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NY JETS NEWS ARTICLES- Offseason- 12/31

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Jets end season on high note, but fall back in draft

Monday, December 31, 2007



EAST RUTHERFORD -- Two teams that desperately wanted to flip the calendar to 2008 got together at Giants Stadium on Sunday. So perhaps it shows the perverse nature of the football gods that they couldn't decide the outcome in 60 minutes, and had to continue to play in a cold rain.

"It was kind of fitting for us to go into overtime," Kansas City coach Herm Edwards said. "That's just two teams who had a difficult season."

Yet it was Edwards' former team that was able to end on a positive note, despite having to kick the game-winning field goal twice.

Mike Nugent connected on a 33-yard field goal, but it was negated by a holding penalty on Wade Smith. No problem. After Edwards called his second timeout in as many kicks, Nugent calmly pumped through a 43-yarder 5:13 into the extra period to give the Jets a 13-10 win over the Chiefs.

Of course, in the eyes of some, the Jets (4-12) lost by winning. Had they been defeated, they would have had the third overall pick in the April draft. Instead, Kansas City (4-12), which concluded the season on a nine-game slide, wound up in a three-way tie for the third selection while the Jets will pick sixth in the first round.

But the Jets didn't care about any of that. They just wanted something, anything, to take into a long off-season.

"If you're not in the playoffs," tight end Chris Baker said, "and you're looking for something to build off for next year, it's always good to go out with a win."

And many people connected with the Jets literally will be leaving on a win, as many changes figure to be made after a 2006 playoff team never sniffed the postseason one year later. In fact, one change was announced after the game, although it has nothing to do with lack of performance.

Special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff has had a chronically bad left leg ever since bone cancer developed in it in 1988, and said that a graft in it "keeps fracturing. It's not healing properly. They're going to replace it with a prosthetic rod from my hip to my knee. It's a complex surgery that will take a lot of rehab time."

The surgery will be performed Feb. 7, and Westhoff will miss the 2008 season, although he stressed that he is not retiring.

"I want to get through this and see," said Westhoff, who will turn 60 next month and has been the Jets' special-teams coordinator since 2001. Before that, he spent 15 seasons with Miami.

But if it was his last game, it certainly would have been a fitting ending.

"I think it's an honor that I got to work with Westhoff," said Nugent.

Westhoff was honored during the team's Sunday morning meeting. A video tribute to him was presented.

Other than that, however, the Jets probably would like to burn a lot of the tape from this season. Although they did win the finale, it featured a lot of the same problems that have plagued the Jets throughout the season. Second-year quarterback Kellen Clemens led the Jets to only one touchdown, giving him a total of nine touchdown drives in 88 possessions this season, including one "kneel-down" possession at the end of regulation Sunday.

Clemens was 13-for-25 for 115 yards and one touchdown, a 15-yard shovel pass to Thomas Jones on which Jones made two nifty moves to free himself for the score. Clemens, who was 3-5 as a starter, finished the season with a passer rating of 60.9 and a completion percentage of 52.0.

"There has been progress," Clemens said when asked to evaluate himself. "There are some areas where I need to improve. At this [quarterback] position, you're evaluated on one thing and that's winning.

"The evaluations will be done going forward by the coaching staff. I'm going to listen to them and their evaluations, and what they think I need to work on the most. That will be invaluable going forward. I [also] will do some personal evaluation."

There will be plenty of soul-searching by everyone after this season.

"It definitely has been a tough year," said Jones, who had five carries for 36 yards on the winning drive, "but the one thing I can take from this year and this team is a lot of guys fought hard. We stuck together, didn't blame each other or point fingers. ... I'm planning on enjoying myself in the off-season and reflect on some of the things we didn't do well, and try to get better."

"Obviously, there are some things we need to address to get better," Baker said, "because there's a reason we finished 4-12. I expect change, but it's a good thing. ... It'll be good to wipe the slate clean and start over."

* * *

Bottom line

The Jets ended a disappointing season on an upbeat note, but it took 5:13 of overtime and two cracks at the game-winning field goal to finally make it happen. Kansas City, which lost its last nine games, also finished 4-12.

