I am typically not a knee-jerk reactionary when it comes to making coaching changes. A head coach is important to a football team, but one can only control so much. Players ultimately play the most important role. A year ago, I preached patience to anybody willing to listen on Eric Mangini. Even though the Jets were awful, he was a year removed from garnering Coach of the Year consideration as a rookie head coach. The Jets knew he was green when they hired him and would take time to learn the ropes. The team made a longterm commitment to him. After today's debacle, I have done a 180. This is not a spur of the moment thing. It has been coming for weeks. Eric Mangini should lose his job because of this collapse.
Some might argue the fault lies with the coordinators. Bob Sutton is too conservative with his play calling. His blitzing schemes take too long to develop. He makes no adjustments. His players are undisciplined and use sloppy technique. Well, ultimately the fault lies with the top guy. These issues were all there a year ago. That is why Mangini took a more active role in the defensive gameplanning and limited Sutton's role as the year progressed. Despite the lack of faith Sutton inspired, Mangini kept his defensive coordinator around for a third season. The reason was that Oakland would not let his friend, Rob Ryan, out of his contract. Ignoring the fact that Oakland's defense has been nothing special under Ryan, this was illogical. Are fans to believe Ryan would have been the only guy in all of football better than Sutton? Are fans to believe that Mangini could not have found a qualified candidate with whom he was comfortable and did not have a preexisting relationship? Are fans to believe Sutton was good enough to keep for a third year and that the only reason the team should have fired him was if Ryan, the only better coordinator in football, came along?
Brian Schottenheimer bucks conventional wisdom with his play calls. Most of the time, he gets too cute trying to outsmart the opposition because people will think he is a genius and an innovator if his calls work. He refuses to get the biggest homerun threat on the roster, Leon Washington, ten to fifteen touches a game. However, are these not things a head coach should be able to identify and correct? The assistants may handle most of the day to day preparation, but the head guy is responsible for setting the big themes. Mangini runs the show. All he has to say to Schottenheimer is, "Knock off the five receiver sets on third and short," or "Get Leon the ball," and it will happen. If something is wrong with the coordinators, it ultimately falls on the head coach. He hired them. They are charged with implementing his ideas, and it is his job to correct things that are wrong.
How many times can the Jets make the same mistakes before somebody corrects them? Why have there been so many missed tackles late in the year? Why are guys lining up out of position on key plays? Why is this team taking killer penalties? A head coach's most important job is to implement discipline and preparation in practice. The above are examples of these qualities lacking.
There are the X's and O's as well. There was today's meltdown in which Mangini benched a kicker who had just made a field goal with over five yards to spare wiped out on a delay of game. There was his tentative decision to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth and one with the Jets pounding it down Seattle's throat. This set the tone for the game. There was his decision to kick a field goal with the Jets down 5 and 1:43 left in a game against Cleveland last year, somehow thinking it would be easier to recover an onside kick and drive down the field than to pick up a first down. There is the refusal to adjust and leave a back in to block when the opposing pass rush is having success more times than one can count. Mangini studied under bright coaches for the better half of a decade and has been the head man of the Jets since 2006. This brings us to the next point.
If a head coach has not learned how to successfully manage a team in three years, what leads one to believe he will in year four? Three years is plenty of time on the job. Most successful coaches have established themselves by this point. There is Playoff talent on this team. It would be fair to say that this team missing the Playoffs after an 8-3 start would be underachieving, especially considering the role losses to San Francisco and Seattle have played in the collapse. The talent certainly is to blame. Brett Favre has underperformed, and Kris Jenkins has been hindered by injury. However, the above issues with the coaching prevalent for three years have also come into play and been major factors.
One must also consider how Mangini got the job. It was not because of anything he had done. He had no reputation for developing brilliant gameplans or overseeing a successful unit as a coordinator. Woody Johnson wanted him because he wanted to copy the Patriots' organization and knew Bill Belichick thought a lot of Mangini. Eric may have been a great position coach, but he has no track record or running anything consistently successful.
Eric Mangini is a bright guy. He seems like a fundamentally decent man. He might have a bright future elsewhere after more studying in a second tenure as an assistant like his mentor, Belichick. However, he has shown that at this point of his
career, he is ill-equipped to oversee the complete operation of a football team. Three years is plenty of time in the current NFL. It is time to look elsewhere, barring a Week 17 miracle.