Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Sep 2007


Mangenius. For highly educated, highly intelligent, highly apprenticed NFL coach Eric Mangini, the nickname almost wrote itself. The Jets head coach's appealing nickname was featured on the Sopranos. Likely as a result of that, it is now used by the most prominent NFL writer, Peter King. Here at Football Outsiders, we have been using it since the middle of last season. The name seems to be used with no hint of tongue in cheek after the Jets surprising 10-6 season last year. Consider me skeptical of the anointing of Mangini as a great NFL coach.

Mangini was hired by the Jets at the age of 35 after only one season as the Patriots defensive coordinator. His primary qualifications, I believe, were bearing a resemblance to Bill Belichick and having attended the same college, Wesleyan, as the sweatshirted one. In reality, he has trained for a long time under Belichick who is the best coach of this generation. Sadly, however, Mangini never flashed any of his own coaching talent to warrant a head coaching job. The Patriots had their worst defensive DVOA of the Belichick era the year that Mangini was coordinator (and of course bounced back to a high level the year after Mangini left).

That low ranking was due at least in part to injuries and will be an afterthought if Mangini is a successful head coach. In the only statistic that counts, wins, Mangini got off to a roaring stat coaxing a 10 win season from a team with limited talent. If you go even one step beyond wins, however, the team was extremely lucky. Furthermore, the improvement was largely a function of having a healthy Chad Pennington.

First things first, the Jets were not a good football team. They had an overall DVOA of -4.7% which ranked 19th in the league. They won a grand total of one game against an opposing team with a winning record, or if advanced stats are your thing, one win against a team with an above average DVOA. While they beat the Patriots once, they lost two other times and were outscored 75-50 over the course of three games.

The weak schedule allowed the Jets to go 10-6 despite the negative DVOA. They are only the fourth team in the 11 years of DVOA to win 10 games with a negative DVOA. Atlanta previously won 11 games with a -2.7% DVOA in 2004. Indianapolis won 10 games with a -2.0% DVOA in 2000. Minnesota won 11 games with a -2.5% DVOA in 2000. Two of those three teams have yet to win 10 games again. (The Colts, of course, have won at least 12 games every year since.)

Of course, it is better to win 10 games against a weak schedule than lose 10 games. The problem is that going even deeper gives nothing else to recommend Mangini's work. Six of the seven worst teams according to DVOA changed coaches after the 2005 season. The improvement from woeful to below average was effectively shared by Houston, St. Louis, Buffalo, and New York improving between 14.9% and 17.7%. New Orleans took an amazing leap. The Lions, of course, brought suckiness to a new level by actually getting worse. Mangini's improvement ranked fourth among these six and was hardly revolutionary.

A closer look shows Mangini should get even less credit. Take a look at the changes in DVOA by unit between the last year of Herm Edwards and the first year of Mangini.

Off Def ST
-19.3% 0.6% -0.1%
2.7% 10.7% 3.2%

Mangini, whose background is in defense, actually oversaw a decline in defense. The offense, meanwhile, improved markedly and basically was the reason the Jets were so improved. Obviously, Mangini as head coach deserves some credit for that improvement. Still, the return to health of Chad Pennington is an even more likely reason.

Starting in 1999, the Jets have had a positive offensive DVOA each season where Pennington has started nine games and a negative offensive DVOA in every other season. The disastrous 2005 offense was led by Brooks Bollinger and Vinny Testaverde. Somehow I doubt the Jets would have had a positive offensive DVOA with those two at the helm last season.

None of this means that Mangini is a bad head coach. My point is merely that it is WAY too soon to start anointing him more than an intriguing coaching prospect. He has accomplished nothing in his career out of the ordinary. He oversaw a poor defense in his one year as a defensive coordinator. As a head coach, his team improved no more than similarly situated teams, and that improvement may largely be attributable to the return to health of his starting quarterback.