Best move

Two moves, actually, as Jets coach Eric Mangini challenged two rulings and got reversals both times. One wiped out a third-down conversion by the Chiefs and the other got the Jets a first down on a pass to Jerricho Cotchery.

What was he thinking?

Kansas City coach Herm Edwards used up both of his overtime timeouts trying to ice Jets' place kicker Mike Nugent.

It didn't work either time and the Jets finally had an OT win after the first kick was negated by a holding penalty.

Areas of concern

The 2008 season and the impending off-season. The Jets will need to make a lot of decisions on a lot of players during the winter and spring.

Look ahead

The Jets will reconvene sometime in May for voluntary mini-camps, followed by full mini-camp in June and training camp in July, their final one at Hofstra University before moving all football operations to New Jersey.

-- J.P. Pelzman

* * *

NFL draft

With the win Sunday, the Jets dropped three slots to the No. 6 pick:

1. Miami (1-15)

2. St. Louis (3-13)

Oakland (4-12)

Atlanta (4-12)

Kansas City (4-12)

6. Jets (4-12)

Picks 3, 4, 5 will be determined by a future coin flip

* * *

Jets' 2008 Schedule

AFC East (home & home games)

Buffalo, Miami and New England.

Home games

Arizona, Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City and St. Louis.

Away games

Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Tennessee.

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Jets notebook

Monday, December 31, 2007

Herm's homecoming

Two years ago, Herm Edwards finished out a 4-12 season at the Meadowlands. He did the same thing Sunday, only wearing red this time instead of green.

Edwards coached against the Jets for the first time since leaving the organization in Jan. 2006 to become the Chiefs' coach.

"It's ironic, because both of these organizations gave me my first opportunity. The Chiefs gave me my first opportunity to be a scout," he said. "Here, Mr. [Woody] Johnson gave me my first opportunity to be a head coach."

Edwards still has never detailed why he left, and he noted that while he talked to many of his former players Sunday, those conversations are "between the players and the coach."

"Sometimes it's tough playing against people like coach Edwards," said Mike Nugent, who hit the game-winning 43-yard field goal in overtime, "because he's such a great person. ... I had a blast playing for him."


Punter Ben Graham was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch last week. He had eight punts for a net average of 38.1 yards. ... Jerricho Cotchery had a game-high eight receptions for 76 yards and finished the season with 82 catches for 1,130 yards. ... Teaneck's Tamba Hali had nine tackles, including a sack, for the Chiefs. ... Former Jet Jon McGraw ran for 4 yards on a fake punt to keep a Kansas City drive going in the second quarter. ... Jeff Webb's 26-yard touchdown pass from Brodie Croyle, which tied the score for the Chiefs with 2:59 left in regulation, was the second-year pro's first touchdown catch.

-- J.P. Pelzman

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Thomas Jones puts the Jets up early on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens.


Mike Nugent (r.) celebrates his game-winning, overtime field goal with holder Ben Graham.


Only the diehards show up to see Jets win just their fourth game of the season.

When it was mercifully over, Chad Pennington remained on the field for several minutes after the Jets had repaired to the locker room. He stuck around, in the bone-chilling rain, to take pictures with his two young sons. Later, after showering, he exchanged cell-phone numbers with teammates before meeting up with his old coach, the Chiefs' Herm Edwards, in the tunnel.

A game, a season and maybe an era ended last night at the Meadowlands, where the Jets and Chiefs - two of the worst teams in the NFL - played 65-plus minutes of mind-numbing football.

The Jets' overtime victory, 13-10, soon will be forgotten, and the organization will plunge into an offseason that will focus on Pennington, Kellen Clemens and the future of the quarterback position. Pennington, who will address the media Monday, certainly acted like someone that doesn't expect to be back with the Jets. Edwards, who has his own quarterback issues, is rumored to be a potential suitor.

"If we lose Chad, we're in trouble," said one player, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The atmosphere for the finale was fitting for two bad teams. The stadium resembled a big dance hall the night after a rockin' New Year's Eve. Twenty hours after the Giants-Patriots classic, the Jets and Chiefs provided a glimpse into the dark side of the NFL.

Only the diehards showed up. The place was lifeless, just echoes remaining from a great party. There was no juice - literally.

