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Heimerdinger needs to honor contract


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Heimerdinger needs to honor contract

Sunday, January 22, 2006



Gang Green's latest flap -- new head coach Eric Mangini, 35, tells Mike Heimerdinger, 53, he must remain as offensive coordinator -- smacks of the age story line in the 2004 Dennis Quaid movie "In Good Company."

Unlike the movie, at least no Jet we know of is dating another Jet's daughter.

But many would like to make this about more than an acrimonious coaching dispute. They want to turn it into "Un-Good Company" and make it a cinematic statement about the bad old Jets.

And that is unfair.

Whatever the individual views of Woody Johnson, Terry Bradway and Mike Tannenbaum, Jets fans in general seem happy that the messy divorce with Herm Edwards is over and he's gone, and they approve of the Mangini hiring.

Now comes the team's latest extreme makeover. And when you renovate, it gets messy.

The untidiest part of the process is the Heimerdinger matter, with arguments on at least two fronts.

Supporters of coaches' rights say it is wrong or counterproductive to force Mangini to retain three coordinators (Heimerdinger, former linebackers coach Bob Sutton and special teams guru Mike Westhoff) from the previous staff.

But what Mangini and the Jets are doing by keeping many of Edwards' coaches together is not unheard of.

In 2003, Marvin Lewis took the Cincinnati job and kept offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski from Dick LeBeau's staff, while Dennis Erickson at San Francisco kept offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and defensive coordinator Jim Mora from Steve Mariucci's staff. In 2004, Mike Mularkey began his short regime at Buffalo by holding onto DC Jerry Gray from Gregg Williams' staff.

This year, Edwards didn't get to name his own D-coordinator at Kansas City -- he was told Gunther Cunningham was untouchable. And Oakland still doesn't have a head coach but has re-upped defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

"There are some good coaches on the Jets' staff. Why shouldn't Mangini keep them?" a coach in another NFL city said. "Does money play into this? It probably does, sure."

Heimerdinger and his agent, Bob LaMonte, sound as if they're concerned about their money. Specifically, Heimerdinger is no longer well-paid at salaries the next two seasons of $1.1 million and $1.2 million because the Redskins' coordinators (Gregg Williams at $2.3 million per year, Al Saunders at $2 million per), among others, have passed him by.

And Heimerdinger may feel Denver is now a better platform than the Jets from which to springboard to the head-coaching job he seeks.

So Team Dinger has a public snit and the Jets are portrayed tastelessly as having taken a hostage.

Sounds a little T.O.-like, no?

It is true that most NFL assistants who don't want to work under a new coach are freed from their contracts. But why is it OK for a team to tell a disgruntled player such as Terrell Owens he must honor his deal but not to tell a disgruntled coach he must honor his?

Heimerdinger is a good coach, conscientious and possibly the best coordinator in terms of continuity and potential production, for this offense. He'll get over his slight at having lost out to Mangini for the big job, and if he resurrects the Jets the next two years, he can write his own ticket out of town.

The chances that Heimerdinger still could be let go diminished Friday when Jeff Davidson, one of Mangini's associates from their New England days, was named the Browns' assistant head coach.

It may be messy a while longer, but it's not always a bad thing to tell someone under contract that he's the best man for the job -- and that now he must go do it

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