Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Rookie Geno Smith started every game and improved late in the season, but apparently not enough to earn a commitment from the New York Jets as their starting quarterback for 2014.
“We’ll look at quarterbacks, yes, we will look at quarterbacks,” general manager John Idzik said Tuesday, alluding to his offseason plans.
Idzik and coach Rex Ryan addressed the media to wrap up the season. While they both spoke positively of Smith, Idzik and Ryan stopped short of saying he will go into training camp as the starter.
At one point in the 35-minute news conference, Idzik referred to Smith as “a quarterback on our roster.” This came one day after Smith received strong support from teammates.
“We’re all excited about having Geno as part of the New York Jets,” Idzik said, “but we will always look to improve any position.”
Idzik and Ryan, seated side by side, turned the news conference into a Jets infomercial, putting a positive spin on their 8-8 season and painting a bright picture for the future.
Ryan will be part of the immediate future — the team announced his return after Sunday’s win at Miami — but there are questions about his contract situation. Ryan is signed for only one more year, creating the possibility of a lame-duck season.
Idzik declined to discuss Ryan’s contract, and he sidestepped a question on whether he reached out to potential head-coaching candidates before announcing Ryan’s return. A simple “no” wouldn’t put the matter to rest, but Idzik said he doesn’t reveal internal conversations.
It became an issue because, on the eve of the Jets’ Week 16 game, Ryan said at a team meeting that he’d heard rumblings the organization was looking for his replacement.
“My assumption all along was this is our football coach, this is who I’m working with,” said Idzik, who was hired last January under the mandate that he keep Ryan for at least one season.
Ryan, all smiles, said he’d be “comfortable” without a contract extension. He described this as a great opportunity, adding “Regardless of what my contract situation is, I can’t wait for the season.”
The Jets are reportedly prepared to offer Ryan a one-year extension, through 2015, but as of late Monday, that offer hadn’t been extended, according to a source.
They also refused to address potential changes to the coaching staff. At least seven assistants, including defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman and special-teams coach Ben Kotwica, have expiring contracts.
Ryan probably will try to keep his offensive staff intact to help the development of Smith, who finished with four solid games. He committed only two turnovers in that stretch after having 23 in the first 12 games. He improved by “leaps and bounds” in the area of ball security, according to Ryan.
“I’m confident that he got better,” Ryan said. “I know he got better, and I think he’ll continue to get better.”
Smith, who finished with a league-low passer rating of 66.5, said Monday he has a “bright future” with the Jets. Asked whether he expects another quarterback competition, Smith gave the company line, saying he always expects to compete.
This year, Smith won the job by default after Mark Sanchez, the presumptive starter, suffered a season-ending shoulder surgery in the preseason.
With the 18th pick in the draft, the Jets could be in position to select a quarterback. They also will have more than $30 million in cap room, so they could go the free-agency route.
The only other experienced quarterback on the roster is Sanchez, who likely will be a salary-cap casualty. Idzik declined to address Sanchez’s future. He met Monday with the former starter, who helped the Jets to four playoff wins in 2009 and 2010.
“We’ll get to that in time,” he said. “Our focus is to get him healthy and we’ll take it from there.”
Sanchez said recently that he wants to return to the Jets. But he’s owed a $2 million roster bonus in March, which likely will prompt the team to cut him. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, both with huge cap charges, also could be released.
Only four starters will be free agents, including right guard Willie Colon, who suffered a biceps tear in Sunday’s game and will have surgery, a source told ESPN.com.
- Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
- Syracuse University graduate