For the first time since the 2005 finale, the Jets banned beer sales at home. Too bad; the disgruntled fans could've toasted the 2007 season: This dud's for you.

Clemens did little to distinguish himself this season, finishing 3-5 as a starter and posting an alarming 60.9 passer rating - the lowest by a Jets starter since Browning Nagle in 1992. Returning to the lineup after missing a game with rib and left-shoulder injuries, he completed only 13 of 25 passes for 115 yards. He threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Jones, but that was merely a flip - a lefthanded flip, at that - on a shovel.

At least Clemens ended on an upbeat note, leading an 11-play, 45-yard drive that ended with Mike Nugent's 43-yard field goal with 9:47 remaining - moments after a 33-yarder was negated because of a holding penalty. Yep, even in victory, the Jets still find ways to mess up.

"When I saw the flag, I said, 'This is the worst thing ever,'" said safety Kerry Rhodes, managing a small smile. "It was good that he made it, but it was indicative of our season."

Said tight end Chris Baker: "It seemed like it was never going to end."

It was hard to tell if he meant the game or the season or both.

In one respect, the victory was costly. The Jets (4-12), who could've claimed the third overall draft pick with a loss, will draft in the sixth spot, unofficially - a three-slot drop that likely will ruin their chances of selecting Arkansas running Darren McFadden or one of the premier pass rushers.

First, they must formulate a quarterback game plan.

It has been widely assumed that Pennington is a goner, but there are new rumblings to the contrary. Because of Clemens' inconsistency, and because the offseason quarterback market is hardly enticing, the Jets may decide to keep Pennington and his $4.8 million salary in 2008. With more than $27 million in projected cap room, they could afford it.

That would create quite a soap opera, considering Pennington's presumed desire to be traded or released. A week ago, Pennington's father, Elwood, told a Knoxville newspaper that his son would be better off going to a contending team where he could be a starter again.

Thing is, Pennington is signed through 2011 and the Jets will be in no hurry to unload their most accomplished quarterback. Pete Kendall, redux?

"If he's not back, we'll definitely miss him," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said.

Eric Mangini declined to tip his hand, saying they will evaluate Clemens' "whole body of work." Clemens said, "I definitely think there has been progress."

Maybe, but he didn't throw the best pass. It came from running back Leon Washington, who, on a direct snap, rolled to his right and tossed 36-yard completion to Wallace Wright - a gadget play that set up Jones' touchdown to make it 7-0. The Jets took a 10-3 lead, but the Chiefs (4-12), losers of nine straight, forced overtime with Brodie Croyle's 26-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Webb with 2:59 remaining in regulation.

The Jets ended with 12 losses, tied for the third-most in team history.

It ended with the three backbones of the team - Pennington, Laveranues Coles and Jonathan Vilma - on the sideline. None of the three are locks to return, although there are early indications that the organization is willing to meet Coles' request to renegotiate his contract.

That it ended with a win will provide only a small solace.

"If you poll all the guys in February and think they're going to be in a great mood because of today, I don't think that will be the case," linebacker Matt Chatham said. "Obviously, we're disappointed by the season. At least we'll be able to smile for 24 hours."

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Jets fans can't cry in their beers



Monday, December 31st 2007, 4:00 AM

The Jets ended a season of boos Sunday with no booze - at least not in the cheap seats.

In what fans called the final insult to those still supporting the team after such a dismal season, Jets management banned beer sales, with a scolding sign at concession stands: NO BEER SOLD FOR THIS EVENT.

"They're playing like hell as it is," said irate fan Vinny Sacerdote, 46, an 18-year season-ticket holder from Poughkeepsie. "I could have beer at home on my couch, staying warm, but I'm a fan. To treat the fans like this is wrong."

Though the Jets captured a rare 13-10 victory in overtime yesterday over the Kansas City Chiefs, they ended their season with a bleak 4-12 record.

But the suds were still flowing in luxury boxes where deep-pocketed box owners had prepaid for alcohol. Though box owners couldn't order reinforcements if supplies became depleted, anything they'd already paid for was theirs to drink.

"They don't care about the real fans," griped Mike Morrissey, 29, of Mahopac, N.Y.

The Jets said the beer ban was a nod to safety.

