Eric Mangini is the center of focus for the New York Jets this week because this is the only week they can talk to him until the Patriots are eliminated from postseason play. The way Mangini has the Patriots defense playing, another opportunity may not come anytime soon.
Last week the rumor broke that Mangini was on the Jets' radar screen. Yesterday reports surfaced coming out of New York that confirm the Jets will talk to the Patriots' defensive coordinator this week.
Mangini, who has been part of the Bill Belichick NFL coaching circle since 1995, is considered to be one of the Jets' leading candidates by some reports. He has no head coaching experience and may be too inexperienced to be a serious candidate, but that isn't preventing Jets GM Terry Bradway from making a trip to Foxborough to talk to Mangini.
At a press conference held Monday at the Jets facility Bradway spoke of his coaching search, naming some of the candidates on the radar screen. When asked it he planned on asking permission to speak with coordinators from other teams currently in the playoffs, Bradway said, "We have, but that's as far as I'm going to go."
According to NFL Rules, this is the only week that teams may interview coaching candidates who are on teams participating in the playoffs. The rule was changed to allow coordinators of successful teams to have an opportunity to interview for head coaching jobs. If organizations don't talk to those coordinators this week, they will have to wait until the team is eliminated from the playoffs to talk to them again.
Bradway suggested he's more concerned with qualifications than age. "You look at experience and you look at ability, and those are the things that are important," Bradway said.
The possibility that another team could come calling for another Patriots' assistant took many by surprise. After all, Mangini is young (34) and few head coaches who have been hired young manage to survive in the NFL with the one glaring exception being Bill Cowher of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cowher joined Pittsburgh in January of 1992 at the age of 34, following the tenure of legendary coach Chuck Knoll who presided over the Steelers' four Super Bowl victories.
Other NFL coaches who were young when they assumed head coaching positions were Jon Gruden (35, Raiders), Bill Belichick (37, Browns) and Jim Mora Jr. (42, Falcons).
Bradway spoke to WFAN radio in an interview held on Monday and told his hosts that he received permission from the Patriots to interview Mangini. When asked if those discussions will take place this week Bradway responded that he would indeed travel to Foxborough to speak with the Patriots' assistant. "We will do that," he said, but declined to go into detail.
Age wasn't listed as a consideration for Bradway in his press conference, but it did come up in the radio interview. "You look at experience and you look at ability, and those are the things that are more important than age," Bradway explained.
Bradway has his plate full. He has to hire a new coach for the Jets, who have made the playoffs three of the last five seasons during his tenure. He has to turn around a fan base upset at a 4-12 record. He also has to deflect criticism as to why Edwards was released for the low cost of just a fourth-round draft choice. Bradway was responsible for hiring Edwards, as well as working with the Kansas City Chief's GM Carl Petersen to negotiate a deal to let Edwards leave.
No timetable to hire a new head coach has been put in place, and the Jets have some time to look around. Bradway explained that his preference was to find a good football coach, someone who has a passion for football and a strong work ethic.
In the press conference, Bradway responded to a question about whether Jets owner Woody Johnson prefers a new coach who has had previous head coaching experience.
"It's not one of the requirements, it is part of the requirement," Bradway explained. "You want to get a good football coach. You want someone with managing experience, someone who's been a coordinator or has head coaching experience."
The Jets have a number of qualified candidates with NFL head coaching experience on their list of interviews. Former Saints coach Jim Haslett was in on Monday. Bradway was planning on speaking with Joe Vitt from the St. Louis Rams, and he has been in contact with the Giants about coordinator Tim Lewis.
One coach Bradway spoke glowingly of is former Viking's head coach Mike Tice. Bradway complimented Tice's handling of a difficult situation in Minnesota, citing Tice's turnaround of the team's slide to almost make the playoffs. He plans on speaking with Tice next week.
Patriots' fans that are fearful that the team may lose another coordinator should consider the bigger picture. The impression left by Bradway is that he will speak with Mangini but other coaching candidates are higher up on his list. With an owner who prefers experienced coaches, it's improbable that Mangini would get an offer to head the New York franchise. Mangini would have to present to Bradway a clear plan to turn the Jets' fortunes around, including naming possible assistant coaches for the organization.
Mangini's only significant professional coaching experience has been as part of Belichick's staff 10 of the last 11 years, Mangini may not have enough contacts to fill out a complete staff. Many of the coaches Mangini would target are the same ones already on the Patriots' staff or are already part of other coaching staffs from the Belichick tree (Romeo Crennel in Cleveland, Bill Parcells in Dallas, Nick Saban in Miami, Kirk Ferentz in Iowa and Charlie Weis in Notre Dame). While it is possible Mangini could assemble a decent group, it's unlikely he would be able to bring more to the table at this time than other candidates.
The Jets search appears focused on Tice, Haslett and other coaches with successful head coaching experience in the NFL. Mangini will probably need to break away to the college ranks to take a head-coaching job acquiring the experience and the contacts necessary to run a NFL coaching staff. That is what Nick Saban did at LSU, and both Kirk Ferentz and Charlie Weis are doing now.
It is always possible Mangini could wow Bradway in his interview, but it's unlikely he'll be able to convince the rest of New York's decision makers he deserves to be the next Jets head coach.
Stay tuned to Patriots Insider for more on the Mangini situation.
Listen to Bradway's press conference from the Jets official site (Realplayer required): Listen now
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