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Rex Ryan: ' In My Heart, I Believe We'll Be Champs'

Here are some excerpts from New York Jets coach Rex Ryan’s press conference today, the day following his team’s second consecutive loss in an AFC Championship Game.

Opening remarks:

First off, I want to thank everybody for your coverage of our team. Most of the time they were good comments, not always, but sometimes we deserved those bad ones (smile). I do want to thank you for the coverage that you guys give us in this organization.

After looking at that game, boy, it was brutal to watch. That first half in particular, it wasn’t like we changed a whole lot of calls defensively, it was we changed the way we played. I’m kind of at a loss for words on why we played that poorly. You’ve got to give them credit. (Rashard) Mendenhall made some great runs. We had him hit in the backfield a number of times and he’d spin out for nine (or) 10 yards. It was uncharacteristic of our team. We got it together. I was proud and I think we all recognized the heart of our football team (with the way) that we responded. We thought we were going to win the game in the second half, but to their credit, they made enough plays at the end of the game. One thing I told our players was to be proud to be a Jet. There’s a lot to be proud of. The fact that we didn’t reach our goal this year, clearly that’s a disappointment, but it doesn’t mean we had a bad season. We had a heck of a season when you look at it. How close are we to realizing our goal? We’re pretty darn close. We’re the only team of the final four teams that went (to the Conference Championship Games) last year, to make it back to the final four. I think that’s something for (to be optimistic about) that we’re a pretty good football team. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. Now, we weren’t good enough to get it done (this year), but that doesn’t mean we won’t be good enough to get it done next year. We beat some pretty good teams along the way. I think the fact that we played five road games out of the last six, including trips to Chicago, Pittsburgh twice, New England, Indianapolis, that’s about as tough as it gets. We have ourselves to blame.

We’ve got to find a way to win our division and that’s no easy task. This isn’t just about beating New England because, quite honestly, we’ve done a pretty good job of it. It seems like nobody else in the league can beat them, so we’ve got to find ways to beat Green Bay, to beat Baltimore, to beat these other teams that we lost to. I think that’s going to be a huge challenge to us. I challenged our guys, with the uncertainty of the CBA, to hold each other accountable, to talk to each other, to stay in touch, (and) to do those things. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Nobody does. But, (I told them) to hold each other accountable and that you represent yourself, (but) you also represent this organization on and off the field. I have to be mindful of that as well, obviously, with my past history. Be proud to be a Jet because I know I am.

On if he is optimistic that the team will be able to keep their core together for next season:

I don’t think there’s any doubt. I would love to have our entire 53 guys back. Is that realistic? No. We all know that’s not realistic. There’s going to be some guys that are going to make a lot more money than we can afford to pay, but it doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate them, because we do. There’s probably going to be a guy who may retire (and) a guy that for whatever reason we move on from. I think this is a heck of a football team, and I would love to have this entire group back next season. I recognize that’s not realistic.

On if it is important for the players to shake off the loss or if he wants them to hold on to it:

I think you want to look at both ends of it. I think you want to realize how close we are and watch the Super Bowl game. I’ve taken the opposite approach. I haven’t watched the last two of them because of the pain of it. But in a way, you’ve got to appreciate where you were and the kind of season you had and realize how close it is. Is that team really that much better than us? I don’t believe that’s the case. Let it drive you into realizing that it’s not a fluke that we’re the only team to go back-to-back in the final four. That’s not a fluke. That means we’re a heck of a football team. It means we’re a consistent football team. The great thing is, I think we’re on the uphill climb, not the downhill. Everything that talks about winning, we’ve won 13 games this year. The fact that we beat Indy at Indy, the fact we beat New England at New England, there are a lot of positives to take from this season and things that I would be encouraged about. Are we guaranteed we’re going to go to the Super Bowl? Maybe not. Maybe when I said that, “Soon to be champs,” I just don’t know when that (will be), but I believe it. In my heart, I believe we’ll be champs.