Is Mangini The Man?
By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Head Writer
January 13th, 2006
Will Bill Belichick's Boy Wonder come to Gotham and rescue the Jets?
Will Bill Belichick's Boy Wonder come to Gotham and rescue the Jets?
Who's it going to be?

Who should it be?

Who do you want it to be?

We pose these questions pertaining to the Jets' plodding search for a new head coach not because we have all the answers, but because we respect your opinion.

The leading candidate at the moment appears to be Eric Mangini, the Patriots' defensive coordinator with the Bill Belichick championship pedigree.

This is not a bad thing, albeit a little risky based on his age (he'll be 35 on Jan. 19) and relative inexperience as a coordinator (this is his first season as a coordinator).

Sometimes you have to take a risk to achieve something great.

Belichick, under difficult circumstances, wasn't successful in his first head-coaching job, in Cleveland. Robert Kraft took a chance on him being better the second time around. All he's done is lead the Patriots to three Super Bowl victories and a remarkable, unprecedented 10-0 postseason record entering Saturday night's game.

Woody Johnson, the Jets' owner has been borderline obsessed with the way the Patriots do things. He's been an admirer of Kraft and the entire operation, wanting to emulate it.

Will Mangini bring the New England way with him to New York?

Who really knows.

But by all accounts of people we've spoken to around the league _ former players of his and former fellow coaches _ Mangini is made of head coaching timber and he's ready _ despite his age.

The Jets are scheduled to interview Mangini on Sunday somewhere near Foxboro. If the Jets are, indeed, targeting Mangini and Mangini wants to become the next Jets' head coach, this thing could be wrapped up in a matter of days _ particularly if the Patriots lose in Denver Saturday night.

If the Patriots' win Saturday night and the Jets' coach search lingers through next week, then we'll all know that Mangini is their man and that the two parties have a handshake agreement while they wait for the Patriots' season to end _ much the way the Browns and Romeo Crennel did it last year. The Jets cannot make a formal offer until the Patriots' season is over.

There is a theory floating about that Belichick, who jilted the Jets in 2000 while orchestrating his way to New England, might advise Mangini not to take the Jets job, feeling a better opportunity might come along.

Several people who know Belichick, however, told us that's unlikely, that Belichick wouldn't hold Mangini back.

The Jets have interviewed six candidates so far _ former Saints coach Jim Haslett, who appears to be headed to Buffalo to take the Bills job, Rams interim coach Joe Vitt, Giants' defensive coordinator Tim Lewis and all three of their own coordinators, Donnie Henderson (defense), Mike Heimerdinger (offense) and Mike Westhoff (special teams).

The only other coach scheduled for an interview other than Mangini is former Vikings' coach Mike Tice, who is expected to be in Monday.

Johnson is believed to want someone with head coaching experience, though it seems he's willing to make an exception in the case of Mangini.

Haslett and Tice, who both coached under some adverse situations before losing their respective jobs, fall into the dreaded "recycled'' category.

Of the coordinators, Heimerdinger, who finished second to Mike Nolan for the 49ers head-coaching job last year, is best qualified.

For some reason _ and we believe we know the reason _ the Jets haven't reached out to former Packers' coach Mike Sherman, who has the best resume of anyone on the current market. Sherman, you see, was also the GM in Green Bay and might pose a threat to Jets' GM Terry Bradway.

Jim Fassel, the former Giants' coach, has reached out to Bradway but to only lukewarm response. This, too, is difficult to understand because, aside from his poor final season in New York (a 4-12 finish with eight consecutive losses to end the year) Fassel's resume is pretty good in that it includes a Super Bowl.

Fassel, too, knows the ins and outs of the New York market and the demands placed on a head coach in this city. For those reasons, Fassel should be considered a lot more strongly than he is.