30 Dec 2008
by Ned Macey
The "biggest" upset of the week was Oakland's win over Tampa Bay, but having just written about the Buccaneers, it seemed a little redundant to write another article on the fact that their run defense fell apart. (Although it should be noted that, as last week's article says, the run defense fell apart starting in Week 10, not when Monte Kiffin announced he was leaving, but the storyline is a much easier column to write, so nobody should be surprised).
Here, in addition to the brief looking forward that the linked article includes, I thought it would be worthwhile to remind people that Eric Mangini decided that he was better off with Kellen Clemens than Chad Pennington. When the Jets were 1-7 last season, Mangini turned to Clemens and benched Pennington. Pennington, who the year before had ranked seventh in DYAR and led the Jets to a surprise playoff berth. Pennington, who had nothing to do with the Jets having one of the worst defenses in the league at that time (i.e., pre-David Harris insertion).
Now, in the abstract the decision to bench Pennington was not an enormous mistake. The season was lost, and Clemens was "the future." But the same benching effectively ended the possibility of Pennington serving as the unquestioned starter of the team. A quarterback controversy would continue to rage. When Clemens played worse than Pennington the rest of the season, the Jets had a disastrous situation at quarterback. In that moment, the decision to acquire Brett Favre was a necessary move. Had Pennington stayed and started 1-2, the pressure to play Clemens would have been too intense. So, the Jets cut Pennington and gave up a draft pick for Favre. Favre finished this season with a -2.2% DVOA, very similar to the -1.2% DVOA he had in 2006. Pennington, meanwhile, finished seventh in DYAR just like 2006.
Like everything in Mangini's tenure, the quarterback moves were explainable, but like everything in Mangini's tenure, they did not work. The Jets finished 19th, 25th, and 19th in overall DVOA in Mangini's three seasons. The defense ranked 26th, 25th, and 16th in defensive DVOA. The offense ranked 14th, 25th, and 19th. Only six teams have not had an overall DVOA higher than 18th in the past three years: Denver, Oakland, Detroit, Arizona, St. Louis, and San Francisco. All except Denver (Ed. note: Not anymore) have replaced at least one head coach in that period (which raises a different article idea about the ultimate leader). Only San Francisco and Detroit have not had at least an offense or defense ranked higher than Mangini's best. (What else do Detroit and San Francisco have in common? They thought it was a good idea to hire Mike Martz.)
My own sense is that Mangini may be a perfectly adequate head coach, but after three years, he has hardly worked any magic. The Jets will suffer no damage by getting rid of him, but another team may find success with him. His main attribute is that he is smart. Well, my dad went to Wesleyan as well, but I wouldn't hire him to run my football team.
7 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2008, 12:39pm by Biebs
Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.