Archive for December, 2008

Cowher Won’t Be Coaching Jets

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Next season the Jets will be attempting to rebound from a late-season collapse that dropped them outside of the playoff-picture for the third time in four years.

Bill Cowher won’t be part of that rebound.

ESPN is reporting that Cowher has no interest in taking the Jets’ head coaching position after the Jets reached out to Cowher yesterday.

“After reaching out to Coach Cowher’s representatives, we were informed tonight that he is not a candidate for the position,” a team spokesperson said.

Win-Now Approach Calls for a Coach with Proven Track Record

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

After three seasons, 23 wins and one playoff appearance (37-16 loss to Patriots in 2006 Wild Card), the Eric Mangini era officially ended for the Jets Monday.  Just five weeks ago the Jets had become serious Super Bowl contenders with an 8-3 record and Jets hierarchy discussed a possible contract extension for Mangini. But a 34-17 loss to the Broncos on Nov. 30 began the Jets’ stunning tailspin, which included losses in four of their final five games. Following the Jets season-ending loss to the Dolphins, an infuriated owner Woody Johnson said he would not make a decision on Mangini’s future in the “heat of the moment,” but he ultimately decided to make the coaching change later that night.

Now as the Jets suffer through their third playoff-less season in the last four years, the search for Mangini’s replacement has begun. Signs have pointed to former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, former Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer and current Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as the team’s leading interests in their search.

The coaching search is not unfamiliar to the Jets, who have had three different head coaches this decade. Al Groh was hired before the 2000 season and led the Jets to a 9-7 record before resigning at the end of the season to take the head coaching position at the University of Virginia. Herman Edwards succeeded Groh and won 39 games in five seasons. Edwards was fired after a 4-12 season in 2005 and Johnson plucked Mangini from the Patriots’ coaching staff.

Even though Mangini led the Jets to two winning seasons in his three years, the Jets’ late-season collapse ultimately sealed his fate. The team’s expectations were raised after they traded for Favre back in August and spent nearly $140 million in free agent acquisitions and watching the Miami Dolphins celebrate an improbable division title at the Meadowlands last week surely did not sit well with Johnson.

Mangini was hailed as “Mangenius” during his rookie season as he led the Jets to a surprising 10-6 record, but as the Jets started to fade this season, he began to face criticism for his calm sideline demeanor and his poor ability to make in-game adjustments. Johnson was asked during Monday’s press conference about Mangini’s negatives, but he strangely only focused on the positives.

“I like to concentrate on the positives because of what he brought to the building, his work ethic. He wanted to learn his craft. He wanted to be a good football coach.  There was no mistake about that. There is nothing more in terms of energy that he could have put into it,” Johnson said.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum explained that Mangini did a “great job for us for three years and he helped lay a great foundation.” But he followed that by saying that the Jets ”felt in our judgement we want to build on that and go in a different direction.”

The continual appraisal sounded strange considering Mangini had just been handed his pink slip. Nevertheless, the search was underway.

The Jets hired Mangini as a young assistant who was ready to tackle his first head-coaching opportunity, but the team’s win-now approach may decide the qualifications his replacement. Rather than key in on another young assistant such as Spagnuolo, it would make sense for the team to bring in someone with a proven track record. The Jets took a chance in hiring Mangini, but now there are no more chances to be taken. The franchise has already reached four decades since its last NFL title and the team has already failed with a future Hall of Fame quarterback and an offseason spending spree. Thus, the most logical choice would be Cowher, who led the Steelers to 149 wins in 15 seasons and the Super Bowl XL title. Cowher’s coaching resume is the deepest of any available successor on the open market and he possesses the fiery nature that Mangini was criticized for not displaying. Regardless of sport, ownerships often deviate from a calm demeanor to a more-animated tone and vice versa when coaching changes are made. While Cowher stands as the most logical candidate to lead the Jets, his possible desire for control over player personnel decisions could serve as a potential roadblock. Yesterday Johnson suggested that such a situation would not be handed to any candidate.

