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Wednesday, December 26th 2007, 4:00 AM

Weissman for News

Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini have their work cut out for them.

A year ago, Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum were Woody Johnson's Wonder Boys. This season, not so much.

The Jets' coach and GM have made numerous mistakes, from overrating the roster to mishandling the Pete Kendall affair to leaving themselves vulnerable at quarterback. The result: The Jets' most disappointing season since 1996.

Call it a sophomore jinx, call it whatever, but as soon as the misery ends in four days, Mangini and Tannenbaum can get started on the repair process - and they have plenty of tools to get it fixed.

With almost $28 million in salary-cap room, seven draft picks (including a possible top-five choice) and a couple of bargaining chips for the trade market (Chad Pennington and Jonathan Vilma), the Jets should be able to return to respectability.

The early word is that Tannenbaum, known as a frugal spender, is prepared to alter his philosophy and be a big player in free agency. Don't be surprised if the Jets' wish list includes Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs, Titans DT Albert Haynesworth and Bears WR Bernard Berrian.

This could be a make-or-break offseason for "Tangini." Their to-do list is daunting:

Staff changes. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is in trouble. The defense has improved over the last six games - No. 1 against the pass in that span - but people close to the team believe that's more Mangini than Sutton. Since the bye week, the defensive philosophy has changed dramatically, an indication the two coaches aren't on the same page.

Mangini also could tweak his offensive staff, especially the line coaches.

Pennington's future. The Jets, who appear committed to Kellen Clemens, don't have to do anything with Pennington. He's signed through 2011. But, in terms of team chemistry and the salary cap (he counts $7.8 million in '08), it wouldn't be prudent to bring him back.

Mangini alienated Pennington by tossing him to the side of the road, essentially attaching his legacy to Clemens. Who can blame Pennington for wanting out? They probably can trade him for a third- or fourth-round pick (the Vikings, Ravens and Chiefs are potential suitors), but here's the catch:

They're not going to find a veteran as good as Pennington, and it would be career suicide for "Tangini" to entrust the kingdom to Clemens, sans a viable alternative. They will try to acquire a veteran via free agency (the Raiders' Josh McCown?) or in a trade. Two years ago, they showed interest in Sage Rosenfels, so maybe they make a phone call to the Texans to see if their backup is available.

(Page 2 of 2)

This is only the most important decision that "Tangini" ever will make.

Laveranues Coles' contract. This is a delicate decision. Coles, who has two years and $11 million left on his current deal, can make a strong case for a long-term pact. But, considering his age (he turns 30 on Saturday) and history of concussions, the Jets will think twice before they leap.

The Jets are locked into Jerricho Cotchery, enjoying his first 1,000-yard season, but the offense needs another playmaker. If they pay Coles, it will be hard to attract an upper-tier free agent such as Berrian. If they refuse to renegotiate Coles' contract, they will alienate one of the most respected players in the locker room. Tough call. Unless Coles accepts a simple restructuring, converting base pay into guaranteed money, this could linger for a while.

Vilma's value. The Jets know he doesn't fit in the 3-4 scheme, and they will shop him. Trouble is, his value will hinge on the status of his surgically repaired knee. If healthy, he could fetch a third-round pick, maybe higher if a 4-3 team absolutely loves him. Vilma has only one year left on his contract, so the Jets can trade him now and get a pick or lose him in '09 with no compensation. The emergence of rookie David Harris makes Vilma expendable.

The Oh-line. What does it say about "Tangini's" blueprint when, only two seasons after drafting two linemen in the first round, the team's biggest need is the offensive line? The Jets have allowed 50 sacks (only two teams are worse) and the running game ranks near the bottom.

Clearly, LG Adrien Clarke and RT Anthony Clement have to go. The slower-than-expected development of LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the No.4 pick in 2006, hasn't helped matters. Michigan OT Jake Long, a probable top-10 pick, will be mighty attractive. They also will look at free agents. Steelers LG Alan Faneca will be considered, but his age (31) and asking price might be too much. Colts RG Jake Scott is a good fallback.

Who's on the nose? Mangini loves the way Sione Pouha is coming on, but does he love him enough to trade Dewayne Robertson? Probably not. Robertson's cap number balloons to a ridiculous $12 million in '08, so they'll probably try to rework his deal. Obviously, he's not ideal in the 3-4, but good interior linemen are hard to come by, so it wouldn't make sense to move him. They could go with a two-man platoon.

