NEW YORK (AP) - Tony Sparano is still the Jets' offensive coordinator.
And, as unlikely as it seems, there remains a chance he could be running Rex Ryan's offense next season.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the Jets have not yet made a decision on Sparano's job status despite many fans and media having speculated that Sparano will certainly be fired after one season. That means there's a possibility, although it would appear slim, that Sparano could remain on Ryan's staff. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly discuss the status of the coaching staff.
Ryan, along with all of his assistants, are off until next Monday as they take a break following a dismal 6-10 season that was capped by general manager Mike Tannenbaum being fired Monday. Ryan, who is vacationing in the Bahamas, and owner Woody Johnson will not address the media until next Tuesday.
While Johnson said in a statement that Ryan will remain the Jets' coach next season, there still remains some uncertainty on which coaches will be back and which ones will not as the team searches for a new general manager. San Francisco director of player personnel Tom Gamble, Atlanta director of player personnel David Caldwell, Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross and former Cleveland GM Tom Heckert are expected to be among those interviewed by the Jets starting later this week.
Much of the coaching staff decisions will likely depend on who the new general manager is. It is believed Ryan will be safe - at least for next season - regardless of who is hired, but there could be changes made on the coach's staff. While Sparano's status is uncertain, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine turned down a contract extension earlier in the season, and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff retired after the season finale at Buffalo on Sunday.
Sparano was hired last March to replace Brian Schottenheimer and to turn around an offense that struggled mightily. Instead, the former Miami Dolphins head coach wasn't able to jumpstart the running game or figure out a way to use Tim Tebow consistently. Sparano was expected to use Tebow as a major part of the Jets' wildcat-style offense, but the popular backup quarterback was mostly a non-factor - failing to get into the end zone during his first and likely only season in New York.
Mark Sanchez also had a miserable season, getting benched for the first time in his career and leaving his status as the team's starting quarterback next year in serious doubt.
``He's working his butt off and starting to go through player evaluations and things like that that coaches do right after the season ends and these next couple days I'm sure they'll do that,'' Sanchez said Monday as the players cleared out their lockers. ``But he's a fighter, he's a tough guy and he's doing his best to try and help the team.''
Sparano was also working with a makeshift lineup in some cases as top wide receiver Santonio Holmes was lost for the season early with a foot injury. Tight end Dustin Keller played in only eight games because of injuries, while rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill played in just 11 and finished the season on injured reserve with a sprained knee ligament.
Sparano had no comment after the season-ending 28-9 loss to the Bills on Sunday, and many thought it was a foregone conclusion that he would be out as the team's offensive coordinator. Ryan also declined to comment on the futures of any of his coaches after the game.
``What I am as a coach or any of those things, it's for somebody else to evaluate and obviously there are a lot of people evaluating me,'' a joking Sparano said in his weekly news conference last Thursday. ``All that being said, I think that when we had those pieces which was not very long, we didn't have them together very long, meaning Tone (Holmes), Stephen and Keller, having all the players out there together at one time, I thought that we were getting really close to where we needed to be.''
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