“From a business standpoint and from a football standpoint. It’s too much. There’s no way that you can do it, in my opinion, and really do it, because you’re always relying on somebody else. You may think you have the power, but you can’t make those discerning decisions, there’s just too much work to do and be a coach,” Johnson said.

The Jets’ owner also explained that he was “very comfortable” working with Tannenbaum, who has served as the team’s general manager since Feb. 2006.

With Mike Shanahan now unemployed after spending the last 14 seasons as the Broncos’ head coach, Denver could be an intriguing candidate for Cowher. If owner Pat Bowlen is willing to hand total control over personnel decisions to Cowher, it would be interesting to gauge Cowher’s interest.

If the Jets are unable to reel in Cowher, the next top candidate would seem to be Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer has faced criticism for his inability to win in the playoffs (5-13 career record) but 200 wins in 18 years as head coach of the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers is hard to ignore. Schottenheimer would give the Jets a proven candidate  and a solid in-game decision maker. Schottenheimer’s son, Brian, is likely to be retained as the Jets’ offensive coordinator.

The next logical candidates would likely be Spagnuolo or Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who both have orchestrated two of the league’s stout defensive attacks. Spagnuolo turned down the Redskins’ opening last offseason after leading the Giants on a surprising Super Bowl title run and was rewarded with a three-year, six-million dollar extension. If Johnson decides to open his checkbook and hand the reins to Spagnuolo, it would be difficult for him to turn it down.

However, with both Spagnuolo, Schwartz or any other possible first-time candidate, the Jets will not be filling their need for a proven head coach. The Jets are a win-now team and a successful commodity such as Cowher or Schottenheimer would likely allow them to do just that.

Let the Favre Watch Begin

Monday, December 29th, 2008

As former Jet quarterback Chad Pennington celebrated a division title yesterday, his replacement stood battered defeated. Brett Favre was acquired by the Jets back in August to lead re-energize a slumping franchise and lead the Jets back into the playoffs. He failed when it mattered most.

After leading the Jets on a five-game winning streak into late November in which Favre posted a quarterback rating of 98, the future Hall of Fame quarterback struggled mightily during the season’s final five months. Favre threw just two touchdown passes and nine interceptions during a late-season collapse that pushed the Jets out of the playoff picture. He suffered through his most game of the year in yesterday’s loss to the Dolphins, as he tossed three interceptions, one of which was returned 23 yards for a touchdown.

With Favre awaiting the MRI results on his injured shoulder, his decision on whether to return for his 19th season remains in doubt.

“The obvious choice would be a quick decision based on what happened. It’s a hasty, irrational decision based on what’s happened. I’ll go home and get away for a week or so, we haven’t really talked about it,” Favre explained yesterday.

Today owner Woody Johnson explained that he hopes to have Favre back for his second season with the Jets, but noted that it’s “too early” to begin conversing with him about next year.

Even though Favre could be facing a possible shoulder surgery, Johnson believes it is realistic to bring Favre back.

“I think it is realistic. It depends on what Brett wants to do. But he hasn’t been through a camp yet. And so this will be another year for him to get more comfortable with the system we have,” Johnson said.

While the quarterback swap of Favre for Pennington appeared to be a no brainer for the Jets back in August, yesterday’s result proved otherwise. As Pennington and the Dolphins moved on to the playoffs, the Jets prepared for a long offseason. The Jets quarterback tossed 22 touchdowns, but he also led the league with 22 interceptions. Despite watching several questionable passes from the Jets’ quarterback float to opposing defenders, Johnson believes the team’s slump was far-reaching.

“I’m sure Brett would say he wishes he hadn’t made those. But that’s, he’s a Hall of Famer. He’s made those his career, but he’s made the other ones, too,” he said.

Favre could not save the Jets as their season spiraled out of control, but the Jets’ owner remains attached to the now rusty quarterback. Johnson said Favre “adds a lot to the team that’s positive,” but did not expand his response.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum did not put a timetable on bringing back Favre, noting that the situation will be “prominent” but pointing out that other roster decisions are to be made.

