EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Moments after his team's 24-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns, Rex Ryan insisted Sunday afternoon that he never considered it could be his last game as head coach of the New York Jets.
"I'm just trying to get a win," Ryan said. "My thought is, shoot, let's get out here and (do) whatever we can do. And that's it."
But Ryan's words and actions after the Jets' 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns were those of a man making a pitch to keep his job -- and preparing himself for the possibility that it may not be enough.
"I told you this team's on the climb, it's on the rise," Ryan said after the Jets came back from a 10-0 second quarter deficit. "And I think it was pretty clear, at least to me."
But will it be clear to owner Woody Johnson and first-year general manager John Idzik, the latter of whom inherited Ryan when he joined the Jets in January?
History is not on Ryan's side. He led the Jets to the AFC Championship game in his first two seasons. But 2013 is the third straight season in which the Jets (7-8) will miss the playoffs and finish with a non-winning record.
Of the 41 coaches who failed to make the playoffs three straight seasons from 1990 - when the NFL expanded the postseason field to 12 teams - through last year, 19 were fired at the end of the three-season stretch.
Fox Sports reported Sunday morning that Ryan told the Jets this week that he expected to be fired after the season finale next Sunday in Miami. Ryan declined Sunday afternoon to discuss what he said to the players, but it was telling that he took a victory lap around MetLife Stadium after the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"Just a little sign of respect and letting them know that we do appreciate (the fans)," Ryan said. "Unfortunately our season ended before we wanted it to, but we certainly appreciate them."
Ryan would be safe next season - the last year of his contract - if the Jets' players had a say in the matter.
"Rex is the guy," said linebacker Calvin Pace, who is one of four active players remaining from Ryan's first season. "He needs to be the guy again. I just think everybody rallies around him. I've never played for a coach who believes in his players more than Rex."
It took a while on Sunday for the Jets to reciprocate that faith.
A pair of ill-advised gadget plays -- an incomplete pass by safety Josh Bush resulted in a failed fake punt and an 11-yard loss by rookie wide receiver Saalim Hakim on an end-around - symbolized the first 23 minutes of the game for the Jets, who were outgained 146-73 in falling behind 10-0.
But the Jets, who had mounted only one comeback from a double-digit deficit this season, scored 10 points in the final 6:47 of the first half to tie the game.
"We had a 10-point lead at the end of the first half and gave up two quick scores to tie it going into halftime," Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski said. "That was a key stretch in the game. Obviously made a difference in the game."
The Jets maintained the momentum in the second half and ended up scoring on four of their final seven possessions -- including a trio of kneeldowns by quarterback Geno Smith in the final two minutes - and outgaining the Browns 359-145 in the final 36:47.
Smith didn't throw an interception -- just the third time this season he wasn't picked off -- and finished 20-of-36 passing for 214 yards and a pair of short touchdown passes to wide receiver David Nelson. Smith also rushed 10 times for 48 yards and clinched the game with a 17-yard touchdown run with 3:19 left.
Running backs Chris Ivory (20 carries for 109 yards) and Bilal Powell (seven carries for 54 yards) combined for 163 of the Jets' season-high 208 rushing yards.
"We're down 10-0, shoot, our guys, we're ready to roll," Ryan said, "Kind of reminded me of a (ultimate) fighter: Turning purple, getting ready (to be) knocked out, but he still fought and found a way to get out and win. They had a stranglehold on us down 10-0 but our guys kept fighting, which surprised no one in our walls, that's for sure."
For the Browns, there was little surprising about their sixth straight loss and ninth in 10 games. The Browns (4-11) have held a lead in seven of their losses and blown a double-digit lead four times.
"This is not the way we want to go out," said Browns cornerback Joe Haden. "We got smacked."
Running back Edwin Baker set career highs with 17 carries for 64 yards and rushed for a 5-yard touchdown for the Browns, who moved inside the Jets' 10-yard-line on three straight series in the first half. Quarterback Jason Campbell was 18-of-40 for 178 yards while wide receiver Josh Gordon, who entered the game with an NFL-high 1,467 yards, was targeted 16 times and had six catches for 96 yards.
NOTES: The Jets hosted the Browns for just the third time since 1991. Every AFC team except Tennessee and Denver has played the Jets at MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010. ... The Browns on Saturday placed WR Davone Bess on the reserve/non-football injury list. Bess is reportedly dealing with a serious family matter in California. ... Browns CB Joe Haden (hip) re-aggravated an injury suffered last week against Chicago and said he was in pain after the game. ... Among the Jets' inactives was CB Ellis Lankster, who suffered a jaw injury against Carolina last Sunday Lankster was listed as probable on the Friday injury report. ... Jets LB Calvin Pace recorded his career-high 10th sack when he took down Browns QB Jason Campbell in the first quarter. Pace and DE Muhammad Wilkerson are the first Jets teammates with 10 sacks in a season since Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko did it in 1981. ... Browns CB Buster Skrine suffered a back injury on the Jets' first series but returned to the game later in the first quarter.