FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Rex Ryan expects Brian Schottenheimer to be running the New York Jets’ offense again next season.
Unless, of course, the embattled offensive coordinator becomes a head coach elsewhere.
Schottenheimer has been widely criticized by fans and some media as the Jets’ offense has struggled all season and quarterback Mark Sanchez has not progressed the way the team expected. Some reports have speculated that Schottenheimer’s job could be in serious jeopardy if the Jets fail to make the playoffs.
“I’ll say that, obviously, if he gets a head coaching job, then ‘See you later,’” Ryan said Friday. “I’ll be happy to see that. Do I expect him back? It’s probably 50-50 on that, because I think there is an opportunity for Brian to get a head coaching job this year. I thought it the first two years, but it wasn’t to be. He certainly will be a qualified applicant to be a head coach, that’s for sure.”
Schottenheimer has turned down a few interview opportunities in previous years to remain with the Jets, including Buffalo’s vacancy after the 2009 season. But with increasing criticism of the 27th-ranked offense and Schottenheimer’s play calling, he potentially could look elsewhere this time around.
Although Ryan mostly sidestepped the issue earlier in the week, Friday marked his most definitive show of support for Schottenheimer. When asked what would happen ifSchottenheimer does not get a head coaching job this offseason, Ryan responded: “Then, I expect him back.”
Schottenheimer signed a two-year contract extension in the offseason that would keep him with the Jets through the 2013 season, and he said Thursday he would like to remain with the team.
“I’ve said all along, I love being here,” he said. “All I’m worried about is this weekend, because that is what I can control.”
The Jets (8-7) will play the Dolphins (5-10) in Miami on Sunday needing a win and plenty of help from other teams if they are to make the postseason for the third straight year.
Schottenheimer doesn’t think he needs his offense to have a great game to save his job, and he has taken similar heat at times in his previous five seasons with the Jets. But the public outcry against him has been stronger than ever — a Facebook page has been set up to support the cause — and owner Woody Johnson could potentially look to send a message if New York fails to reach the postseason after consecutive trips to the AFC title game.
Most players have publicly supported Schottenheimer, saying there’s plenty of blame to pass around for their subpar performance.
“We appreciate him being the type of guy to stand up in front of us and say, ‘You know what, guys? My mistake on that. That was a bad call by me,’” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of Schottenheimer. “He’s done that plenty of times. So who are we to criticize? When I miss a block, that’s my own fault. I missed the block. We just have to hold each other accountable and have each other’s backs at all times.”
Schottenheimer, the son of former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer, was surprisingly upbeat when he met with the media Thursday and insisted he wasn’t letting the criticism get to him.
“Rex and I talk about that all the time,” Schottenheimer said. “We learn so much about this game, just growing up around our fathers, that maybe it allows you to handle things like this a little bit better than most.”
Notes: LB Garrett McIntyre (knee) is questionable for Sunday’s game after being limited in practice. CB Antonio Cromartie (hamstring) and S Eric Smith (knee) also were limited, but Ryan says both will play. … S Jim Leonhard was in the locker room for the first time since surgery two weeks ago on the torn patellar tendon in his right knee that ended his season. He was on crutches and said his recovery would be up to six months. Leonhard, coming off his second straight serious season-ending injury, is due to become a free agent in March. “I’m 100 percent confident that I’m going to be playing football somewhere next year,” he said. “Obviously, with the history here, you’d like it to be here, but you never know.” Added Ryan: “A guy like Jimmy Leonhard, I expect that he will be able to come back. I don’t think he is through playing.” … The Jets announced their team awards, which included CB Darrelle Revis being named MVP by his teammates, Tomlinson selected “most inspirational” and TE Dustin Keller named the “Walter Payton Man Of The Year” for his extensive charity work.