"There are several factors that led to our decision not to sell alcohol, including the fact this is a late game on the eve of a holiday," Jets management said in a statement.

The Jets also pushed up security in the notorious Gate D section of Giants Stadium where wild fans are known to heckle women to bare their breasts.

About 40 cops and security guards flooded the section and fenced off a key area during halftime, leaving fans to mostly behave themselves.

Fans also were made to hoof it to the upper tiers as an escalator that went haywire after the Giants game on Saturday remained in lockdown.

The bottom steps of an escalator at Gate A became bent just after the New England Patriots beat the Giants 38-35, injuring seven people - including five who went to Hackensack University Medical Center with injuries ranging from scrapes to a fractured leg, cops said.

Three injured fans remained hospitalized Sunday.


With Matthew Lysiak and Bill Egbert

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Monday, December 31, 2007Farewell for Mike Westhoff



Monday, December 31st 2007, 4:00 AM

Mike Westhoff was offered a chair to sit in, but as is his style, the special-teams coach insisted on standing tall for his last Jets press conference.

Sunday morning, Westhoff told the Jets that their game against the Chiefs would be his final one as Jets' special-teams coordinator. Just a week shy of his 60th birthday, Westhoff will undergo another extensive surgery in February to repair his left leg. Since being diagnosed with bone cancer in 1988, Westhoff has undergone eight surgeries on his leg.

"The graft that I have in my left leg keeps fracturing and it is not healing properly and they will replace it with a prosthetic rod," Westhoff said of the surgery that will take place on Feb. 7. "From my hip to my knee, it will be a total replacement. So it is a complex surgery that will take a lot of rehab time."

The Jets, who were moved by an emotional video tribute to Westhoff in the morning meeting that left players such as Kerry Rhodes in tears, sent their beloved special-teams leader off by defeating Herm Edwards' Chiefs, 13-10, on a game-winning 43-yard field goal in overtime by Mike Nugent.

Westhoff arguably was one of the Jets' greatest assets during a miserable season. Under his direction, the Jets' team MVP, Leon Washington, returned a team-record three kickoffs for touchdowns, including a pair of 98-yarders against Miami and the Giants.

Since Westhoff came aboard in 2001, the Jets have returned 10 kickoffs for touchdowns, more than any other team during that span.

"A lot of opposing coaches and players are happy about this," said linebacker David Bowens. "He was the heart and soul of our special teams. How fitting to win on a special-teams play."

Westhoff coached practices and games while walking on crutches after spending one game in the coaches' box upstairs. He has two metal plates, over 20 screws, 60-some staples and a bone from a cadaver in his leg.

At practices, Westhoff often could be seen screaming at his players to run special teams drills perfectly.

Under his direction, Chad Morton, Jonathan Carter, Jerricho Cotchery, Justin Miller and Washington all returned kickoffs for touchdowns. Miller was a Pro Bowl selection last season after he returned two kickoffs for 103 and 99 yards.

Westhoff said he isn't ready to announce his retirement, and Eric Mangini didn't rule out keeping the special-teams guru around in an advisory capacity. However, Westhoff said he definitely would not coach next season.

"I have to address this and have it taken care of correctly or the problem will linger and become worse," Westhoff said. "In essence, I need some time to get my life back."

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Despite return to Meadowlands, Herm Edwards' own team his Chief concern



Monday, December 31st 2007, 4:00 AM


Sunday was Herm Edwards' first trip back to the Meadowlands since departing in January 2006.

Herm Edwards was out on the field at the Meadowlands an hour before the game. Weaving between his Kansas City players, Edwards sought out his old special teams coach, Mike Westhoff, and a few of the 16 players left over from his five years as the Jets' coach. He made a beeline to Chad Pennington, who greeted him with a big hug.

"It was nice to see those guys. I got an opportunity to see a lot of people," Edwards said of the pregame reunions. "But what was said was between the players and the coach."

Sunday's 13-10 overtime Jets win over Edwards' Chiefs was the first time a lot of Jets fans had seen Edwards in person since the mysterious parting in January 2006. The reunion was dampened by the foul mixture of rain, sleet and snow and the ugly records of the Chiefs and Jets. Not many fans braved the elements to watch the meaningless game and hurl invectives at the former coach who they feel left them high and dry two years ago.

