Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Love Song For Eric Mangini

Read an article this offseason about the New York Jets and I can pretty much guarantee the word "fun" will be in there. As in, "Rex Ryan has brought the "fun" back to the Jets," or "Unlike taskmaster Mangini, who had rules for everything, the Jets players are having fun during offseason camps."

Yesterday, The LA Times, in an interview with Jets right tackle Damien Woody quoted Woody as saying:

....Ryan “treats us like men,” with the implication that the rigid Mangini didn’t.

Without naming Mangini, specifically, guard Damien Woody said not being afforded that respect “is almost degrading.”

“Here I am 31 years old, I’ve got my own kids, and I’m married, and here’s someone that’s not that much older than me — or whatever the case may be — telling me what I can and can’t do,” Woody said. “It’s so regimented where the game is just not a game anymore. It’s not fun. Even when you win it’s not fun.”

Here's what bothers me: Who the heck said work must be fun?

Don't get me wrong. The fact that Rex Ryan is a shoot-from-the-hip, trash talker is lots of fun to watch. For me, the fan. Who doesn't like a little swagger in their football team? But does any of this have any impact on the field? Remains to be seen.

Mention Mangini to football fans in New York and you'd think the man was Death made Flesh. Martinet. Joyless, etc, etc, etc. But remember, when Mangini came in, the Jets needed a break from Camp Edwards and the "player's coach" mentality that Herm Edwards brought to the team—which led to mistakes, injuries and sloppy play. And let the record show that Mangini, with all his rules and his "joyless" demeanor, had a winning record in 2 of the 3 years he was Jets head coach. And that was with a team devoid of impact players and a revolving door at quarterback.

Bill Parcells, Bill Belichek, Tom Coughlin. Not fun guys. Guys who made their players hate them. But guys who won won. Each made whatever team they were coaching better than they were than when they got there. The same is true for Mangini. The team Rex Ryan inherits is a far better team, with more talent and more depth than the team Eric Mangini inherited—with its Jurassic offensive line, Justin McCareins and Doug Jolley as starting receivers and a starting secondary with Donnie Abraham, David Barret, Jon McGraw and Eric Coleman.

Don't believe me? Let's take a look at players Mangini brought in his 3 years here. Nick Mangold, Leon Washington. Darrelle Revis. David Harris. Thomas Jones. Kris Jenkins. Calvin Pace. D'Brickashaw Fergeson. Dustin Keller. Alan Faneca. Chansi Stuckey. Oh, and that same Damien Woody whose career was teetering in Detroit when the Jets came in and relieved him of that heckhole.

Add to that fact that Mangini never wanted Farve, and was handed him late in training camp. And no matter what Mangini or any of the coaches did, they couldn't get Farve to stop thinking he was still 26, had a cannon for an arm and could get away with throwing into triple coverage. There was no benching Farve, no matter how poorly he played or how many interceptions he threw. Basically, Mangini was stuck with Farve no matter what he did. And he took the blame when Farve revealed himself in December to be old and broken.

Now, this is not to say that Mangini was blameless. He made mistakes, and he absolutely played too cautiously down the stretch last year. (He's not alone; Belichek went 36-44 in his first head coaching job, Parcells went 3-8 as a head coach of Air Force and 3-12-1 in his first year with the Giants.) That said, Mangini took a took an undertalented team that went 4-12 the year before he got there and turned them around to go 10-6. Then after his offensive line completely disintegrated in 2007 and no one short of God could have completed a pass or run behind them, he took a team—with an aging, self-obsessed QB with a failing shoulder— to within a game of the playoffs.

Once upon a time, Tom Coughlin was about to be fired as Head Coach of the New York Giants. The star running back, the star defensive end—and a bunch of anonymous players—complained publicly about him. The media hated him, and couldn't wait to write his epitaph. Then a funny thing happened. Tom Coughlin won the Super Bowl. Boy, how times change! Nowadays, you don't hear a whole lot of "Tom Coughlin isn't fun" speeches; You don't read too many "Coughlin is too strict" articles.

Maybe those rules all the players complain about have a reason. Football players aren't exactly the self-disciplined bunch; and sometimes they forget that the reason they make such ludicrous amounts of money is because they have a job. And they have to work at it, and keep mistakes and failures to a minimum. Not because it is fun. You get paid to work hard.

Now who knows if Eric Mangini will lead the Cleveland Browns—who've won exactly diddily + squat in decades—to the promised land. The point is, is that he deserves a chance to do things his way. Having fun is not the point. Winning ball games is. And if Mangini proves that he—unlike his mentor, Bill Belichick (it helps to have Tom Brady fall into your lap, doesn't it) can win some football games in Cleveland——then the fun will take care of itself.


Travis said...

That really seems to be the coaching see-saw that every team goes through. They get a hard ass, and he seems to strict they fire him and get an easy going coach. Once he inevitably fails they bring a disciplinarian back in, because the locker room is too much like a frat house. On it goes.

P-Cat said...

Totally agree. Parcells, now Wade. Herm, then Mangini. It's just a bizarre pendulum.