Jets insider Dan Leberfeld of Sirius NFL Radio and Jets Confidential magazine is this week's guest on Behind Enemy Lines.
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?
Dan Leberfeld: 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: What do you think of the point spread (25 points) for this week's game? Is it too high or is it about right?
Leberfeld: The point spread is right on target. The Jets are offensively challenged, and you can't expect to beat the Patriots 16-13. That isn't going to happen. If you are going to compete with the Patriots, you need to be able to put points on the board. The Jets starting quarterback, Kellen Clemens, has thrown four touchdown passes in six starts. Against Tom Brady, how's that kind of production rate going to work out? Not well.
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?
Leberfeld: 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. Eric Mangini always says he's going to start the players each week who give him the best chance to win on Sunday. If he truly subscribed to that mantra, he would start Chad Pennington this Sunday. Who was the last quarterback in Foxboro? Pennington. In my opinion, Pennington, who is very good at reading defenses, would give the Jets a better chance to win Sunday.
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?
Leberfeld: 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?
Leberfeld: 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: What's your take on the Injury report from Wednesday?
Leberfeld: The Jets injury report, like the Pats, is tough to read. The one injury to pay the closest attention to is Laveranues Coles. He has a high ankle sprain, and probably should shut it down for the season. But he's so tough; he's playing through it. He is limping real badly, and it's possible they could shut him down before the season is over.
The one injury we should all keep an eye on is Tom Brady's right shoulder. He's been listed on the injury report for three years now. It's amazing what he's been able to accomplish with his injury that seemingly won't go away.