On the NFL's official website, this Sunday's game is listed as New England Patriots at New York Jets. On the calendar in Eric Mangini's office, September 17 probably reads like this: "Other Place, 4:15 p.m."
That's how Mangini, the former defensive coordinator and secondary coach for the Patriots under Bill Belichick, has almost always referred to New England since becoming the Jets' coach. But whether he calls it by name or not, it's obvious that "other place" has shaped much of his coaching style.
And part of that style is to shy away from hype, even in situations such as this one.
"Bill and I spent a lot of time together," Mangini said. "I enjoyed that time. I learned a lot from him. (But) this is the New York Jets versus the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini are just the coaches. It's about us preparing our teams the best we can, and that's how we're approaching it. It's how the Jets play and how the Patriots play."
Kind of sounds like how Belichick is undoubtedly approaching it.
"He definitely has his own personality, but his belief system in what wins games is very similar," linebacker Matt Chatham said of Mangini. "I don't think you can overestimate just how important all the things are that he learned from Bill (Belichick) and from (Bill) Parcells. At the end of the day Eric is going to be Eric. When we won (Sunday) you got to see a little of that personality and that was great."
Chatham knows plenty about both Mangini and the other place, having spent six seasons in New England before signing with the Jets as a free agent in the spring.
When asked about the differences between Mangini and Belichick, Chatham responded, "Eric has blond hair. I don't want to compare the two guys. They're both real hard-working, both real smart guys who came up through the system as grinders and I think that's important."
New England was 8-2 against the Jets while Belichick and Herm Edwards were head coaches of the team, and obviously one of the reasons for Mangini's hiring was the Jets' organization's belief that having one of Belichick's lieutenant's on hand could close that gap. Mangini certainly did a fine job managing his first regular-season game as an NFL head coach against Tennessee, as the Jets weren't plagued by the clock-management gaffes or conservatism that seemed to betray them in big spots during Edwards' tenure.
In fact, players such as defensive end Shaun Ellis praised Mangini afterward, saying that his tough training camp helped them in the fourth quarter against the Titans. Now they will have their first chance to show Belichick what his system and beliefs look like from the other side of the field.
"This is a relatively young team," Chatham said of the Jets. "You have some vets, but not as many as we had in New England. You have some guys who have only played three or four years in the league and those first three or four were in that (Edwards') system. (Mangini's system) is going to come like a baseball bat to the head. It's going to feel like high school again and I think that's what a lot of guys are experiencing. Once it all settles down at the end of the regular season, you realize that you did it for a reason and not just punitively. It ends up all making sense."
|New York Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson runs during football training camp in Hempstead, N.Y., Saturday, July 29, 2006. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)|
--The Patriots filed a tampering charge against the Jets, regarding the Jets' negotiations with wide receiver Deion Branch, who was traded to Seattle for a first-round pick in the 2007 draft.
The Patriots contend that they gave Branch permission to discuss only terms of a contract and not what a team would offer the Patriots in trade, according to the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. New England's contention is that the Jets told Branch what they would offer.
"I think it's a league matter and I think they have to operate in their best interests and we need to operate in our best interests," coach Eric Mangini said. "I think that each week we'll do what's best for the Jets and every team will do what's best for them."
--Perhaps because of this controversy, Mangini and Bill Belichick haven't spoken this week.
"We missed each other a couple times throughout the summer," Mangini said. "This probably won't be the week that we'll be chatting too much. Our relationship is the same as it's been. He's always been a good friend."
Mangini said he couldn't remember when he had last spoken to Belichick, but said that wasn't unusual.
"There are a lot of people in my life I couldn't tell you exactly when was the last time I talked to them," he said. "I just think that sometimes that happens where you're extremely busy and you're trying to get the things done that you need to get done. I don't necessarily put any guidelines on friendships."
--Rookie LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson got through his first game without allowing a sack, but he did have a holding penalty that negated a 2-yard touchdown pass from Chad Pennington to Jerricho Cotchery in the fourth quarter. Shortly after that, Mike Nugent missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt.
"I had the opportunity to have my first game and it definitely gives me ground to build on," Ferguson said. "Next week, I'll be looking to do things better then I did this week and just continue to grow.
"You take the good with the bad," he added. "You look at the good things, you analyze them, you look at the poor things, and you analyze them. I try to take each thing that was said prior to my game and continue to work from there. There were some things I did well, some things I did poorly. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to do them, so now I can grow from that and not always wonder what it's going to be like."
BY THE NUMBERS: 7. That's how many interceptions QB Chad Pennington has thrown in his last three starts against the Patriots, after a three-TD, no-INT performance in his first game against New England in Dec. 2002. The Jets won that game, 30-17.
SERIES HISTORY: 93rd meeting. Jets lead series, 47-44-1. The Patriots have won the last six meetings and the last five at Giants Stadium. New England was 8-2 in games in which Bill Belichick coached against former Jets' boss Herm Edwards, and new Jets' coach Eric Mangini was on those Patriots' staffs.