NEW YORK – Rex Ryan wants the sniping to stop.
The New York Jets coach insists Mark Sanchez has the support of the organization, and the embattled quarterback shouldn't feel uncomfortable when he returns to the locker room. Some teammates and members of the organization anonymously questioned Sanchez's work ethic and leadership abilities in a Daily News story this week.
"I'll say this, I don't know how many don't feel confident in Mark Sanchez," Ryan said on a conference call Friday introducing new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. "I'll tell you this, if it's not all of them, it's the majority that have a great deal of confidence in Mark Sanchez. And when he walks through that door, his head is going to be held high. There's no question about it. That's what I know."
The season ended on a sour note for Sanchez and the Jets (8-8), who failed to make the playoffs for the first time in Ryan's three years as coach. Sanchez struggled down the stretch with seven interceptions in the Jets' final three games — all losses.
He had been criticized all season by fans and media for not progressing as much as many expected, and then came the report Wednesday in which a few unidentified players bashed him.
"We do have an open-door policy and we encourage our players to express themselves," Ryan said. "Saying things and not putting your name on it? That's not being a Jet. So, that's going to change without question."
General manager Mike Tannenbaum believes the hiring of Sparano will help Sanchez's progress.
"We are going to fill this locker room with gym rats, and that's what Mark is," Tannenbaum said. "He has all the attributes and traits we want which is hard work, a love for football. He needs to be more consistent and he will be the first one to tell you that. With that said, he has done a lot of good things over three years and we are going to learn where he could be better and we will move forward with coach Sparano here."
Ryan regrets not having more of a feel for what was going on with the team off the field, particularly as tensions started to rise in the locker room. Things reached a boiling point in the season finale, when wide receiver Santonio Holmes was benched late in the game for arguing with teammates in the huddle. Even rookie backup quarterback Greg McElroy said in a radio interview last week that there was a "corrupt mindset" in the Jets' locker room.
"I tried to lay back and be maybe more of a head coach than being true to myself," Ryan said. "I need to be in the locker room. I need to be around more, be involved more in the day-to-day, like right there in the meeting rooms and everything else, and that's what I plan on doing."
Ryan attributed some of the team's issues to the fact it wasn't as close of a group as it had been in previous seasons.
"I misjudged it this year," he said. "I've taken full responsibility for that and that will not happen in 2012."