(Long Island, NY) A year ago, the entire metropolitan area media – and national, for that matter – was lauding the rookie head coach of the New York Jets. Eric Mangini was being touted as a savior for the franchise and being called ‘Mangenius’ for his turning around a 4-win team into a 10-6 playoff squad. How quickly fortunes turn in the NFL and after completing an extremely disappointing season, the entire organization will be expected to answer in Year 3 of their tenure.
Along with Mangini, general manager Mike Tannenbaum is not exempt from criticism, either. This 4-12 disaster can also be hung on his shoulders, maybe just not as much as Mangini’s.
In a season full of despair, two of the bright spots were the Jets’ two top draft picks that eventually became starters. Both cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker David Harris impressed, and Tannenbaum has to be given credit for trading up to select both of them. The criticism of the GM comes with the offensive and defensive line. The weakest links on the team were in the trenches. You will not win in this league when you cannot protect your quarterback, open holes for the running game, put pressure on the opposing quarterback and stop the run. Plain and simple.
“At any time you’re not moving the ball well as you’d like to be, there are things that need to improve, and the offensive line is one area,” said Mangini. “I think it’s the same thing as the defensive line. If they are not getting sacks, sometimes you can think they are not doing their job with the pass rush but the coverage isn’t as
tight as it should be.
“I think, overall defensively, part of our increase in sack percentage or the number of sacks was that the coverage improved,” he continued. “When there are no open receivers, you’re going to have more time to get to the quarterback, those things are going to look a lot better.”
A major change in the offensive line occurred when veteran Pete Kendall was traded to the Washington Redskins at the end of the preseason. He held the right guard spot in between youngsters D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, and the position became a revolving door of ineffective players by the end of the season.
Ferguson, in particular, stands out due to the fact that he was chosen fourth overall in the 2006 NFL draft. Mangini acknowledged that much when asked about the tackle. “I don’t think anybody is ever where they are at the top of their game in their second year,” he said. “I think he’s done some good things, but he needs to keep
developing just like all of those young guys need to keep developing.”
Mangold had a more solid season than Ferguson, but the second year center out of Ohio State does not see the line’s season as a whole as a total step back. “You [have to] look back at it, remove yourself and look at it,” he said in the locker room following the 13-10 overtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs in the final Sunday of the season. “I thought we did some good things. We obviously did some bad things. It’s something to build on.”
Perhaps the biggest question heading into the offseason is at the quarterback position. Kellen Clemens took over for the benched Chad Pennington on October 28 and did not exactly ‘light it up’ with a 60.9 quarterback rating, 5 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In comparison, Pennington – with only 10 more attempts, threw 10 touchdown passes with 9 picks for a 86.1 rating.
Who is the starter once mini camp rolls around, pending both are still with the Jets? “I’m going to look at everything, look at the games that [Clemens] played in and really look at the whole position,” Mangini said. “That will be part of the whole offensive evaluation, and a lot of that will be a function of [Clemens’] progress this offseason and the things that he’s able to do and the competition at that position and how that all plays out.”
Hopefully better than the 2007 season played out for Mangini and the Jets.