A little more than 12 hours after the Jets finished the 2008 season with a 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Eric Mangini was fired as the team's head coach. Owner Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum held a press conference at the team's headquarters Monday morning to announce the move.
Before the season began, Johnson said that Mangini and Tannenbaum's jobs were both safe, regardless of the team's record in 2008. He wasn't able to articulate exactly what changed during a 9-7 season, beyond saying that the "decision tree" had been in motion for some time. He did continually refer back to making a judgement about the way the coach handles the talent available to him, but didn't point to any specifics about Mangini that forced the issue.
On the topic of talent, Johnson was asked about Brett Favre and how his poor play made the final five games a train wreck. He answered by saying that Favre was a huge positive and that he hopes he returns next season. Tannenbaum reiterated that belief. That's a difficult viewpoint to agree with, and it's hard to see the team through eyes that saw Favre as a bigger positive than Mangini as the season wound down. In many ways, it played as Johnson and Tannenbaum choosing Favre over Mangini.
Johnson and Tannenbaum each said that Mangini was just a bad fit for the organization, but it would have been nice to hear a few reasons why. There were several compelling reasons for making a coaching change, but none of them came up during the press conference. They demurred when asked about in-game decision making, for example, although that would be the easiest place to pin blame on Mangini.
There were questions about who will be the next man to wear the headsets. Bill Parcells and Bill Cowher were both mentioned by reporters, but, sticking with the vague nature of the conference, they only said the search would begin immediately and would be exhaustive. There was a question about what would happen if a prospective coach was unwilling to join the team if Favre was still a part of it, but -- no surprise -- there wasn't much of an answer given.
A question about fan perception brought a response that mentioned respecting the fans, but Johnson didn't say that fan opinion played a role in Mangini's firing. Given the wishy-washy nature of the rationale behind the move, however, it's impossible to think that Johnson and Tannenbaum weren't trying to halt the hostility generated by their team's collapse down the stretch.
To truly put fans at ease, they'll need to sign a big name as the next coach. If not Cowher or Parcells, then somebody who makes the Mangini firing seem like part of a bigger plan. If they flounder around and end up with a less appealing retread or another young assistant, though, it will be hard to have much faith in the men on top of that decision tree.