Several players were approached about Favre’s situation today and many felt that spending a full training camp with the quarterback would pave a solid ground heading into next season. Favre’s first full practice following his trade to the Jets was Aug. 9 , leaving him with just over three weeks to learn a new offensive system.

“Whatever he decides I feel like he still has some great football left in him. He wasn’t able to spend the off-season program with the team, so I definitely think that plays a role into it,” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. ”For him to be able to spend the off-season with a lot of the guys, I think that will help out a lot.”

As the dust settles on the Jets’ late-season debacle, the question is, do they really want Brett back?

Jenkins Reveals He Suffered Through Herniated Disk, Hip Injuries

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Heading into the Jets’ 34-17 loss to the Broncos on Nov. 30, the Jets had to look back to Week 16 of last season to find the last time they allowed running back to rush for over 100 yards. LenDale White of the Titans carried the ball 23 times for 103 yards in a 10-6 Tennessee win.

As the Jets collapsed in losing four of their final give games this season, they allowed Peyton Hillis (Broncos), Marshawn Lynch (Bills) and Maurice Morris to rush for over 100 yards. The Jets stout run defense ended the season by allowing an average of 94.9 yards rushing per game (7th in NFL). The dropoff began with the ineffectiveness of nose tackle Kris Jenkins, who performed at an MVP-calibur level earlier in the season.

While former head coach Eric Mangini was pressed earlier this season about the possibility of Jenkins wearing down physically, Mangini’s tight-lipped approach toward injuries left no explanation for Jenkins’ disappearance. However, today Jenkins revealed that he played with a herniated disk in his back in a Week Three loss to the Chargers. Jenkins left early in the first quarter during the 48-29 loss to San Diego.

Jenkins also admitted that his hips bothered him throughout the season, but that both injuries will require no surgical procedure.

“I need my hips. That’s my game,” Jenkins said. “Everything starts with your core. I’ve got to have my core in the best possible shape and conditioning.”

Jets End with a Nightmare

Monday, December 29th, 2008

As the Jets’ season spiraled out of control over the last month, the Jets continually reminded themselves that the window to the playoffs remained open. Today their slim hopes were dashed with the Ravens’ 27-7 win over the Jaguars which concluded minutes before the Jets fell to the Dolphins 24-17. The defeat capped a stunning fall for the Jets, who rested comfortably at 8-3 in late November after a victory over the previously undefeated Titans.

The defeat will surely go down as one of the darkest days for a franchise that has now gone 40 years since it last tasted an NFL title. The Jets traded for future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre in August, they spent nearly $140 million on free agent acquistions but it was the same quarterback they shoved out the door during training camp that closed the book on the Jets’ nightmare. Chad Pennington (22-of-30, 200 yards, two TD) outplayed Favre (20-of-40, 233 yards, one TD, three INT) and orchestrated the Dolphins to an improbable division title. The loss was again the same sad story for Favre and the Jets, who displayed promise but ultimately failed.

When the Jets completed the quarterback swap of Pennington for Favre in early August, they knew they had grabbed a leader with a rocket arm and nose for the end zone. Favre displayed those attributes in a season-opening win over the Dolphins as he threw a 56-yard missile to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a touchdown. However, his play deteriorated over the final five weeks (1-4 record) as he threw two touchdown passes and nine interceptions. His poor decision-making crippled the offense as he threw a league-high 22 interceptions. For a 39-year old quarterback with over 9,000 passing attempts in a Hall of Fame career, the balls that once traveled like rockets soon sailed like wounded ducks. Favre explained today that there remained “unfinished business” for his stint with the Jets and the Jets carry a lot of “potential,” but that potential translated into nothing more than a 9-7 record and no playoff ticket. As Favre stood at the podium battered and defeated today, he made no excuses.

“Down the strech, it wasn’t good enough. I have no excuses. I would love to sit here and tell you that it was this and it was that, but I’m not going to do that,” Favre said. “Bottom line is it wasn’t good enough.”

