Rex Ryan wasn’t interested in discussing his future, whether he even has one with the New York Jets after the season.
For a coach sitting squarely on the hot seat, Ryan was loose and excited after what might have been his home finale at MetLife Stadium.
Geno Smith threw two touchdown passes to David Nelson and ran for another score, and the Jets topped the Cleveland Browns, 24-13, on Sunday.
“I told you, this team’s on the climb, it’s on the rise,” Ryan said. “I think it was pretty clear, at least to me, that that’s what we saw today.”
With Ryan’s job status uncertain, the Jets (7-8) showed no signs of a team playing out the string. The players and coaches took a victory lap and high-fived fans after the game.
“We were picked to be the worst team in the NFL,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. “It says a lot about this team’s character and the way we rallied under Rex. I guarantee you everyone loves playing for Rex.”
Smith had his first game with at least two TD passes since October, with no turnovers or sacks.
“No turnovers for him, so I guess he put his foot in my mouth,” Browns safety Tashaun Gipson said. “I have nothing but respect for him after this game.”
The rookie was 20-for-36 for 214 yards and also ran for 48 yards — including a 17-yard scoring scamper in the fourth quarter.
“A tremendous performance,” Ryan said.
Chris Ivory rushed for 109 yards on 20 carries for the Jets, who were eliminated from the playoff picture last week. Nelson, cut by the Browns after training camp, finished with four catches for 33 yards.
Ryan wouldn’t address a published report that he told his players at the team meeting Saturday night that the “word on the street” is he’s out after next Sunday’s game at Miami.
None of the players would even touch the subject, saying they’d keep those types of discussions behind closed doors.
“What I do know, guys, is that I’m coaching this team and my job is to focus on the present, what’s right now,” Ryan said, adding that he doesn’t know if he’ll be back next season.
Jason Campbell was intercepted twice as the Browns (4-11) lost their sixth straight, and the offense was clearly hurt with star tight end Jordan Cameron out with a concussion.
Edwin Baker had a touchdown run, and Josh Gordon was somewhat held in check by rookie Dee Milliner, catching six passes for 97 yards.
“Things just started to unravel today, the whole thing that’s been happening over the last month,” Campbell said. “Being so close and not finishing it, I think is kind of pressing on guys. We just want to win so bad.”
With the game tied at 10-10, Nelson got his second touchdown catch of the game on the second play of the fourth quarter, a five-yarder. Smith last threw at least two touchdown passes at Atlanta in Week 5 — on Oct. 7.
Two plays after Baker’s two-yard touchdown run was nullified by a false-start penalty on Gary Barnidge, Billy Cundiff kicked a 21-yard field goal to make it 17-13.
New York took control with a drive of over six minutes capped by Smith zipping up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown, his fifth rushing score, to make it 24-13 with 3:19 left. The Jets converted four third-down plays on the drive, including Smith’s TD.
Ed Reed intercepted Campbell in the closing moments to seal the win.
“I’m not happy with that game,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “It’s unacceptable. It was a tough game to swallow.”
The Jets scored twice in 78 seconds to tie the game before halftime. Nelson capped a 13-play drive by catching a six-yard pass, and after the Browns went three-and-out, Smith got the Jets in scoring position again, taking off for an 11-yard gain when was shoved by Gipson out of bounds.
The quarterback appeared to embellish it, dropping to the ground. But the late hit angered the Jets’ sideline, including a fired-up Ryan, and a few players on both sides shoved each other a bit. It ended up being an unnecessary roughness penalty on Gipson that put the ball at the 14.
Nick Folk kicked a 21-yarder as time expired to head into halftime tied at 10-10.