We have no way of knowing whether Mangini will succeed any more than Jim Mora, Jr. did. Mora was a young defensive coach who feasted on a weak schedule for 11 wins as a rookie head coach. He never saw the playoffs again. All we still really know is that Mangini is a smart guy who once worked for Bill Belichick. Give Romeo Crennel a call to find out how much success that guarantees.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 05 Sep 2007

32 comments, Last at 08 Sep 2007, 7:55pm by glenn212


by Dennis (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:03pm

The main problem with the defense was he put in a 3-4 when the Jets clearly didn't have the personnel for it.

by Oldcat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:16pm

There could be another explanation for the drop in defense over the 2 years. When playing a team with a rotten offense, a team can go into burn the clock mode in the first quarter up 7-0. So what if you punt? That offense is likely to lose yards, netting you field position. No need to take a chance on turnovers getting you into a hole.

Once the offense gets better, the other team plays all out deeper into the game, resulting in a lower rating with the same personnel.

This might be part of the reason for last year's high ranked Oakland defense as well. If the offense perks up the defense may feel the pain. Sorry, RaiderJoe.

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:33pm

I thought their offensive playcalling last year was quite inventive, I don't know if B. Schott or Mangenius deserves the credit. But at least credit Mangenius for hiring B. Schott.
I think the health of Pennington is much less relevant now with Clemens waiting in the wings.
Defensively, their D-lineman were blown up at the point of attack quite frequently, which suggest they just don't have the horses to compete at the line of scrimmage. There isn't much coaching that can correct weak players. I'd give Mangini some time to assemble a front 7 before critiquing his defensive coaching abilities.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:38pm

Re 2:
DVOA adjusts for all of that. Well, it doesn't specifically adjust for how sucky your offense is but it compares every play to a comparable play including time left on the clock and score.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:40pm

Re 3:
Wouldn't part of the problem be scheme? If he doesn't have the horses to run a 3-4 then he shouldn't run a 3-4. The blame can't all fall to players who can't perform in that system.

by KSR (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:42pm

Any consideration for the work Mangini did as the NE secondary coach before he became defensive coordinator? I don't think he should be crowned "Mangenius" just yet, but I do like him and was wondering his work with a banged-up secondary and players like Earthwind Moreland was given any consideration. Obviously it's very difficult to rate someone's work in the secondary when Belichick has final say.

by Will (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:49pm

The article focuses on the return of a critical player on offense (Pennington) while ignoring the departure of two key players on defense (Abraham and Law).

The article further makes a point of calling out the low DVOA for the Patriots on defense in Mangini's year at DC while only tangentially touching on the primary driver of that low DVOA (injuries).

Selectively looking at statistics as well as player movement lends a partial picture at best.

Not one of the site's better articles.

by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:50pm

The weak schedule allowed the Jets to go 10-6 despite the negative DVOA.

I keep hearing about the "weak schedule." Accordiing to FO's stats, the Jets strength of schedule was not even in the bottom third of the league and was essentially the same as the Pats (-0.9). Yes the Jets outperformed DVOA, but attributing that to the schedule rather than luck or coaching or some combo thereof is pretty facile, mainstream sports media level of analysis. Do you have some data to show that a strength of schedule modestly below average correlates with outperforming expected wins by over 2 wins?

As for Mangini's resume, he was the DB coach when the Pats were winning SB's with patchwork secondaries and helped teach Troy Brown how to play nickelback. You already admit that the decline of the Pats defense when he became the DC could largely be attributed to injuries, so that point is not particularly strong. (Maybe it was excellent coaching to overcome the injuries as well as they did? Who knows.)

Finally, you talk about the decline of the Jets defense in 2006 without even mentioning that it was the first year in an entirely different defensive system. Bottom line is that if the ultimate point of the piece was as banal as "let's wait and see before we call Mangini a genius" (does anyone disagree with that?), you could have done a more careful, balanced job.

by sam (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:59pm

I will repeat from the article:
"None of this means that Mangini is a bad head coach. My point is merely that it is WAY too soon to start anointing him more than an intriguing coaching prospect. He has accomplished nothing in his career out of the ordinary."

