An interview with New York Jets blogger John Butchko about former coach Eric Mangini, a reported candidate to replace Joe Paterno at Penn State.
When Eric Mangini broke onto the NFL scene with the New York Jets in 2006, he was dubbed "The Mangenius" in guiding his club to a 10-6 record and AFC Wild Card berth. A long time assistant of legendary New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Mangini's stock probably couldn't have been much higher for a 35-year old.
Things went down hill from there on the now-40-year old Hartford, Conn. native, though. His Jets went 4-12 in 2007 before he was fired after a 2008 season that saw his team miss the playoffs after an 8-3 start.
He attempted to resurrect his head coaching career in Cleveland with the Browns, but that's a story for another time. Now, with Mangini reportedly a candidate for the Penn State job according to Fox 29 in Philadelphia, we take a look at his tenure in New York with John Butchko, editor-in-chief of SB Nation's New York Jets blog, Gang Green Nation. Check out his responses to some questions about Mangini below.
AB: Generally, how do Jets fans feel about the job Eric Mangini did? Is there a consensus, or are there competing opinions?
JB: I think the consensus was disappointment. He came in with high expectations as Bill Belichick's protege. The overall talent level clearly improved during Mangini's run, but he did not have the final say over personnel decisions. He seemed to focus on mimicking Bill Belichick's persona rather than doing the things in preparation and on game day that make Belichick great. He was combative with the media and secretive about every small piece of information. The Jets under him, however, consistently put together unimaginative gameplans on both sides of the ball and did not build around the strengths of his players.
You would be hard pressed to find a Jets fan who regrets the team firing Mangini and hiring Rex Ryan.
AB: What was his team's offensive identity in New York?
JB: Mangini hired then-San Diego quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer as his offensive coordinator in no small part because Mangini had problems with that offense while he was an assistant with the Patriots. Mangini seemed to put his own twist on the system, though. Like the Patriots do, the Jets under Mangini focused more on building a unique gameplan each week to attack the weaknesses of the opponent rather than focusing on his own team's strengths and building a system around that. The thing is this works for the Patriots because they have Tom Brady, who can do everything well.
Interestingly, many do not realize that Mangini's Jets used Wildcat packages with Brad Smith and Leon Washington before they came into vogue in the pros, so he has shown willingness to think outside the box and use more gimmicky staples on offense.
AB: What was his team's defensive philosophy with the Jets?
JB: Mangini imported the New England playbook and adopted a 3-4 even though, in his first two years in New York, his personnel was better suited for a 4-3 defense. His defenses were very vanilla. His blitzes were pretty rudimentary. The strange thing is he seemed to come up with one brilliant and innovative gameplan a year that resulted in a big win. Then they went back to the same ineffective stuff.
AB: How would you rate Mangini's quarterback development with the Jets and why?
JB: He had three different quarterbacks in his three years. Two of them were established veterans, Chad Pennington and Brett Favre. The only young quarterback he had was Kellen Clemens, who failed pretty miserably. He completed just over half of his passes and threw two interceptions for every touchdown. I am not sure this is an indictment, though. Clemens does not seem to have much talent. Two teams have given up on him since he left the Jets. Those two teams are coached by Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak, who have good track records with quarterbacks.
AB: How do you think a longtime professional coach like Mangini would handle recruiting high school players?
JB: If you are looking for a great salesman, Mangini probably is not the guy. He does not have a very dynamic personality. He was big on character in his personnel moves with the Jets. Some would argue too much so. If he gets the job, I would feel confident the kids he recruits will be good citizens off the field.
AB: What kind of fit would you see Mangini's system being with the college game in general and the Big Ten specifically?
JB: The big thing about Mangini is that he focused fundamentals and preparedness. There are stories of him being angry that Brett Favre didn't know the right guard on the Bengals during a team meeting. He also focused on fundamentals. I think if Penn State found success under Mangini, it would be similar to Joe Paterno's preferred way. They won't wow you with their scheme, but their players will execute smart and disciplined.
AB: How did Mangini handle off-field team issues in New York and how do you think he'd handle things like academics and NCAA regulations?
JB: Mangini is a disciplinarian. When one of his starting guards, Pete Kendall, demanded a raise, he stuck him in the rookie dorms in training camp and then traded him. That's the kind of thing Mangini does. I think pros making millions of dollars do not respond to that kind of treatment. That kind of discipline would probably be more effective with college kids for whom the coach is a figure of authority than it was in the pros. The Jets tended to focus on bringing in guys they considered high character they could count upon to avoid any trouble.
Mangini is also a stickler for detail. I don't think he'd have any problem learning and abiding by NCAA regulations.
AB: Is Mangini prepared to become the face of a program in this kind of turmoil?
JB: I don't think he was ready to be a head coach when he got the job with the Jets. As I mentioned above, there were isolated games where he did things very creatively, but they were the exception. He is a bright guy who did not have the experience to direct what he knew in a positive way.
I have real questions about how Mangini would respond in this situation. Comparing the press he would have in State College to the one he had in New York is probably apples and oranges, but he did not foster a good relationship with the media in New York. Given everything that has happened in Penn State, somebody more media-savvy would probably help with PR. I'm not sure Mangini is the guy. He is also a guy who lives and breathes football and does not like distractions, so I'm not sure this is the kind of guy who would enjoy cultivating boosters.
AB: Any general thoughts about Mangini and Penn State?
JB: I am kind of surprised to hear Penn State is interested. My first reaction was, "Is this really the best they can do?" I know the program has had to deal with some negative headlines, but it is still a big state school with ample resources and a history of success. There are plenty of coaches who failed in the NFL who found success in college. Maybe Mangini could do that. In some ways his style is better suited for the college game, but I have to imagine Penn State could find more of a sure thing.