Mangini fired after poor finish
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. ” Eric Mangini gathered his players together for one last team meeting and then said goodbye.
“He was a little bit emotional,” New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “I think a lot of guys in there were emotional, including me as well.”
The Jets parted ways with Mangini on Monday, firing the coach a day after the team failed to make the playoffs despite an 8-3 start and having an NFL-high seven Pro Bowl selections.
“He just said to stick together,” Revis said. “He said we’re a good group of guys and we care about each other. He said that the head coach is going to come in next year and to embrace him and have a relationship with him.”
The Jets already have begun the process of looking for Mangini’s replacement, with Steve Spagnuolo, Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Parcells, if he leaves Miami, among those being mentioned.
“We want to take the foundation that we started here and move forward,” general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. “The search will begin today.”
The 37-year-old Mangini went 23-26 in his first head coaching job, and had another year remaining on his contract. Behind quarterback Brett Favre, the Jets beat New England and Tennessee on the road in consecutive weeks, raising visions among fans of the team’s first Super Bowl trip since 1969.
New York controlled its playoff fate while sitting alone atop the AFC East before a late-season free fall in which it lost four of its last five and Mangini had several questionable play calls.
“I don’t think it was one thing,” owner Woody Johnson said. “We had to go in a different direction. There’s nothing specific. It’s just a call we made. Hopefully, it’s correct.”
Johnson said the final decision was made Sunday night after the Jets lost to Miami, but the process began several weeks ago. He met with Mangini on Monday morning.
“We worked hard to achieve two winning seasons out of the past three,” Mangini said in a statement. “I regret that we could not reach our goals for this year. I will always appreciate the passion and support of the fans as our focus was trying to build them a championship-caliber foundation and team.”
While cleaning out their lockers before heading home for the offseason, players said the firing was unexpected.
“I was surprised,” guard Alan Faneca said. “I got the call earlier today and it caught me off-guard.”
Nose tackle Kris Jenkins was particularly bothered by the dismissal, praising the former coach for bringing him to New York and giving him an opportunity to rejuvenate his career. He also thought Mangini deserved another year with the team.
“I’m going to miss him,” Jenkins said. “He didn’t do what everybody thought he should do. He didn’t go with the flow or just do things to make people happy. He took it upon himself to go against the grain and be a man about his situation.”
The Jets went 1-4 in their final five games, losing to Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami and barely beating Buffalo. They didn’t reach the postseason for the second straight year despite a $140 million offseason spending spree and trading for Favre.
Wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who clashed at times with Mangini’s disciplinarian style, spoke to his former coach before he left.
“I let him know how disappointed I am for him and I don’t think he deserves all the blame for everything that went on this year,” Coles said.
Whether Favre is still around for the next coach remains to be seen. While Johnson and Tannenbaum said they want him back, the 39-year-old Favre planned to have an MRI exam on his ailing right shoulder Monday. He said after the loss Sunday that the results would play a major factor in his decision whether to return.
Favre attended the team meeting Monday morning, but wasn’t in the locker room during the media availability.
Favre, who led the league with 22 interceptions, had just two touchdown passes and nine picks in the final five games. He replaced Chad Pennington, who was cut when the team acquired Favre and then led the Dolphins to the AFC East title.
The players said they’d like to have Favre back as long as he takes part in the offseason workouts with the rest of the team.
“For him to be able to spend the offseason with a lot of the guys, I think that will help out a lot,” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “You just don’t learn everything about an offense or about a team in a couple of months.”
As a rookie coach, Mangini took a team that had been 4-12 the previous year to the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2006 and earned the nickname “Mangenius” from the local tabloids. The high praise quickly faded after a 4-12 record last year.
The Jets began the offseason by spending $140 million on veterans, notably offensive linemen Faneca and Damien Woody and linebacker Calvin Pace. They also traded for Jenkins and later Favre, and sent linebacker Jonathan Vilma to New Orleans because he didn’t fit Mangini’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
“We thanked him for all the good things he had done for us,” Johnson said. “We thanked him for his dedication and his loyalty. But he understood.”