Please read more carefully.

by Mike (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:12pm

I don't really get the point of the article, in that I don't really see any widespread "anointing of Mangini as a great NFL head coach", depsite the catchy nickname.

Obviously he gets alot of credit because he comes from the Parcells/Belichick system, and the fact that despite whatever the DVOA and schedule was, the Jets had a 10-6 playoff year. But I don't think anyone in the mainstream media is really predicting the Jets to break through and be a conference or Super Bowl contender...

by Goran (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:18pm

I think this article has a point when it says Mangini shouldn't be hailed as the next best coach of his generation, yet. Whatever that generation may be. He has shown a lot of good qualities, but anything can happen this year, next year, and he could end up without a job real quick. It's just too soon.

The problem I have with the article is that in order to prove so, it mixes apples and oranges. The Jets were the 19th team based on DVOA, and the author further illustrates his point by saying the Jets had an easy schedule and beat just one winning team. Since DVOA, I think, takes into account who you play, shouldn't the more appropriate method to determine Mangini's influence be how they compare in DVOA to the teams they played and beat?

So, the Jets rank 19th in DVOA, yet their "overrated" team record includes wins over:

Buffalo, 16th DVOA
New England, 5th DVOA
Miami, twice, 17th DVOA
Green Bay, 15th DVOA

So that's five wins over teams with better DVOA than the Jets.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:22pm

Re Weak Schedule
An overall SOS measure is valuable, but relatively crude. In fact, I would argue the Jets' SOS measure is artificially high. This is because they played several games against several of the high outlier DVOA teams. Look at their schedule:

Positive DVOA Opponents:
CHI x1, NE x2, JAX x1, IND x1
And of those 4 teams, the Colts had the lowest DVOA, at 19.4%.

The remaining 11 games came against negative DVOA Opponents:
GB x1, BUF x2, MIA x2, MIN x1, TEN x1, DET x1, HOU x1, CLE x1, OAK x1. Of these teams, the latter four were close to as bad as the good teams were good. The first three teams, in particular, though, were just mediocre, not aggressively good. This provides the Jets with a not-that-bad SOS calculator while at the same time providing them with good opportunities to win games. And they did well against those teams; that's how they won 10 games and made the playoffs.

by Nuk (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:29pm

A nitpick - The colts haven't won at least 12 games every season after 2000. They were 6-10 in '01 and 10-6 in '02.

by MCS (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:41pm

Why is this in Extra Points? Is there a link in the title?

by Shawn (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 3:58pm

Would this article even have been written had the nickname --- (rhymes with a part of the female anatomy) taken a stronger hold?

by Costa (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:00pm

13: That's not merely a nitpick, that's a legitimate correction of a very false statement. :)

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:04pm

I agree with almost everything in the article. Their schedule last year was quite easy (#12 hits that nail on the head). The recovery of Pennington from his rotator cuff surgery was always going to help the team win a lot more games. Getting good quarterbacking where it was previously poor is the biggest personnel change possible in the NFL. Look at the Saints for example, Peyton did a great job preparing his team but would they have been in the championship game with Brooks playing QB instead of Brees?

In the second half of last year when the Mangenius label began to be bandied about and Crennel started to come under heat in Cleveland it seemed to me that the biggest difference between the two teams was the health of Chad Pennington's shoulder.

by Tracy (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:18pm

This article casually mentions the Parcells/Belichick coaching tree, as though it were destined to be as great as the Walsh coaching tree. But I don't see a lot of success there. You've basically got Parcells and Belichick and a bunch of guys who have high expectations and very little demonstrated success. Weiss and Saban have had success at the college level, but which of Parcells'/Belichicks's disciples have done anything of note in the NFL?

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:18pm


Aaron explained in a Ramblings thing at the start of the preseason that Extra Points was going to be used for small research pieces and FO-generated content that previously was going on the Fox blog. I think there have been a few others, I think that they are trying to increase the amount of material generated and displayed by the site. I personally am all for it.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:29pm

13: Further clarification on the nitpick -

The mention of the 2000 Colts as a negative DVOA team with 10 wins is a typo. The article is actually referring to the 2002 Colts (which also fixes the statement about 12+ wins every year since.)