For a franchise that has too often dealt with its share of collapses, the outcome was certainly not good enough. The Jets possessed a roster which led the league with seven Pro-Bowlers but could do nothing with it. Offensive tackle Damien Woody explained that the self-described ”meltdown” was “hard to swallow.” Most players were left baffled at their lockers by the collapse.

“We’ll sit back and reflect on this season, and still may not know what was going on,” safety Kerry Rhodes said. “We didn’t get it done today and we’ll be at home watching the playoffs next week.”

Cornerback Darrelle Revis added, “In the NFL you go through the ups and downs and you have to keep working. It’s sad that we couldn’t pull it out. We could have stopped this a long time ago by clinching the playoffs like other teams did.”

As the Dolphins walked off champions and the solemn Meadowlands crowd cleared out, Eric Mangini  trotted off for possibly the final time as head coach of the Jets. Mangini has one year remaining on a four-year contract but a 23-25 record and just one playoff berth in three seasons may spell the end for the man formerly known as “Mangenuis.” After the Jets delivered another uninspiring performance, Mangini explained that he is anticipating on returning for next season but that he has not discussed his job status with Jets hierarchy during the season.

Following today’s loss owner Woody Johnson said that he is “extremely disappointed” with the way the season concluded, and that Mangini would be evaluated later in the week.

“We’ll look at the team and just try to diagnose,” Johnson said. “Obviously we want to go further than win nine games.”

Not a ringing endorsement to say the least.

Jets Officially Eliminated from Playoff Contention

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

The Jets’ collapse is official. Once 8-3 after a victory over the previously undefeated Titans, the Jets have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. Any hopes the Jets had of claiming the final wild card slot in the playoffs were dashed minutes ago as the Ravens defeated the Jaguars 27-7.

If the Dolphins hold on to defeat the Jets, Miami will complete their improbable turnaround and win the AFC East. The Dolphins victory also assures that the Patriots will miss the playoffs despite finishing the season with an 11-5 record.

Jets-Dolphins First Half Analysis

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

The Jets aren’t helping their slim playoff hopes and neither are the Ravens. The Jets, who need both a win over the Dolphins and a Ravens loss trail Miami 14-9 at the half.  The Ravens have carried a 24-7 lead over the Jaguars into halftime.

As the Jets continue to fade late into the season, their 8-3 start feels like decades ago. In the much antincipated rematch between former Jet turned Dolphin quarterback Chad Pennington and Brett Favre, Favre has struggled mightily through the thick winds at the Meadowlands. Favre has completed just nine of 22 attempts for 125 yards, with 69 of those yards coming on the final drive against Miami’s zone coverage. Favre did throw a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Laveranues Coles, but he did throw two costly interceptions. His second pick was returned 25 yards by defensive end Philip Merling for a touchdown.

As the Jets’ passing game continues to struggle, the running game has disappeared. Aside from a 13-yard run by Leon Washington, the Jets have carried the ball just ten times for 23 yards. Thomas Jones, who will likely win the AFC rushing title, has just five carries for 11 yards.

Pennington has not lit up the Jets defense with his throwing arm, but he’s managed the game and has played smart football. It sounds cliche for Pennington, but it looms large when Favre is throwing interceptions for touchdowns. Pennington has completed 13 of 18 passes for 103 yards and one touchdown in his return to the Meadowlands.

Jets’ Division Hopes Dashed

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

The Patriots have defeated the Bills 13-0, meaning any hopes the Jets had of grabbing the AFC East title are now shattered. The Jets are left only in contention for the AFC’s final wild-card spot. They can clinch the wild card with a victory over the Dolphins and a Jaguars victory over the Ravens.

If the Dolphins defeat the Jets today, Maimi will complete their improbable turnaround from 1-15 one season ago to the division title. A Gang Green win will hand the rival Patriots their sixth-consecutive AFC East title.

Regardless the Jets will be watching either quarterback Chad Pennington or Bill Belichick celebrate today. That’s not exactly the scenario New York envisioned when they were 8-3 just one month ago.

Another Playoff-Less Season in Jets’ Land?

