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INDIANAPOLIS — Rex Ryan made it clear that this NFL Scouting Combine would be different — no Super Bowl promises, but it's seems too early dub him a "changed man" when it comes to the media.
"Looking back, obviously it was a huge mistake to make that guarantee," the Jets' head coach said Thursday. "At the time, we were coming off two championship games. I really thought it would be a thing that would motivate the team.
"In hindsight, it put undue pressure on our team. We lost focus and we lost focus on what we do best. It's obviously a big mistake. I think it contributed to the season we had."
While Ryan didn't make any declarations, he continued his tradition of keeping the attention on him, not the players, by taking blame for the team's collapse last season. The Jets appeared to be in the driver's seat for the wild-card spot in the AFC East before losing three in a row to end the season. In addition to the losses on the field, drama circulated throughout the locker room, leading to a wild January for the Jets in the headlines.
"We're going to have a team now that I think is going to have the potential to do great things," Ryan said, putting an extra emphasis on the word "team."
No Super Bowls, but Ryan's confidence hasn't wavered. "I look at our team and we have a great owner, we have a great staff. We have a great organization, and more importantly, we have a great group of players."
With Peyton Manning rumors circling, Ryan, along with GM Mike Tannenbaum, maintained that Mark Sanchez has the confidence of the organization moving forward — although they wouldn't close the door on bringing in another quarterback.
"We believe in Mark. He's going to continue to be a winning NFL quarterback. My general approach is, when there are opportunities for the team, I have a fiduciary duty to the team to look into them," Tannenbaum said. Ryan echoed his sentiments, emphasizing the team doing its "due diligence" when it comes to quarterbacks outside the organization.
In January, RB LaDainian Tomlinson called Sanchez "pampered" because he didn't have a legitimate challenger to his job, but neither Ryan nor Tannenbaum expressed the belief that a No. 2 quarterback was a top priority.
"I think Mark wants to be great, and I don't think if we brought in any other quarterback that would drive Mark to be any better," Tannenbaum said. "Mark's his own worst critic. He wants to be great and that's what we like about Mark and we're fortunate that he's our starter."
Tannenbaum still left the door open, though.
"He has to play better and he has to be more consistent. He will, regardless of who's behind him. With that said, could our quarterback situation as a whole look different? Absolutely. We'll see how that all unfolds," he said.
Sanchez's rocky relationship with WR Santonio Holmes stole the early offseason headlines, and the Jets' brass maintained the two will work it out, and can return to the success the duo had in 2010.
"Their first year together, they did a lot of great things. It's not like they haven't been successful together," Ryan said. "There's enough in common that they'll fix this."
Added Tannenbaum, "If you go back to 2010, they won a lot of games together as New York Jets."
Ryan might have been humbled by what happened last season and how his bravado might have affected things, but he still seemed like the same old Rex at times, showing nothing but confidence in his team, including his much-maligned signalcaller. Ryan and Tannenbaum both referred to a line many are used to hearing in defense of Sanchez — that he has four road playoff wins in his young career.
Some things never change.