The 2000 Colts were a good team. The 2002 Colts were kind of bad at defense and special teams, as is the Colts norm, but they also had a terrible running game that year. Edge was not fully recovered from his injury from the year before and rushed for only 3.6 yards a carry. Short passes to Marvin Harrison basically became the Colts' running game that year, and Harrison shattered the all-time season receptions record by 20 catches.

Manning set a career record in attempts and threw 19 interceptions, which is high even by Peyton's early career standards. Obviously he wasn't ready to handle 590 attempt seasons and excel at that point in his career.

That weak team got pounded 41-0 by the Jets in the first round. Various dumb sports fans have used that as evidence of Manning's alleged choker-ness for ages, but if you look at that team from any reasonable perspective, you can see that they had no business being in the playoffs.

by Are-Tee (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 5:48pm

Two quick points:

1. The "only beat one team with a winning record" statement is a paradox, because a couple of the teams they beat (Tenn, GB)would have had winning records if the Jets hadn't beaten them.

2. True Jet fans know Mangini's proper knickname - The Penguin.

by Sean McCormick :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:16pm

Herm Edwards is a good coach by any fair measurement. He's been a head coach for six years and made the playoffs four times with two different teams. The two years he didn't make the playoffs, he was stuck with his second or third string quarterback for much of the season. In fact, in three of the years that he did make the playoffs, his starting quarterback missed multiple games. His '01 and '02 team were 9th in DVOA and his '04 team was 5th. His defenses have consistently given up fewer points than their yards allowed would suggest. And yet you'll be hard pressed to find a single Jets fan who thinks Edwards is even an average coach. The reason is they watched the team week in and week out and saw the same things over and over. They frequently looked unprepared. They ran unimaginative schemes. They couldn't make adjustments. Young players failed to develop.

The same group of fans will undoubtedly gush about Mangini, and not just because of the wins. The team looked consistently prepared (with the exception of the Cleveland and second Buffalo game), they made quality adjustments, and they milked everything there was to milk from the personnel. Even when the team lost, it wasn't because Mangini "DID A TERRIBLE JOB!" His gameplan for the playoff game was tremendous, and he kept the game close despite having serious matchup problems (the Pats didn't pull away until late, remember).

There's no question that the defense was a mess, particularly in the first half of the season, and Mangini is to blame for taking 4-3 personnel and ramming them into a 3-4 (although by trading John Abraham, they didn't really have the personnel to run a 4-3, either). But the team schemed its way to a much better showing in the second half. They basically used Vilma as the third safety in a 3-3-5 and sent Rhodes on a lot of blitzes, and it worked.

Mangini and Brian Schottenheimer should also get credit for the offense, as they were very creative in milking production from a unit with no offensive line, no running game and no dominant skill players to speak of. But he should also get credit for managing Pennington, who was very limited in terms of the kinds of throws he could make with any consistency. I've never seen a team have to work so hard to set up a 15-yard out. For the talk about Pennington being the difference between Mangini and Crennel, I suspect that the team is hoping for the opportunity to put Kellen Clemens in, as that will greatly open up the offense, particularly over the deep middle. Pennington was a vast improvement on Brooks Bollinger, but he wasn't playing like the Pennington of old, and he was a liability against teams with good defenses.

Anyway, a long way of saying that while Mangini shouldn't necessarily be getting star treatment yet, his performance was more impressive than the article would suggest.

by SuperHusker (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 6:18pm

Would this article even have been written had the nickname — (rhymes with a part of the female anatomy)


by Tally (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 9:49pm

So in summary, a more appropos nickname for Mangini may be Mangina?

by andy (not verified) :: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 10:18pm

re #7.

ty law and john abraham aren't very great losses, i'd have to say. despite his 10 picks, FO has pointed out that law got them by gambling, which lead to his getting beat quite often. john abraham is a one-dimensional player - a very good pass rusher who can't stay healthy. from FO stats, it would indicate that the defenses' biggest problem was stopping the run, an area that ty law and john abraham wouldn't have helped improve anyways.

by ygold (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 2:43am

I know this site focuses on objective data analysis to draw conclusions, but I don't think record or statistical analysis really has any correlation to how good a coach is. Is Jeff Fisher a bad coach because his team has not been competitive for several years? Is Barry Switzer a great coach or did he just coach Super Bowl talent?