"I don't think it was a big deal, it's a part of the game," Chiefs cornerback and former Jet Ty Law said of Edwards' return to the Meadowlands. "People come and go from different teams all the time."

But usually there is an explanation when a coach leaves.

After three playoff appearances, two playoff wins, a 39-41 record and assurances to his players that he would be back, Edwards was introduced as the successor to his mentor, Dick Vermeil, in Kansas City.

Neither Edwards nor the Jets made it clear what happened, but after the 2005 season, Edwards was hinting he wanted a contract extension. After going 4-12 that season, the Jets were not eager to oblige him.

Edwards was positive about the experience, saying it was poignant for him to come back representing the Chiefs. "Both of these organizations gave me my first opportunities," Edwards said. "Kansas City gave me my first opportunity to be a scout. Here, Mr. (Woody) Johnson gave me my first opportunity to be a head coach. I appreciate those opportunities and I have tried to make the most of them."

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- Jets Will Pick Sixth Overall

Monday, December 31st, 2007 by Gary Grund

With the final regular season game weekend finishing up yesterday, the draft order has been set somewhat.

Order - Team - (Record, Strength Of Schedule)

1st - Miami Dolphins (1-15, 0.539)

2nd - St. Louis Rams (3-13, 0.512)

3rdT - Kansas City Chiefs (4-12, 0.516)

3rdT - Atlanta Falcons (4-12, 0.516)

3rdT - Oakland Raiders (4-12, 0.516)

6th - New York Jets (4-12, 0.523)

7th - New England Patriots (from San Francisco) (5-11, 0.465)

The only two things yet to be determined about the final draft order of the first round is a coin flip between the three teams tied for 3rd overall and the playoffs that will decide the final 13 selections.

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Overtime victory moves Jets down in draft

BY TOM ROCK | tom.rock@newsday.com

December 31, 2007

Where will the Jets draft in April?

With the win, they are scheduled to receive the sixth pick in the 2008 draft. Had they lost the game, they would have had the third pick behind the Dolphins and the Rams.

Who will the Jets draft in April?

( I hope we draft: Jake Long, OT- superb!)

It's hard to imagine that Arkansas Razorbacks running back Darren McFadden still will be available at No. 6, but the Jets clearly need to bolster their offense. Their top two picks in the 2007 draft turned out to be defensive starters - Darrelle Revis and David Harris - and the Jets have scored more than 20 points in a game only once since Oct. 21. The offensive line certainly needs a boost, but the Jets need playmakers too.

Was this Chad Pennington's final game as a Jet?

If it was, he spent it in a parka on the sideline like some film noir hero watching a train pull out of the station on a rainy night. Pennington was one of the last players to come off the field and enter the locker room. As usual, he also was the final player to dress and leave the locker room.

What was the reception for former Jets coach Herman Edwards?

Mostly indifference, although when he threw his red flag to challenge the spot of a Chiefs reception in the second quarter, he was lustily booed.

How about from the Jets?

Herm schmoozed for a while in the tunnel of the stadium and spent a good deal of time talking with Pennington and his family. As far as we could tell, Herm didn't slip Pennington a contract offer. The Chiefs are one of the teams that could use a veteran quarterback. Then again, so are the Jets.

LB Victor Hobson said he would talk about his pending free agency a little more after Sunday's game. Did he?

Not exactly, but he sure didn't sound like a guy who wants to stick around. "I love the Jets' organization and I like Woody Johnson, he's a great owner," Hobson said, "but at the same time, it's a business, and I have to see what happens."

Most important of all, who was the punter?

On a day when the offense sputtered as it did, that really was a key decision by the coaches. It was Ben Graham, who had a punt downed at the 2 and another bounce twice before reaching the end zone for a touchback. He averaged 45.1 yards on his eight punts a week after being benched for inconsistent play.


Herman Edwards still has some clock-management issues. He was right to call his second timeout of the overtime to ice Mike Nugent on his game-winning 43-yard attempt, but he probably pulled the trigger too early and didn't cause the intended rattle.


