A conversation with Dan Leberfeld

Was Mangini's reputation hurt by "Spygate?" . . . What is Vilma's future? . . . this and more during this interview by Dan Leberfeld conducted by Jon Scott . . .

Q: We all know what people think of Bill Belichick now, but would you say that since the "Sypgate" videotaping incident that Eric Mangini's reputation has suffered for turning his former boss in? A: No, I don't think so. He didn't turn his boss in. The guy that broke the case was Steve Yarnell, from the Jets security department. From what I hear, Yarnell was aware of Belichick doing this prior to Mangini arriving in New York. The only thing that has hurt Eric's reputation this year is the team's performance this year. The Jets were considered a playoff contender, but obviously that didn't work out very well. He and the team's GM overrated their talent coming off a 10-6 season, and they are paying the price now. The clearly thought they better than they were, and didn't make enough improvements in the off-season.

Q: The Jets replaced Chad Pennington with Kellen Clemens earlier this season. It seems as if Clemens has struggled since being named the starter. Would it be a fair assessment of Clemens' performance to say he's struggling, or is there more to the story?

A. No Clemens has struggled. He doesn't seem to read defenses very well, and tends to lock on receivers and telegraph passes. He also tends to get happy feet. These aren't good characteristics when facing the Patriots. I get the feeling he's going to be very confused by the Patriots tricky defensive configurations.

Q: In last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns, some of the media have openly questioned the coaching decisions made in that game. What's your take on that? Did the Jets blow the game, or was it a long shot to win against the Browns anyway?

A. I'm not big on questioning play-calling, which is so easy to do after the fact. The only call I questioned while it was happening was the second on-side kick in a row. The Jets had three time-outs left, and should have kicked deep.

But the Jets didn't lose the game because of bad play-calling. They lost the game because Kellen Clemens couldn't get his team in the end zone against the NFL's 32nd ranked defense.

Q: At 3-10, the Jets are out of the playoffs now. What's the biggest challenge facing the team the rest of the season, aside from winning games?

A. The most important challenge for the Jets coaches and personnel department is to assess Clemens. If they decided that Clemens is the answer at quarterback, they will likely trade Chad Pennington, who has a cap hit of almost $8 million in 2008. But if Clemens continues his inconsistent play, he's going to put the Jets brass in a tough bind. How can you trade Pennington with Clemens putting up a 60 QB rating?

Q: The Jets have reportedly videotaped the Patriots game in Gillette Stadium last year with an extra camera and were asked to stop, then were escorted away by New England officials. Eric Mangini said that the Jets asked for permission and were not doing anything illegal. According to a Patriots source, New England never granted permission. What do you make of this whole thing? Is this video issue for New York a legit beef by the Patriots, or just something the media dug up to stir up the "Spygate" storyline this week?

Leberfeld: It was something that was dug up. It's a non-story. The Jets did nothing wrong. If it was such a big deal, why did it take so long to get out. Someone from the Patriots leaked the story this week to take some attention away from Spy-gate, and make it seem like the Jets were guilty of the same indiscretion.

Q: Jonathan Vilma is done for the season due to an injury. Vilma reportedly struggled in Mangini's 3-4 defense. Is it possible Vilma will not be back in a Jets uniform next year?

Leberfeld: I would trade Vilma. The knee surgery might make it more difficult, but he should be healthy in another four months. Vilma is much better suited to play in a 4-3 Tampa type defense where an fly around and make plays. If I were running the Detroit Lions, I would jump through hoops to get Vilma to play MLB between Boss Bailey and Ernie Sims.

Vilma is a heck of a player, but at 6-0, 230, he's just not a good fit to constantly take on guards in the 3-4 defense.

Q: Last year, the Jets drafted a number of players the Patriots were interested in. It turns out New England has lost, or cut most of their 2007 Draft class. Tell us how players from the Jets 2007 Draft class have fared, notably DB Darrelle Revis and LB David Harris . . .

Leberfeld: It looks like the Jets did the right thing trading up to get Revis and Harris. They are both the real deal, and will be centerpieces of the Jets defense for years to come. Revis is a smart, athletic cornerback with the great character. You could see how talented he is on Thanksgiving when he did a terrific job on TO. Harris is a perfect linebacker for the 3-4 because he's big and physical. But he also has good speed, and does a decent job in coverage.

Also, the Jets had no fourth round pick, but recently able to claim New England's 2007 fourth round pick - DE Kareem Brown, who has a future with Gang Green.

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