FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Rex Ryan and John Idzik were all smiles, laughing a few times while wrapping up the New York Jets' season and looking to the future.
The coach and general manager presented a united front, convinced things are heading in the right direction as tag-team partners.
"The gavel has dropped on 2013," said Idzik, seated next to Ryan. "We look at 2014, and we have a fine nucleus here in the building, a fine nucleus in the locker room."
And, in Idzik's mind, the right coach to build off an 8-8 season with an eye on a return to the postseason after three straight years under Ryan without a playoff trip.
Ryan, who has one year left on his deal, was retained by owner Woody Johnson for next season after his job appeared in jeopardy. It had been speculated that Idzik could want to hire a coach of his choice this offseason, but the two gushed about their working relationship.
"I never felt that I wasn't John's coach," Ryan said. "I felt that I'm his coach regardless of how the situation was, that's kind of how I feel."
Ryan said he's "comfortable" with his current contract, although the coach and GM would not address questions about whether an extension is in the works. It is believed the team would like to give only a one-year extension, while Ryan would like a longer-term commitment.
Idzik would neither confirm nor deny reports that the Jets were considering possible replacement candidates, saying any internal discussions would remain private.
But they also insisted that despite their personality differences — the loose, joking Ryan and the mostly reserved Idzik — they're a fine match.
"We have a lot of similarities and maybe it's because we're from similar backgrounds, the same generation of football," Idzik said. "But more than that, when you're working that closely with somebody, he just makes it fun.
"Rex, you make it fun."
There weren't many clear, definitive answers given by Idzik or Ryan about the future of the franchise, and there were no Super Bowl guarantees, as Ryan made when he was first hired in 2009. But both Idzik and Ryan made it clear that they expect good things for the franchise.
"We don't put timelines on anything, but I can say this: Every season we lineup, that's our goal," Idzik said. "Our goal is to get there. Our goal is to win our division. Our goal is to play in the postseason. Our goal is bringing the prize home for our Jets fans, for New York and New Jersey and everyone that's behind us."
Whether Geno Smith is the quarterback to take the Jets to that next level remains to be seen. The two would not commit to Smith as the starter heading into next season, but were encouraged by his strong finish to his rookie season.
Smith had just 12 touchdowns and a whopping 21 interceptions and four lost fumbles. But in his last four games, Smith threw for 790 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions with three victories.
"Just like with any offense, we want to score, obviously, but we also want to prevent points and you do that by taking care of the football," Ryan said. "I thought Geno improved by leaps and bounds in this area as the season went on."
Idzik called Smith a "very resilient young man," but acknowledged that the team will explore their options throughout the roster — and that includes at the quarterback position. That could be through free agency, to bring in a proven veteran who could push Smith or even win the job. Or, perhaps in the draft.
"With that said, we're very excited to have Geno Smith as a New York Jet," Idzik said.
Idzik also said the team would consider upgrading the skill positions on offense, particularly at wide receiver and tight end, spots that were inconsistent and affected by injuries — and contributed to Smith's struggles at times.
Idzik plans to meet with Ryan through this week to discuss his coaching staff, including the fates of several of the coach's assistants who were in the final year of their contracts. That includes close friend and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman.
"The thing I'll say about this man is he wants to bring a winner here to the New York Jets," Ryan said. "He has a burning desire to do that, and to bring a perennial winner here to where we win on a consistent basis.
"As a coach, that's exactly what you want. That's music to your ears."
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