The wild card is Haynesworth. The Jets will take a hard look at the monstrous defensive tackle, who would be the ideal anchor, but he could get the franchise tag from the Titans.

The need for speed. There's a shortage on both sides of the ball. Arkansas RB Darren McFadden would do wonders, teaming with Thomas Jones. Heading into the final game, the Jets are in the No. 3 draft position, which could mean a shot at McFadden. Berrian would stretch defenses. Suggs, the Ravens' sack master, would be the ideal outside pass rusher in Mangini's 3-4 scheme.

So many needs. Soon, "Tangini" will be on the clock.

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Hot Seat

LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson is having another late-season fade, and now he has to face Chiefs sack master Jared Allen.

X's and O's

Leon Washington's big game in Miami looked like a breakthrough, but he's had only 17 'touches' in the last three games. Hello, anybody home?


The players will be told to zip their lips this week because the organization knows Herm Edwards always is looking for bulletin-board material.

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Herm reunion with Jets might spice up game

December 26, 2007

Boos? Or cheers?

It's a question the Jets have had to consider at each of their last few home games, wondering whether they might get serenaded by encouraging applause or have the venom of disappointed fans spewed on them. It's been some of both.

But with the Chiefs coming in for Sunday's season finale - the polite reference to it being a regular-season finale lost its significance months ago for both sides - the question of how former Jets coach Herman Edwards will be received might be the most interesting aspect of an otherwise meaningless game.

Boos? Or cheers?

"That'll be interesting," said Chad Pennington, who pondered the thought for a moment. "Probably a mixture."

Whether fans boo him for the perception that he abandoned the franchise, cheer him for the three playoff teams he coached in five years with the Jets, or cheer him with good riddance, one thing that is not up for debate is how the Jets feel about Edwards.

"Herm? The Hermanator?" wide receiver Laveranues Coles said last week when asked about the upcoming reunion. "He's a good guy, just a great coach."

Coles said he has no hard feelings for Edwards.

"It's cool, man," said Coles, who was placed on injured reserve this past weekend and will miss out on playing in the game. "When you're in this business, you hate to say it this way, but in a way, we all work for the NFL. You like to see everybody reap what they want out of this and I think he got what he wanted. If he's happy, I'm happy; that's the way I am."

Coles and Pennington had some of their most productive years under Edwards. So did many of the other 18 Jets who were around when Edwards roamed Weeb Ewbank Hall only two short years ago.

But there also are some players - Jerricho Cotchery comes immediately to mind - who have flourished under Eric Mangini's system. Cotchery downplayed the idea of facing the coach who buried him on the depth chart.

"I don't think playing Kansas City will add any spice to the game," he said. "We're trying to get a win. It doesn't matter that we aren't going to the playoffs because we're just trying to get a win."

Though there won't be the sort of outward hostility that surfaced when the Jets played the Patriots two weeks ago, there could be some tensions between Edwards and Mangini during the week. Not only do they have contrasting styles, but seeing Edwards could be awkward for the players who may have more loyalty to him than they do to their current boss.

"Kansas City has a great coach and you know that the guys over there love him and appreciate him," Coles said. "You know that whatever situation they're in, he's making the best of it and making it as fun as possible as a coach. He's just a good people person and a great locker-room coach, that's for sure."

The clear implication being that not everyone is such an affable leader.


Chiefs at Jets

4:15 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WEPN (1050)


A quick look at the top stories this week

Kellen back in place?

Eric Mangini wouldn't say so, but expect Kellen Clemens to return as starting quarterback this week. He rehabbed his rib and shoulder injuries last week to the point that he was healthy enough to handle the backup duties, and Mangini said the only reason he didn't start was because he missed out on the practice reps a young quarterback needs during the week. Assuming Clemens hasn't had any medical setbacks, he should be able to practice more extensively this week and play Sunday. "We'll see how he does this week and make a decision later in the week," Mangini said.

Rotating the tires

The Jets' offensive linemen spent most of Sunday's game against the Titans not only trying to block one of the league's top defensive fronts but also trying to keep track of who was lined up beside them. Eight linemen shuffled into the five spots - only center Nick Mangold and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson played the entire game - creating an array of permutations.

"When we practice, we practice different combinations of people," Mangini said. "At every position, we play different combinations of people."

