Thirty-six days. That's all that passed between the time the New York Jets were being touted as the AFC's new Super Bowl favorite and the lowering of the boom on third-year head coach
Coming off their dominating Week 12 road upset of undefeated Tennessee, the Jets were 8-3 and seen as a team that had gambled big -- and won -- in terms of their blockbuster offseason and preseason personnel moves. Bringing
But here we are on Dec. 29, and it was those high-profile moves that upped the ante in New York this season, and wound up costing Mangini his job when his Jets swooned from 8-3 on Nov. 23 to 9-7 and out of the playoffs by season's end. That's the nature of the expectations game in today's NFL. A quick rise often gives way to one heck of a precipitous drop.
With those acquisitions changing both the perception and reality of how Mangini and his team would be judged, a five-game improvement from 4-12 in 2007 to 9-7 this season felt like a disappointment. It's easy to forget of course that those numbers nearly matched the six-game jump New York took from 2005 to 2006, when the coach they called "Mangenius'' posted a 10-6, playoff-qualifying season in his first year in town.
But even beyond the heightened expectations and the letdown that followed, the worst of all outcomes occurred this year for Mangini and his Jets when lowly Miami -- with Jets' cast-off Pennington playing quarterback -- won 10 more games than last season and stormed to the division title that looked to be New York's destiny. If anyone was supposed to dethrone the mighty Patriots this season, it wasn't supposed to be these rebuilding-phase Dolphins, who in the preseason would have been thrilled at the prospects of a .500 record in 2008.
I can remember sitting in the office of Jets general manager
The Jets this season were like the power hitter who always swings for the fences, and they managed to hit some very loud foul balls along the way that drew more than a few oohs and aahs. But ultimately they struck out, and had to slink back to the bench along with the rest of those who had failed. And in this case, that failure goes squarely on Mangini's record, even though he had two winning seasons in his three-year stay in New York.
I'm fairly certain that New York's 2008 season will wind up a cautionary tale that will only make other teams in the NFL that much more risk-adverse, much less willing to go for the biggest and boldest of moves, at least all at once. Remember the Jets, people will say, as a way of meaning that a team shouldn't go for broke, because the potential downside is too steep and might not be survivable. Just ask Mangini. Players like Favre and Jenkins were hailed as heroes in November, but slumped noticeably down the stretch and were key components in the biggest collapse in Jets history.
I'm sure everyone from Tannenbaum, Mangini and Jets owner
• So where do the Jets turn in their nascent head coaching search? Well, if we can take
Giants defensive coordinator
Spagnuolo and Tennessee defensive coordinator
If there's one scenario I can't foresee the Jets pursuing it's making an attempt to hire Patriots offensive coordinator
• Any way you cut it, there's not going to be anywhere near the number of NFL head coaching vacancies as we expected most of the year. Just consider the number of hot-seat candidates who have shored up their job security recently:
-- San Diego's
-- Dallas owner
-- San Francisco's
Who does that leave in jeopardy?
And then there are the Teflon Twins: Tampa Bay's
• If I'm a Lions fan, I'm smacking my own forehead repeatedly today. Sure, Detroit owner
With all eyes on the coaching front, Ford also announced that
If ever there was a time to blow up a front office and start over, you'd figure 0-16 would be a decent impetus. But no, not the Lions. They're too smart for that. How on earth can you not throw the kitchen sink at the Patriots'
• Cleveland owner
If there was an early favorite to land Pioli, I'd have to believe it's Lerner's Browns, who have quite the complicated mess on their hands at the moment. That should make Lerner motivated to throw a ridiculous salary number in Pioli's direction. Whether or not Pioli sees Cleveland as a potential winning situation is a question still to be determined.
• Speaking of McDaniels and Crennel and Mangini, the whole idea of hiring an ex-Patriots coordinator as your head coach isn't working out all that well, is it? Crennel made it just four seasons in Cleveland, never making the playoffs. Mangini got the boot in New York after going 23-26 in three seasons, and last I checked, they're not building any statues of Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.
• Oh, good. We potentially get to follow the simultaneous day-to-day developments of the
• I can't remember a season when there was ever more collapses down the stretch. The Bucs were 9-3, but became the first team since the 1993 Dolphins to have that record after 12 games and still miss the playoffs. The Jets were 8-3, won just once more and missed the postseason at 9-7. The Cowboys had their 1-3 December to doom their season, while the Broncos coughed up a historic three-game lead with three weeks remaining.
Buffalo was 5-1 and finished 7-9, and Washington wound up 8-8 after starting 6-2. And then there were the Cardinals, who collapsed but were still forced to make the playoffs out of the mild, mild NFC West.
• Here's a word of caution to all 12 of this year's playoff teams: Don't take it for granted. Last year's two top-seeded teams were New England and Dallas, who combined to go 29-3 in the regular season, and 31-5 overall. Neither made the playoffs this year.
All told, seven of the 12 playoff teams this season were non-repeaters. In the NFC, only the No. 1 Giants returned to the postseason. Carolina, Minnesota, Arizona, Atlanta and Philadelphia all finished at 8-8 or worse in 2007, and none made the playoffs. The AFC field is more familiar, with four of six teams returning. But the newcomers are some real doozeys, with Miami going from 1-15 to 11-5 and the AFC East crown, and Baltimore rebounding from 5-11 to 11-5 and a wild-card berth. Tennessee, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Indianapolis were all 2007 playoff qualifiers.