Jets Won't Turn Things Around Quickly

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 5, 2006; 12:30 PM

The New York Jets were a bad team in the final season of the reign former coach Herman Edwards and general manager Terry Bradway, and there's little reason to suspect they will be anything different in their first season with new coach Eric Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum.

It was an offseason of change for a team that desperately needed it. There is room to wonder, however, whether the changes the Jets made were for the better.

Bradway got a fourth-round draft choice from the Kansas City Chiefs to release Edwards from his contract so that Edwards could succeed Dick Vermeil in Kansas City. Bradway was criticized for not getting more, and he was ousted from his job in what was described as a mutual decision for him to become a consultant. He was succeeded by Tannenbaum -- who, as the assistant GM, had played the key role in the hiring of Mangini to replace Edwards.

Tannenbaum and Mangini are close, and Tannenbaum pushed for Mangini's hiring. There is no question that Mangini was on the fast track to becoming an NFL head coach. He's a tireless worker who was given his start in coaching in Cleveland by Bill Belichick, and he had succeeded Romeo Crennel as Belichick's defensive coordinator with the New England Patriots.

But practically no one in the league but Tannenbaum thought that Mangini was ready to be a head coach yet. He had spent only one season as a coordinator, and it wasn't even a particularly successful season for the Patriots by their lofty standards. His performance in that job was less than spectacular. He was just shy of his 35th birthday when the Jets hired him. He might be a very good NFL head coach one day. But that day probably won't come this season.

Mangini is duplicating Belichick's style, treating the most mundane bits of information about his team like state secrets. The difference is that Belichick can get away with that, given his three Super Bowl victories. Mangini is a rookie head coach in the media capital of the world.

He is working with a highly flawed team. Quarterback Chad Pennington is rehabilitating from his second shoulder surgery. The Jets gave Mangini and his offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, their alternative at the position by trading a sixth-round draft choice to the Washington Redskins for Patrick Ramsey. The former first-round pick wasn't the answer in Washington for either Steve Spurrier or Joe Gibbs, and his lack of mobility and his willingness to hold the ball in the pocket with pass rushers closing in on him make him a prime candidate to get clobbered every time he drops back to pass. But he is smart and he does have a strong arm, and he could end up being the Jets' best option.

The Jets used their franchise-player tag on defensive end John Abraham to keep him off the free agent market long enough to trade him, getting a first-round draft pick from the Atlanta Falcons. The Jets used their two first-round choices to significantly upgrade their offensive line, getting left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson with the fourth overall selection and center Nick Mangold with the 29th pick. Otherwise, the Jets' offseason moves yielded no real difference-makers. They added some potentially useful players in free agency by signing offensive tackle Anthony Clement, linebacker Brad Kassell, cornerback Andre Dyson, defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen and defensive tackle Monsanto Pope.

But that was offset by the losses the Jets suffered when, facing a salary-cap crunch early in the offseason, they released cornerback Ty Law, linebacker Barry Gardner, quarterback Jay Fiedler, offensive tackle Jason Fabini, center Kevin Mawae and fullback Jerald Sowell.

It was only two seasons ago that the Jets reached an AFC semifinal and should have been in the conference title game, suffering an improbable defeat in Pittsburgh thanks to the kicking misadventures of Doug Brien. Their fall from grace last season was abrupt. Anyone who thinks their return to prominence will be just as swift probably isn't being realistic.

The Houston Texans hired Denver Broncos assistant GM Rick Smith as their general manager. He succeeds Charley Casserly, who resigned after the draft. Smith was one of three candidates interviewed by the Texans, along with Reggie McKenzie, the director of pro personnel for the Green Bay Packers, and Rick Mueller, the director of player personnel for the New Orleans Saints. Smith was the only candidate to get a second interview, returning to Houston late last week. If Smith's second interview hadn't gone well, club officials probably would have talked to McKenzie again . . .

The Indianapolis Colts signed quarterback Shaun King, who'd been released by the Detroit Lions after signing with them early in the offseason. King formerly played for Colts Coach Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay . . .

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