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Even the most cynical Jets fans, the same ones that were screaming for the other shoe to drop when the Jets raced out to an 8-3 start, could not have imagined this scenario: Former Jet Chad Pennington returning to the Meadowlands with an opportunity to lead the Dolphins to an improbable turnaround while sending his old team into a monumental collapse.

The thought is enough to make any Jet fan cringe, even those who watched the 1998 Jets stroll into Denver for the AFC Championship game and painfully see a 10-0 halftime lead slip away. Or those fans who stood confidently as Al Groh led the 2000 Jets out to a 9-4 record, only to see dreams of a playoff berth die as New York dropped the final three games of the season.

This year was supposed to be different for the Jets, especially after dishing out $140 million this offseason on revamping the roster and then following up their spending spree by making possibly their most noteworthy trade in the franchise’s 48-year history. The Jets suddenly had an NFL legend at quarterback and a return trip to the playoffs seemed well within reach.

Who could have imagined this mess? It still is too early to write the obituary for the 2008 Jets, a team that could turn from most lovable to most infamous in franchise lore, but it is getting close. The same Jets that once looked Super Bowl bound with consecutive road victories over the rival Patriots and undefeated Titans in November are set to fall flat on their faces unless Mangini can work his magic like it’s 2006 again.

With the playoffs suddenly just a slim hope, it is unpredictable which Jets team will show up tomorrow. Will they be the same team that raced out to a 14-3 first half lead in a Dec. 14 win over the Bills or will they resemble the same lifeless group that was downtrodden in snowy Seattle last week? The way 2008 has played out for the Jets, the answer will likely be revealed in the waning minutes of tomorrow’s matchup.

During the past week, the Jets have looked exasperated and suddenly out of answers for their struggles. In Favre’s weekly press conference, the 39-year old quarterback that has often been recognized for his easygoing attitude in times of struggle appeared beaten down. The Jets had been delivered their wakeup call one too many times and last week’s loss to Seattle hit them the hardest. Even as the Jets lost consecutive games with the Broncos and the 49ers, New York held its hat on the fact that they remained in control of their own destiny and only themselves could end the playoff hopes. However as the Jets’ destiny slipped out of their own hands, they knew they had dropped their opportunity.

“It hurts a lot to think about how hard you work, all the work you put in throughout the season,” running back Leon Washington said yesterday. “That’s the thing that is the most disappointing thing for me. We missed out on some opportunities. We have one more game left in the season and that’s when the NFL is a funny business, a lot of things may happen that you don’t expect to happen.”

Mangini said yesterday that the Jets have delivered a “great week” of practice and the team has been “spirited” but the true Jets will be revealed tomorrow at 4:15 p.m. If the Patriots defeat the Bills and thus place the Jets further on the brink of a collapse, Gang Green would be hard pressed not to be a little tight. Take it from a 14-year veteran to suggest that scoreboard watching will be difficult to avoid.

“It’s pretty hard not to look up and see what is going on, but we understand what is at stake,” cornerback Ty Law said yesterday. “We have to do the best that we can to concentrate on what we do and not get too concerned about what is going on.”

*Mangini surely has his players focused on winning, but the Jets resemble a team that has been beaten down over the past month. The Jets have not played a complete game since their victory over the Titans on Nov. 23 and it will be considerably difficult to turn on the engines for tomorrow’s matchup with the Dolphins. Pennington is turning in a career season and the Dolphins have featured a complementary attack on both offense and defense that Mangini always aspires to have. The Jets will put up a fight with behind the home crowd and with a playoff berth still at stake, but the Dolphins are the better football team right now…Dolphins 23, Jets 20

*If the Jets want to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, they will need to beat the Dolphins and then hope for either the Patriots to lose at the Bills or the Jaguars to defeat the Ravens in Baltimore.