What are the responsibilities of a head coach:

1. motivate players to give maximal effort 2. ensure players perform proper fundamentals and avoid mental mistakes 3. devise an effective gameplan for each week's opponent and be able to make mid-game adjustments
4. Manage the clock and challenges.

I think if you evaluate Mangini based on these criteria you would have to say he was very successful last year. If Mangini coached the Patriots last year and Belichek coached the Jets I doubt there would have been much difference in each team's record.

Coaches should not be held responsible for their team's record, but they should be held responsible for putting their team in the best possible situation to win each game.

by bengt (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 4:25am

So, to summarize: A 35-year old NFL head coach with one year experience as defensive coordinator following work as a secondary coach who outplayed his teams 'true talent' big time in his first season. But the jury is still out on whether he should already be called a genius or not.
As a Steelers fan, I like that a lot, at least in the short term. I just hope Mike Tomlin doesn't try to squeeze his 3-4 personnel into a 4-3 defense.

by glenn212 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 6:37am

Well Mangini was the DC for the Pat's his first 8 games he was literrally missing half his defense to injuries..What was his DVOA the last 8 games of that year??..I bet is was ranked #1. lets remember it was Tom Brady who lost the Denver game and a horible call against Astante Samuels.."Mangenius's" defense SHUT Denvers "O" down.Just the facts please..Plus EM didn't give himself the nickname..the media did!!!

by Will (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 2:17pm

re: #25

Fair comments on Law and Abraham, but keep in mind that neither were adequately replaced, particularly Law. Despite his above-averageness (is that a real phrase?), he's a better player than either Dyson or Barrett in the secondary. There are good reasons why the team picked Revis in the first round this year.

I singled out Law and Abraham largely on the basis of 2005 vs. 2006 DVOA statistics.

You noted that the team's biggest problem was stopping the run - and I agree. But its worth nothing that while the team was pretty abysmal at stopping the run in 2006 (32nd ranked in DVOA), it was pretty awful in 2005 as well (28th ranked in DVOA). Mangini inherited personnel that were terrible at stopping the run, and arguably exacerbated the situation by forcing the 3-4 on the team.

All that said, I think you can see the impact of Law and Abraham in pass defense DVOA, where the team had a meaningful loss in ranking year on year. Looking at DVOA, the Jets ranked 8th in pass defense in 2005, but fell dramatically to 21st in 2006. Its not a stretch to say that losing Law and Abraham contributed here.

I still maintain that the article is quite short-sighted in looking at changes in personnel on offense (Pennington) while ignoring changes in personnel on defense.

I also would be interested in seeing the answer to #28's comment on DVOA splits in 2005 for the Pats defense - with Seymour back in the lineup it was an altogether different team. I thought they looked borderline unstoppable going into the '05 playoffs.

by OMO (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 2:51pm

I think Kellen Clemens is the Jets starter by week 8.

No really data to back this up...just a gut feel.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 6:21pm

Re #29
PFP 2006 and (I presume) the premium DVOA database has the answer you're looking for w/r/t weekly splits for defense.

I don't really understand the point, though. If you're saying that the difference in the Pats D was based on whether or not Seymour was healthy, doesn't that argue Mangini didn't do a good job of adjusting for the loss of his unit's best player? That's evidence to me Mangini is not a "very good" coach.

by glenn212 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/08/2007 - 7:55pm

Seriously, since the basis of your article is based on DVOA once Mangini had his entire defense back around week 8 or 9 what was his DVOA..Seymour, Brushi, Harrison were not there first 7 or 8..just curious