Mangini said the juggling didn't lead to the six sacks by the Titans. "I don't think these were all communication errors," he said.

The end is near

The 2007 season probably can't end fast enough, but for some Jets, the conclusion after Sunday's game against the Chiefs might not be a relief. "I love these guys," linebacker David Bowens said of his teammates. "A lot of us have the same attitude. I'm actually going to miss them. We only have one game left. I don't know what I'm going to do for three months."

After going through a season in which 12 of the 15 games have been losses - many of them gut-wrenching ones that came down to a few key plays or points - it would seem as if the end of the season would be welcomed. "Coming out and playing isn't hard," Bowens said. "The hard part will be going away."


Thomas Jones became the fifth Jets running back to reach 1,000 yards in a season (the feat has been accomplished 12 other times). But he's also one of the most inefficient 1,000-yard rushers the Jets have ever had. Not only are his yards-per-carry numbers among the lowest of any Jets back who has eclipsed the magic number, but those other Jets who were below 4.0 all found the end zone with some regularity:


Yds Carry TD

1998 Curtis Martin 1287 3.5 8

2007 Thomas Jones 1021 3.6 1

1997 Adrian Murrell 1088 3.6 7

2000 Curtis Martin 1204 3.8 9

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Pennington Auditions For a Job During Loss

By m.d.s.

December 26, 2007

Chad Pennington says he wants to be a starting quarterback in 2008, but the Jets have little interest in giving him the job. That means his performance Sunday against the Tennessee Titans was an audition, a game that teams looking for a quarterback will scrutinize after the season to determine whether they'd be willing to make a trade with the Jets to acquire Pennington.

For the most part, those teams will like what they saw. Pennington was accurate and efficient on Sunday against one of the best defenses in the league.

The Jets lost to the Tennessee Titans 10

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One more loss and the Jets will have completed their worst season since Rich Kotite's two-year reign of error, when they went 3-13 in 1995 and 1-15 in 1996. The closest they've come since then was in 2005, when they won their season finale over Buffalo in what turned out to be Herm Edwards' last game as coach. That victory enabled the Jets to finish at 4-12.

And who is the opponent this week? Coincidentally, Edwards and his 4-11 Kansas City Chiefs, who also are finishing up a season they'd like to forget. Kansas City has lost eight straight games.

Of course, the current Jets aren't concerned about where they stand in relation to disappointing seasons of the past. They just want a victory.

"We still want to finish the season out," fourth-year pro Jerricho Cotchery said Sunday after the Jets' loss to Tennessee, "and we owe it to each other to try to get a win.

"I don't think playing Kansas City will add any spice to the game," Cotchery added when asked about Edwards. "We're trying to get a win. It doesn't matter that we aren't going to the playoffs because we're just trying to get a win. We fought (against Tennessee) and we're going to continue to fight and hopefully we can get a win going into the offseason."

Brandon Moore appreciates what Edwards did for his career. Moore was a defensive lineman in college, but Edwards believed he had a better chance to become an NFL player as an offensive lineman. Moore has started at right guard for the Jets for the last four seasons.

"I owe a lot to him," Moore said of Edwards.

Quarterback Chad Pennington said, "It will be good to see (Edwards). I haven't seen him in a long time. I imagine it's going to be a really physical, intense game. ... I think both teams will play extremely hard."

But will Pennington play? Coach Eric Mangini declined Monday to name a starting quarterback for the finale, which has been moved to 4:15 p.m. But he said that Clemens "made a lot of progress last week. ... We'll see how he does this week and make a decision later in the week."

Clemens was the No. 2 quarterback Sunday, so barring a setback, it appears he will start the finale. It will be interesting to see what the offensive line in front of him looks like, considering Mangini used eight different players on that unit against Tennessee. Rookies Robert Turner (left guard) and Clint Oldenburg (right tackle) both got significant time despite never having played an NFL snap before Sunday. Mangini again defended that questionable move Monday.

"The (six) sacks we gave up were a group effort," he said. "It wasn't a function of just those two guys at all. There were multiple guys involved with that production. It's not just the offensive line, it's the whole group needing to do a better job. ... At every position we play different combinations of people. I don't think these were all communication errors. Some were just outstanding efforts on (Kyle) Vanden Bosch's part, or whoever it was, as opposed to some sort of communication breakdown."


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