David Bowens

Bowens not only returned the opening squib kickoff 17 yards but started at outside linebacker and had a sack, a quarterback pressure and two special-teams tackles. After a slow start, Bowens has been a key to the defensive turnaround since the bye.

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Jets' Mangini, Tannenbaum are on the clock

Johnette Howard

December 31, 2007

They played another football game at Giants Stadium yesterday, but the atmosphere felt a lot like being in Times Square the morning after New Year's Eve. None of the electricity from Saturday night's scintillating Giants-Patriots game carried over to the Jets' season finale against the equally lousy Chiefs. Yesterday broke bleak and rainy and stayed that way. The parking lot was half-empty, and those who did show seemed to be tailgating on muscle memory alone.

In the half-filled stands, a few nostalgic fans wore Chad Pennington jerseys, yet another reminder of how swiftly things have changed. Remember when Chad and the Jets were something besides afterthoughts?

Duty requires us to inform you right about here that there was a score registered. The 4-12 Jets bumped off the 4-12 Chiefs, 13-10, in overtime on Mike Nugent's field goal from 43 yards. But the score hardly matters.

Johnette Howard Bio | E-mail | Recent columns

The only Jets story worth talking about is how the clock officially started ticking on coach Eric Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum as of yesterday. Let's see what they do between now and the NFL draft. Because they better show us something.

The team that Mangini and Tannenbaum trot out next season is going to define them here. Year 3 will decide what we should make of their regime after a good 2006 season followed by this wretched one that raised disturbing questions about their judgment.

After all, it wasn't scads of injuries that turned this Jets team into losers again. Nor did the players quit on Mangini, even after a 1-7 start. This season's outcome was on Tannenbaum and Mangini and their barely changed roster, then their inability to spackle or fix mistakes on the fly.

The players tried. They did as they were told, played hurt, hung together and never broke ranks, unless you count Laveranues Coles' campaigning for a renegotiated contract, conduct unbecoming a captain whose club still had a game to play.

But the Jets proved too flawed when forced to step up against a tougher schedule. Tannenbaum and Mangini saw up-and-coming talent where there was none (benched guards Jacob Bender and Adrien Clarke couldn't replace Pete Kendall). Still others who were considered mainstays, pass rushers Bryan Thomas and Shaun Ellis, faded or regressed. Why hasn't tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the No. 4 overall pick in 2006, become a terror by now? Will he ever?

Rookie linebacker David Harris was outstanding as Jonathan Vilma's replacement. But even Harris' emergence highlighted how wrongheaded it was for Mangini to stubbornly cram the undersized Vilma into his 3-4 defense for another year.

There are other quibbles, of course. Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer were numbingly conservative the first half of the season, as if they didn't trust their players' ability. The Jets often didn't respond well to other teams' halftime adjustments. They lost too many second-half leads.

The fact that the Jets' defense rallied after the bye week for a second straight year - supposedly because Mangini got more personally involved - was another good news/bad news thing: What took him so long? The same pattern emerged with coordinator Bob Sutton's defense after the bye last year. But Mangini is nothing if not deliberate. Sometimes he's "consistent" - his pet word - to a fault.

Tannenbaum seemed to pull off a coup by trading for 1,000-yard back Thomas Jones last offseason, but the Jets inexplicably under-used him for weeks. Mangini stuck with Pennington far too long, too.

Once the Jets started so badly, this season should have been devoted to getting second-year quarterback Kellen Clemens ready for 2008. Now Pennington likely won't be back, and what to make of Clemens is still murky.

On some plays yesterday - such as when he fired a long, tight spiral to Jerricho Cotchery that traveled 60 yards and hit Cotchery in stride before, alas, the ball bounced off his hands - Clemens' ability is exciting. Other times, he looks as inexperienced as he is.

Though it had been a while since Mangini harped on how many close games the Jets have lost that they seemed to win last season, he couldn't resist the impulse again yesterday. But it's a loser's lament. As tight end Chris Baker later said: "As close as we were, it just shows we still got a long way to go."

That conclusion looks accurate from here. This Jets team needs an overhaul. Now let's see what Mangini and Tannenbaum do about it. Their future with the Jets depends on it.

