Wednesday, January 18, 2006

COLOSSAL BLUNDER

Ahh, I love the Patriots being in the same division as the Jets. The Jets unload the worst coach in the NFL to an unsuspecting Kansas City Chiefs team, and what do they do to replace him? Sign the overmatched defensive coordinator of their division rivals. Let there be no doubt that Eric Mangini may one day be a great coach in the NFL, but he will not be one in 2006. Maybe with another year or two of experience as defensive coordinator he would be ready, but I doubt he is right now.

The Patriots defense was in disarray until Bill Belichick stepped away from the offense at mid-season and took over control of the defense. This was a year for on-the-job training for Mangini. The Jets, however, panicked and grabbed Mangini minutes into this off-season without a thought for whether he was the right man for the job. The Jets are reeling from knowing they made a huge mistake by not jettisoning Happy Herm two years ago and grabbing Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, or Nick Saban when they were available. They realize now the nature of their mistake.

Is it me, or does anyone else see this move as a repeat of the Bill Belichick-Cleveland Browns disaster in the nineties. Mangini, like Belichick was at the time, is not ready to take the next step. He just has not had the opportunity to learn on the job how to be a leader. Working with a secondary dominated by Ty Law and then transitioning to defense based on the Romeo Crennel blueprint still lying around is not enough to make someone head coach material. The Jets may say they would rather hire Mangini now before he is ready rather than risk losing him, but I think that is bull.

The Jets are in desperate need of discipline and a coach with the patience to rebuild a squad with major salary cap issues and an offense with no healthy or talented quarterbacks, a rapidly aging star running back, a patchwork offensive line, and overpaid and underperforming receivers (offense, of course, which Mangini has never coached). The defense will likely undergo a radical shift from the Happy Herm cover-two scheme to the attacking 3-4 favored by the Belichick Disciples. Will John Abraham return? Can they afford him? Can Dwayne Robertson play the 3-4 nose guard? Other than Vilma, are there any linebackers with any talent on the Jets? Will Ty Law come back to play for his old coach at a discount or just take the biggest pile of cash (last year the answer was: Go for the Cash. Why would it be any different this year)?

Of course, Mangini has to decide what to do with the current Jets coaches and then try to pry some coaches from Belichick (that is when the border wars will really heat up). Romeo Crennel had enough time in football to nurture numerous relationships outside the Belichick tree, so he was able to staff his coaching ranks without pilfering the Pats coaches, and ditto for Charlie Weis. Mangini, I am not so sure will be able to get enough talented coaches in New York without messing with the Pats staff.

Mangini also has the added pressure of coaching in New York. The Jets are competing with the Giants for the back-pages. How Mangini will handle the glare of the spotlight is an unknown as Belichick keeps his assistant coaches far from the glare of the news cameras. Weis is a natural in front of a camera, but that was obvious way back. Crennel, while not as glib as Charlie, is a commanding presence in front of the team and in front of a microphone, and handled the transition seamlessly. Mangini is still an unknown. Replacing Happy Herm, who was always so happy to hang with the media, should be an interesting sub-plot in the transition to Jet-land.

As far as who will take over at defensive coordinator for the Patriots, I am guessing Rob Ryan will come over from Oakland (since they are yet again in a position to clean house) and return to take the position that was likely promised to him if he had been patient and stayed with the Pats rather than taking over the Warren Sapp led mess in Oakland. If not him, I am sure Bill Belichick has disciples floating around both in the NFL (Cleveland, Miami, and other locales) and in the college ranks (LSU, Iowa, Fresno State, and other locales).

Do not get me wrong, I would much prefer that Mangini had stayed in New England as it would have been best for the defense and he is without a doubt one of, if not the best, secondary coaches in football. The jury is still out on him as a defensive coordinator, however, let alone as a head coach. But, the Jets should be applauded for trying. There is no doubt that Romeo Crennel will have the Brown respectable next season, that Nick Saban has already worked miracles in Miami, and that Charlie Weis is the best thing to hit Notre Dame since Tim Brown signed his letter of intent back in the eighties. The Belichick tree is ripe for the plucking, but the question remains if the Jets plucked an apple that was not quite ripe.

* * *

New England Patriots: On Vacation as Free Agency Begins - Full Press Coverage

The 2019 NFL year has begun with the advent of free agency and as usual the New England Patriots are one of the quietest teams. While teams ...