Is the Border War back on? That will probably be the theatrical story line this week as Bill Belichick prepares his Patriots (1-0) to take on disciple Eric Mangini and his Jets (1-0) in New York. Harkening back to the days of Bill Parcells' departure to the Jets and then Belichick's own leaving of that team at the altar to take over in New England, the underlying dramas leading into the always interesting AFC East affair are as diverse as ever.
Add in the fact that Mangini's Jets were one of the two teams to stick their nose in the Deion Branch derby, reportedly offering the former Super Bowl MVP a long-term deal to jump sides in the rivalry, and the real blood of the late '90s Border War might really be ready to flow.
Unfortunately the game may not live up to the off-field drama and hype. Mangini takes over a team that won just four games a year ago. He's brought in young talent through a solid draft, but with Curtis Martin on the physically unable to perform list, Mangini is left with a foursome of running backs still vying to take the pressure off Chad Pennington's (once again) surgically repaired right arm. The Jets still have a handful of playmakers on both sides of the ball, as they showed last week in beating the Titans, but expecting them to challenge the Patriots in the East or even snap their six-game winning streak in New England might be a bit much.
Mangini is without a doubt the most direct disciple of Belichick's coaching tree. In fact, much like Belichick spent virtually his entire career following Parcells around, Mangini did the same with Belichick. From his early days as an intern under Belichick in Cleveland, moving on to the Jets and then the Patriots with him, Mangini has spent all but one of his 11 NFL seasons working under Belichick.
|New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini talks to players on the sidelines during the Jets' 23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans in their NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006 in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/ John Russell)|
So as players in New York have found out, somewhat to their displeasure, Mangini's way is to a very large degree Belichick's way. By association and bloodlines it's also Parcells' way. And it's not always the easy way, especially when the guy laying down the law, Mangini, doesn't have the head coaching Super Bowl wins that his teachers bring to the table.
According to northjersey.com, Mangini's early ways in New York aren't pleasing everyone. From penalty laps at practice to fines for violating the young, typical first-year coach's rules, the transition has been a bit tough in the first days and months of the Mangini era. The tough times led a person familiar with the Jets roster to tell northjersey.com that, "If the Jets start out slow, it's going to get ugly. The word is they don't like playing for this guy."
But wining changes all that, and seeing first person, across the ball, what the system Mangini is installing, could inspire the Jets. Or New York getting run over by that very same system for the seventh straight time could lead to the "ugly."
Either way there is a new excitement to the Patriots battles with the Jets. It will be the talk of New England and New York all week leading up to the game. Of course, don't expect either of the coaches to talk about it. That's not part of their way.