that play like a Jet. That's going to mean something. That's going to mean they're physical, tough, passionate type people, and that's what we're looking for. In the past we've always tried to build our defense that way in Baltimore. We're going to try to build our team that way with the Jets. And I know that's the formula for success that we had in Baltimore and we're going to look for the same kind of players with the Jets moving forward.

I think we've got a great start on it right now. I think the strength of our football team is probably our offensive line, and that's a great thing to begin right there — four former first-round picks in the offensive line, two Pro Bowlers and a couple of near-misses. I think that's a great way to start. And I look at our backfield — we have two Pro Bowl tailbacks in Leon Washington and Thomas Jones. And our receiving corps is good. To me it looks like we're pretty well set over there.

And then our defense. When you can lead your team with a Shaun Ellis and a Kris Jenkins up front and have David Harris and Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas there in that second level and then in the back end have Kerry Rhodes and [Darrelle] Revis, I think we've got a pretty good foundation there.

On how soon the Jets defense will play at the level he wants...

I think next year. I think next year if we bring in the kind of players that we're talking about, we only need to add maybe one or two guys but the foundation's already there. I just think that maybe the mentality that we're going to play with, maybe the style of play we're going to play with, it's going to help the guys we already have. The proof'll be in the pudding. But you know me. I'm not one to shy away from expectations. I think we'll be terrific and i think we're going to have a defense that our fans can be proud of.

On the traits a pass rusher on his defense needs...

I think it starts, regardless of position, you want smart, athletic, tough, competitive, relentless-type guys. Gym-rat-type mentalities is what you're looking for. As far as a pass rusher, we had a guy named Michael McCrary in Baltimore. He only weighed 230 or something, he had a bunch of knee injuries, his feet went sideways. But I know one thing — he found a way to get to the quarterback. If he had to dig a trench to get there, he was going to do that.

And I think that's the way you rush the passer. You have to have that kind of mentality. You've got to just stay persistent and get after it down after down. And you're counting on the back end to make the quarterback reload and the back end's counting on the front end to get there. It's a combination. Nobody's ever got a sack without the back end doing their job and nobody's ever gotten an interception without the defensive line putting pressure on the quarterback. It works hand in hand, and I think we're going to have a defense that'll play to those traits.

On if the players at the combine truly understand what it's going to take to play in the NFL...

Yeah, I think some of 'em can walk out here and you're like "Hooo, this kid's got no idea what it's going to take." But some of 'em, you just know that's your kind of person. Everybody at this level has ability, they really do. But I try to separate the guys that have the will, you know, the will to prepare to win, to do the little things. Does the guy love football? I think those are things you really look at. I look for a fan of football, a guy that understands the history of this game, the gym-rat-type mentality, coaches' kids.

Now granted, I was a coach's kid, couldn't play a lick, I never got invited to the combine, either. So you're looking for guys like that, but I think you're wrong if all you do is look for just the so-called super-talented guys without having the passion. And do guys want to be a Jet? Are they going to understand what we're trying to get accomplished? Are they the kind of players we're looking for, the kind of team players we're looking for? And those are guys that sometimes they might not be rated as high as other guys, but those are the kinds of winners you try to surround yourself with.

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