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by Tom Rock

December 31, 2007


Although compared to the Chiefs, the Jets looked downright sterling. Still, they were 3-for-16 on third downs and 1-for-3 on fourth downs. They were also 1-for-3 in the red zone. Thomas Jones ran for 98 yards on 25 carries, but on third-and-1 in the third quarter they gave the ball to him twice and were pushed back two yards before turning it over on downs. Leon Washington had 116 offensive yards on 11 carries, three receptions and a pass. Kellen Clemens completed 13 of 25 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, but he looked frazzled in the pocket after missing the majority of the last two games. It was completely baffling when the Jets went for it on their first fourth down and Clemens threw the ball away.


The Jets finally found a running game they could shut down, although it took an early ankle injury to Chiefs backup starter Kolby Smith to help that and hold the team to 53 yards on the ground. The Chiefs managed to put together a nine-play, 83-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that tied the score, and that drive accounted for almost 40 percent of the team's total offense. David Harris was active against the run with 11 credited tackles and he also did well covering TE Tony Gonzalez and had a sack. David Bowens had a sack for the second straight game and Kerry Rhodes also downed Brodie Croyle at the end of regulation to squash any chance of a Chiefs miracle.


Mike Nugent rebounded from two poor performances in recent weeks and hit a pair of field goals, including his second overtime game-winner this season after some odd circumstances. The holding penalty that pushed that kick back is a mark against, as is the roughing-the-punter penalty that prolonged a Chiefs drive. Eddie Drummond averaged 23.7 yards per kickoff return and 7.2 yards on punts for the Chiefs, but he looked dangerous doing so and had to be stopped by the last man twice. The Chiefs avoided Leon Washington for the most part, and he still needs to work on decision-making when fielding punts.


The Jets never rolled over. Not when the rain started to turn to sleet, not when the few fans who turned up for the game trickled out to the parking lot, and not when the Chiefs came back at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. The offensive play-calling was solid with Leon Washington throwing his first career pass and the Jets using their shovel pass play twice, once for a touchdown. Defensively the Jets bothered and bewildered Brodie Croyle. Hey, if they can do that to Tom Brady, Croyle should be an easy target. Mangini also challenged two plays and got both right. But the timeout near the end of regulation seemed like over-managing.

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Extra points: Jets' Westhoff steps down

(Original publication: December 31, 2007)

Extra points

Westhoff steps down: The Jets' players heard the news in a meeting yesterday morning in anticipation of the game with the Chiefs. Mike Westhoff, one of the most respected special-teams coordinators in the game, was stepping down due to more complications in his long recovery from bone cancer in his left leg. He has to undergo another operation. It is set for Feb. 7. Westhoff is approaching 60, but he wouldn't say yet that he's retiring, just that he can't coach next season. "The graft that I have in my left leg keeps fracturing," Westhoff said. "It is not healing properly. They are going to replace it with a prosthetic rod from my hip to my knee. It is a complex surgery that will take a lot of rehab time. I feel very good about the people who are doing it." Westhoff said he was able to keep his emotions together when he spoke to the team. A video tribute was also shown at that morning meeting. After Mike Nugent won the game 13-10 with a 43-yard field goal in overtime, Westhoff was presented with a game ball. "It's nice to be able to get a win and send Coach Westhoff out with a win," tight end Chris Baker said.

Road trip: The Jets should be prepared to spend a lot of time in jets next season. They will have a third-place schedule, and the road games are a combined 24,498 miles away. Their combined preseason and regular-season travel this season covered just 9,186 miles. But the 2008 schedule will include four West Coast trips - to Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. There's also a visit to Tennessee to go with the usual AFC East stops in Miami, Buffalo and Foxborough, Mass. The Dolphins, Bills and Patriots will visit the Meadowlands, as will Denver, Arizona, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Kansas City again.

This and that: The inconsistent Ben Graham was benched in favor of Jeremy Kapinos last week at Tennessee, but the former Australian Rules Football standout was back punting in the finale. Graham averaged 45.1 yards gross and 38.1 yards net on eight punts. He had a long of 56 yards and put three inside the 20. ... Leon Washington's 36-yard pass to Wallace Wright was the longest in franchise history by a non-quarterback. ... Nugent kicked two field goals to give him 29 for the season, the third-most in franchise history. He had 36 tries, leaving him with an 80.6 success rate.

