Jets'Eric Mangini Strives For More Success In Second Year
HEMPSTEAD, NY- Eric Mangini takes pride in developing a routine, parlaying a consistent approach into a successful rookie season.
But the second-year Jets' head coach isn't totally inflexible. As training camp commenced last Friday, quiescent sounds of classical music emanated from the loudspeakers set up along the practice field.
Was the 2006 AFC Coach of the Year going soft already? No, the hip-hop and rock eventually took Mozart's place as the practice progressed. It was just one reminder of last summer's marathon two-a-day sessions that put the Jets through a cultural shock after four years of being led by Herman Edwards.
With a full season to prepare, the players said they know what to expect, after spending most of 2006 getting acclimated from Edwards' laid-back style to Mangini's emphasis on discipline and attention to detail. Punishments like running laps and putting in nearly three-hour sessions jarred some participants last time, but now the veterans said they know the deal.
"Last year we didn't know and it just kept coming," tight end Chris Baker said. "This year we know what to expect and we know how hard it is. I guess when you know what to expect, it makes it a little easier."
Making life easier on the offense in the early going is Chad Pennington's status as the unquestioned starter. That's the dichotomy of his position last summer, when the eight-year veteran was coming off a second major surgery to his throwing shoulder.
The uncertainty with his recovery status prompted Mangini to pit Pennington in a four-way open competition for the starting position. Not only did the former Marshall stand-out reclaim his old job, he started all 16 regular season games for the first time in his career, leading the Jets to a 10-6 record and a wild-card playoff berth.
Pennington recorded a career-best 3,352 passing yards to go along with 17 touchdown passes, earning the Associated Press' Comeback Player of the Year award. Now he's entering the second year under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenhemier, which could lead to an even greater familiarity with a complex offense predicated on precision and accuracy. "We know inconsistency will not get us to where we want to go," Pennington said. "We have a lot to work on [with] details. In your second year of a system, I think your focus changes toward the details. Not just being able to regurgitate what the coaches told you to do, but being able to explain to a coach or a younger player on how to do it better."
Much of the camp's early attention went to guard Pete Kendall, who reported to camp, but criticized the team for failing to trade or release him. The offensive lineman wants a $1 million raise to his $1.7 million salary.
There is a chance Kendall will not make it to the regular season with the Jets, but Pennington will still have offensive support. The Jets' front office brought in Thomas Jones to help the running game, which could alleviate pressure on the passing attack. Jones will be expected to help fill the void left by Curtis Martin, the future Hall of Fame rusher who retired on the eve of camp.
"I'm excited to work with Chad. I've known him for a long time and he's a smart guy," Jones said. "He's a good leader so I look forward to working with him this year and hopefully, we can have some success together."
Even with the addition of a 1,000- yard back, the 31-year-old Pennington said he still needs to push himself as hard as he did last summer to sustain the strides he made as a player. Only this time, he can work on the details without worrying about losing his job. Jerricho Cotchery said having the quarterback position solidified is beneficial for the receivers as well.
"When you have one guy, you get used to him," said Cotchery, who is coming off a breakout season with 82 catches for 961 yards, including six touchdown receptions. "Everyone becomes one with that one guy in the huddle. Everyone just feeds off the quarterback."
Even Mangini, who consistently stresses internal competition as a means of improvement, said Pennington earned his status by taking the Jets to the first round of the playoffs.
"Getting to know Chad and working with him throughout the season, he's really earned that spot and just like any other person that's in one of those roles," Mangini said.
"There's always competition that's ongoing, and that's the way it is. But he did a lot of really, really good things last year, and I thought that that would be a good transition." The transition continues, starting with the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons on August 10 at Giants Stadium.