Jets Firing of Mangini The First Of Many Changes
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ— Eric Mangini stepped to the podium in the cramped interview room that connects to the Jets locker room Sunday night.
Mangini had just watched Miami clinch the AFC East on the Meadowlands turf after posting a 24-17 victory. Even before the final whistle, the Jets were knocked out of the playoffs thanks to wins by New England and Baltimore.
Gang Green was shutout of the postseason for the second consecutive year, yet unlike a 4-12 campaign that marked 2007, the Jets squandered an 8-3 start to finish 9-7 after dropping four of its final five games.
Chad Pennington, who played eight seasons for the Jets before getting cut this summer following the Brett Favre trade, torched his old team for two touchdowns, 200 passing yards and zero interceptions to lead the Dolphins into the postseason. Afterwards, Mangini was asked if he anticipated returning to finish the last year on his four-year contract.
But owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum decided to hold Mangini accountable for the Jets missing the playoffs despite Favre's acquisition and nearly $140 million spent on free agents, firing the coach less than 12 hours after the Jets left the Giants Stadium field for good.
Mangini finished his tenure 23-26, going 13-19 the last two seasons after leading the Jets to an unexpected wild card berth during his inaugural run in 2006. The - year-old coach appeared to find the right formula for success after leading his team to back-toback victories over New England and Tennessee.
Those victories put the Jets five games over .500 and atop the AFC East before Favre's interception totals spiked and the pass defense suffered frequent breakdowns as the Jets lost road games to non-con- tenders like Seattle and San Francisco. No replacement was named.
"This is about the most difficult thing you can do in being a franchise owner and that is making a change in position of perhaps the most important person in the building and that's head coach," Johnson said.
"Eric's been our coach for three years, he's done some amazing things. Nobody's worked harder. He knows his X's and he knows his O's, he's a good teacher. But Mike and I felt in our judgment that it was time now to make a change."
Mangini is out and Favre's future remains uncertain. The three-time MVP tossed just two touchdown passes compared to nine picks in the final five games.
Favre, who Tannenbaum acquired late in the preseason, said he expected to get an MRI on his right throwing shoulder before deciding to retire or come back to New York for a second season. Both Johnson and Tannenbaum said they want Favre to return.
"There is only one team that ends on a high note," said the 39-year-old Favre, who said he will go home and make a decision after consulting with his family." This is not a high note, but I consider this season, when I look back at it, whether I play or not, I'm glad that I made this decision to come here and play. I knew the odds were against us. I knew the expectations were high, but I consider that a huge challenge.
"There wasn't anything that I didn't enjoy about it. I just wish we could have gone a little further."
Mangini released a statement late Monday thanking the owner and GM for hiring him and said he was proud of having a winning record in two of his three seasons.
"The organization has terrific people and I wish the Jets nothing but success," Mangini said. "The time and effort invested by the coaches and players was tremendous and I value that beyond words… I will always appreciate the passion and support of the fans as our focus was trying to build them a championship-caliber foundation and team."
At the team's training facility in Florham Park, N.J., players like Laveranues Coles said the late-season swoon was unfairly pinned on Mangini instead of on the ones with shoulder pads and helmets.
"He doesn't deserve the total blame for the way the season went and I let him know that and I voiced that," Coles said. "He put his best foot forward. I think he put a lot of time and effort in trying to get us prepared to win ball games, but of course we came up short.
"I have a lot of confidence that he will be a head coach again in the NFL. I am sure where ever he lands he will be successful and we will stay in touch."