NEW YORK — Rex Ryan was humbled, his boasts little more than hot air.
Forget kings of the city. The New York Jets are now a desperate team on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since Ryan took over as coach.
"We've won eight games," Ryan said Monday. "Obviously, we were hoping to win more than that."
That was certainly the plan. Ryan guaranteed it months ago, when he declared this Jets team the most talented bunch he has coached in New York. Even better than the teams that went to the AFC championship game in each of his first two years.
The Jets (8-7) have proven themselves to be anything but. Still, at this time last week, the Jets controlled their playoff destiny — a win, and they would've likely made the postseason. Ryan claimed his Jets were the best team in New York, superior to the Giants based on their two previous playoff runs.
Not this year. They need to win at Miami on Sunday and get lots of help to keep their season alive.
"Anything can happen in the NFL," left guard Matt Slauson said. "The Packers were kind of in a similar situation last year and sneaked in through the back door and wrecked shop. The NFL is a crazy world and anyone can win any day."
Or lose, in humiliating fashion, as the Jets did on Saturday. In fact, Ryan's big words might have served as motivation in the Giants' 29-14 victory, but the coach has no regrets.
"I'll stand by everything I said," Ryan said on a conference call. "Did it work out? No, and I'll be the first one to say it never worked out. I'm responsible for that. Obviously, the Giants were the better team that day, without question. So, I deserve the criticism that I take for it. I definitely deserve it."
The thing with Ryan — love him or hate him — is that this is who he has consistently been since he got to New York three years ago. He was a breath of fresh air after Eric Mangini's tightlipped regime, a guy referred to often as a player's coach.
But despite being a win away from the Super Bowl two years in a row, some fans and media believe it's time for Ryan to pipe down. Well, don't count on that anytime soon.
"I've always said from Day 1 that I'm going to be true to myself," he said. "When I leave this job 10 or 15 years from now, I'm going to be true to myself."
Nose tackle Sione Pouha said Ryan's talk to the team Monday was "positive; it was hopeful. He was very optimistic."
At the same time, Ryan wasn't ignoring the problems his team had in the loss to the Giants, and the rest of this season. He pointed out the lack of more big plays down the field being "an area of concern" on offense, and putting teams away defensively also a major culprit. He also said he supports both quarterback Mark Sanchez and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer despite some sentiment that changes need to be made with at least one of them in the offseason.
"I have a huge amount of confidence in both guys, there's no doubt," Ryan said.
Some fans and media say Schottenheimer needs to go because the offense isn't good enough. Some have also said Sanchez is not playing the way the face of a franchise should — and might not be that guy in the end.
"I don't agree with those things," tight end Dustin Keller said. "I've always been very happy with both of them. I think Schotty's done a great job. Obviously, anytime things go wrong, it's going to fall on the shoulders of the quarterback and offensive coordinator."
Schottenheimer has been a primary target of criticism all season — and previous ones — for a sometimes unimaginative game plan that has played against his quarterback's strengths at times. The fact Sanchez threw 59 passes against the Giants on Saturday went completely against Ryan's preferred "Ground-and-Pound" approach, despite the fact that the running game with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson appeared to be working early.
"As far as Brian Schottenheimer is concerned, shoot, we'll just keep working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, and we're trying to find a way to beat Miami," Ryan said.
Ryan pointed out the Jets' marked improvement in red-zone efficiency, a category they entered Saturday's game as the league leader. But overall, New York is ranked 27th in offense and that falls on Schottenheimer.
"I guess if you are evaluating Brian, the season is, No. 1, not over," Ryan said. "I don't know if anybody works as hard as Brian Schottenheimer, and really everybody on that staff, our offensive staff."
Sanchez had a miserable fourth quarter against the Giants with three turnovers and was unable to get the offense in position to get the Jets back in it. It didn't help that he was being pressured and pounded constantly.
"I've stated it over and over, my feelings about Mark Sanchez," Ryan said. "It wasn't Mark's best day by any stretch of the imagination. But we know he's done it, and he's been doing it, and we have great confidence in him, and I have great confidence in him."
Added Slauson: "We aren't shaken by anything. If you look at what Mark has done since he has been here, he is an amazing quarterback. And even though we lost a really tough game, he's heading in the right direction."
Ryan was asked specifically on 1050 ESPN Radio about an internet report that said the Jets are privately uncertain about Sanchez's future, and the coach did not waver — even when it was suggested that the team could look into Peyton Manning in the offseason.
"There's no way we are looking to replace Mark Sanchez," he said.
To a man, the Jets acknowledge that a path to the playoffs won't be easy, and it starts with the Dolphins (5-10), who have played much better football lately. Even if they win, they also need Cincinnati, Tennessee and either Denver or Oakland to lose to get to the playoffs.
"Have we had the results we were hoping for? No, but again, the season is not over," Ryan said. "Maybe we'll look at everything, obviously, at the end of the season, but right now we are competing for it. We've got a chance and we need to find a way to get it done this week."