As for the Patriots, Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour is questionable for tomorrow’s game due to a sore back. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi (knee) is out while defensive backs James Sanders (abdomen), Lewis Sanders (groin) and defensive end Ty Warren (groin) are also questionable. The Patriots have escaped for much of this season with costly injuries which creates the argument that this season could be Bill Belichick’s best job of coaching since joining the Patriots, but a injury-depleted defense could run into some problems tomorrow. As poorly as Buffalo (7-8) has performed for much of this season, the team has not quit. Last week Buffalo walked into a hungry Broncos team vying for the AFC West title and the Bills escaped with a 30-23 victory. Two weeks ago, the Bills outplayed the Jets on the road but quarterback J.P. Losman fumbled a win into the Jets’ laps.

Quarterback Trent Edwards is expected to start again tomorrow and Marshawn Lynch will lead a rushing attack that has averaged 112 yards per game, but it’s difficult to see the Patriots dropping this opportunity. Belichick is the master motivator that Mangini aspires to be and he will surely have his team focused in a raucous environment. Quarterback Matt Cassel has also proven to be cool and collective in the the most tense situations…Patriots 31, Bills 21

*The Ravens defense is performing at the level displayed during their Super Bowl run in 2000 and tomorrow they will have the Jaguars offense to feast on. Quarterback David Garrard enjoyed a career season in 2007 (18 touchdown passes, three interceptions) and was rewarded with a $60 million contract, but he’s plummeted back to Earth. Garrard has thrown 14 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions but the Jacksonville offense has sat in the middle of the pack for the entire season. The Jaguars only average 19 points per game (24th in NFL) and have no legitimate threat on offense aside from running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

Tomorrow will easily be rookie Joe Flacco’s biggest game of his career but don’t expect him to get flustered. Flacco will receive opportunities to throw the ball deep, but the Ravens dominant defense will get to decide the final outcome. Baltimore has only allowed 246 yards per game (2nd in NFL) and is sure to thrive on a pumped home crowd. The only way the Ravens drop this matchup is if Flacco gives it away…Ravens 17, Jaguars 9

*No I do not envision the Jets making the playoffs and tomorrow could prove to be one of the darkest days for the franchise, but as Washington preached yesterday, “a lot of things may happen that you don’t expect to happen.” The Jets stuck themselves in this mess and tomorrow we will see if they can get themselves out of it.

Pennington’s Career Year

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

When Jets head coach Eric Mangini was asked Tuesday whether Pennington’s success with the Dolphins surprised him, Mangini pointed toward the past.

“The things that he is doing are things that he has done throughout the course of his career. He’s running the offense very effectively. He’s taking advantage of weaknesses in the defense. He’s an incredibly smart guy. He’s very detail-oriented and you see that in his play. He [makes] a lot of good decisions and that’s consistent with how he was here,” Mangini said.

Back in August when Pennington was jettisoned out of New York and soon donned the teal and orange, Pennington’s presence was sure to improve a beleagured Dolphins franchise. Then again, unless the Dolphins again turned into this season’s version of the Detroit Lions, improvement was not hard to come by after going 1-15 in 2007. But just four months after Pennington joined the Dolphins, the nine-year veteran is orchestrating a career season and has his team on the brink of an improbable turnaround.

The debate over whether the Jets should have retained Pennington rather than trade for Brett Favre will be saved for after this week’s matchup at the Meadowlands. Watching Pennington possibly walk off with a division title will be a tough pill to swallow for Jets fans, especially with the former Jet performing like a league MVP.

Pennington’s two finest seasons as a Jet came in 2002 and 2006, but his performance this season has been the most impressive considering the personnel around him. While he ranks second in the league with a 96.4 quarterback rating (Philip Rivers , 104) there’s one statistic that shines brightest…10-5 record.

Here’s how Pennington’s 2008 statistics among his career numbers…

Completions: 299 (313 in 2006)

Attempts: 446 (485 in 2006)

Yards: 3,453 (Career-high)

Completion %: 67 percent (68.9 in 2002, 68.8 in 2006)

Yards/Attempt: 7.74 (7.8 in 2002)

Touchdown Passes: 17 (22 in 2002, 17 in 2006)

Interceptions: 7 (6 in 2002)

*Only threw three interceptions in 2005 but played in only three games

Quarterback Rating: 96.4 (104.2 in 2002)