Rex, Woody excited for Jets' new 'beginning'


Rex, Woody excited for Jets' new 'beginning'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson met the media Tuesday, wearing Jets-green ties and presenting an unusually united front for a coach and owner coming off an abysmal season that produced far more in the way of turbulence than touchdowns.

The general manager is gone, along with the offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators.

Ryan isn't going anywhere because Johnson really likes him.

More than that, ``I trust him,'' Johnson said.

``I think Rex is perfect for the New York Jets,'' he said. ``He is 100 percent this team.''

So, basking in that comfort zone, Ryan laid out his plans for the future of the 6-10 New York Jets, speaking mostly in generalities and giving few, if any, specifics about two guys named Sanchez and Tebow.

Ryan made big, bold pronouncements - the kind he made when he was hired four years ago:

- ``We are going to be a dangerous football team. I can promise you that. I'm going to tell you, you're not going to want to play the Jets.''

- ``We're not going to be bullied. Fans don't like for their team to be embarrassed. We were embarrassed at times last year. That's not going to happen. We might not win every game, and no team does. But you've got to stand for something. We're going to be the team you don't want to play.''

He managed to stop short of guaranteeing a Super Bowl trip.

Ryan told the packed press conference room at the training facility that, yes, he thought he might get fired after the season because he ``failed'' to leave his imprint on all aspects of the team, particularly on offense. That, and perhaps the fact the Jets haven't made the playoffs in two straight seasons.

``I don't think I've done as good a job of implementing who I am throughout this team,'' Ryan said. ``I want a physical, aggressive, attack style.''

To get it, he's wiping the slate clean, zoning out all the bad vibes tied to Mark Sanchez being an ineffective starting quarterback and leader, and Tim Tebow being his invisible backup.

``I'm approaching this day like it's the first day. Period,'' Ryan said. ``Like my first day as a head coach. This is a new chance for me. This is a beginning, certainly not an end.''

It was the end for general manager Mike Tannenbaum and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who were both fired, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whose contract was not renewed, and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, who retired.

Johnson said Ryan will have a say in hiring the new GM. San Francisco director of player personnel Tom Gamble has been considered by many to be the front-runner, but he has attracted interest from several teams. So has Atlanta director of player personnel David Caldwell, who was hired Tuesday by Jacksonville.

The team also met with Marc Ross, the Giants' director of college scouting, and in-house candidate Scott Cohen, the Jets' assistant GM. Johnson acknowledged that the team has told candidates they will have to be willing to work with Ryan, who brushed off any talk that he could be considered a lame-duck coach.

``I'm pretty sure I'll have the exact same agenda as the general manager,'' Ryan said. ``We want to win.''

Sparano was fired Tuesday after one season in which the offense ranked among the league's worst, and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is also out after four seasons.

``I have failed in that area,'' Ryan said.

Neither Sparano nor Cavanaugh could get Sanchez to make the next step in his development, and the quarterback actually regressed this season - culminating in the first benching of his career. Sanchez's 52 turnovers the last two seasons are the most in the NFL. Ryan and Johnson insisted money wouldn't factor into any decisions on personnel - despite the fact Sanchez is owed $8.25 million in guarantees and would cost the Jets a $17.1 million salary cap hit if they cut him.

``We'll play the player that fits what we do best,'' Ryan said, refusing to commit to Sanchez.

The Jets also couldn't figure out a way to effectively use Tebow, who failed to get into the end zone all season and stood mostly on the sideline, though he was supposed to be a major part of Sparano's offense. Tebow is expected to be traded or released - but personnel moves will largely depend on the next general manager.

``It is way too early to say what any of our players' futures are,'' Ryan said.

Ryan hinted that Pettine's replacement would come from within the franchise, likely secondary coach Dennis Thurman. Westhoff will be replaced by his assistant, Ben Kotwica.

Ryan's much-discussed tattoo of his wife wearing a Sanchez jersey - photographed while he was vacationing in the Bahamas - also came up. The coach laughed at the question, saying he's had it on his right arm for nearly three years.

``I know what you're thinking. Obviously, if Sanchez doesn't play better that number is changing,'' Ryan said with a laugh. ``I've been married 25 years and, in my eyes, my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world.''


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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.