Injury report: Jets - None. Kansas City - RB Kolby Smith left with an ankle injury in the first quarter and didn't return. LB Donnie Edwards left with a calf injury in the first quarter and didn't return. P Dustin Colquitt hurt his left leg in the second quarter, but he returned.

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Jets, Chiefs prolong agony in OT finale



(Original publication: December 31, 2007)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Jets and Chiefs had stumbled into working overtime, but Mike Nugent was set to put everyone out of their misery, from the two teams playing on this final Sunday of their identical-twin lost seasons to the few thousand fans still in the stands despite the sleet, snow and chill.

But Herm Edwards, making his return to the Meadowlands as Kansas City's coach, tried to ice the kicker with a timeout. Nugent drilled the 33-yarder right through anyway. Jets win? Not yet. A yellow flag fell like litter on the green carpet. The Jets' Wade Smith got caught holding. Somehow it seemed fitting.

So it was a do-over from 43 yards. Edwards called time again at the last moment to add more ice. But Nugent coolly sent the ball between the uprights again.

And, mercifully, it was over. The game: 13-10, Jets. And a pair of forgettable 4-12 seasons. The Chiefs are riding a nine-game losing streak into the offseason. But the Jets walked into their offseason by putting their streak of three straight losses behind them.

"If I had to choose, I would always choose going in with a win," coach Eric Mangini said. "It's important because the guys have worked. I'm very pleased with their consistent approach. It was important to them and important for all of us to be able to win this last game."

Still, maybe amnesia is best at this point.

"We thought we had a team that could make some noise in the AFC, but we didn't," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "We get a chance to start over fresh, which is a good thing right now."

Of course, even by winning, the Jets were losers. They lost draft position. Now, barring a deal, they will be on the clock in late April with the sixth overall pick. But as Edwards has said, "You play to win the game."

The ex-Jets coach has his own problems.

"It's been a trying season for everyone - our organization, our fans, for everyone," Edwards said.

"With all that we went through, the players always gave effort. We couldn't make plays at times, and that's the difference in the season."

He could just as well have been talking about his old team. The Jets dropped six games by a touchdown or less and two more by 10 points.

"It was very frustrating because we were in most of our games this year, and we didn't do enough to pull them out," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said.

This time, they did. First, though, came a fourth-quarter hiccup.

The Jets were clinging to a 10-3 lead when quarterback Brodie Croyle finally got the Chiefs moving. They rolled 83 yards in nine plays, with Croyle hitting Jeff Webb behind Hank Poteat in the end zone for the last 26 with 2:59 left in regulation.

After the Jets won the sudden-death coin toss, they started at their 30 and stayed primarily on the ground behind Thomas Jones, who rolled for 98 of their 199 rushing yards, including 36 on the drive.

It stalled at the Kansas City 15. That's when Nugent came into play. He didn't seem to mind the two timeouts or having to win the game twice. He was happy to do it on a day when special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff announced he was stepping down.

"He's meant a lot to everyone on this team," Nugent said.

Otherwise, the teams played prevent offense for much of the day. The Chiefs, in fact, owned 38 yards at halftime. Both teams were a dreadful 3 of 16 on third-down conversions.

While Chad Pennington took his place back on the sideline on what could have been his final Sunday dressed in green and white, Kellen Clemens came back from the rib and shoulder problems that sidelined him for most of the last two Sundays and still looked like a raw successor.

He was sacked three times and completed 13 of 25 for just 115 yards, with no interceptions and a 15-yard shovel-pass touchdown to Jones for a 7-0 edge in the second quarter.

Leon Washington, who ran for 67 yards on 11 carries, set that up by lining up at quarterback, rolling right and hitting Wallace Wright for 36 yards to the 8.

"Coach Mangini told me I have the power of choice," Washington said.

Mangini has the ultimate power of choice, and he has to hope his choice to go with Clemens after the 1-7 start gave the second-year pro the experience he needed to take a step forward next season.

"I think definitely there has been some progress," Clemens said. "There are some areas where I need to improve."

There are many areas where the Jets need to improve. They can start putting together that game plan today.

Reach Brian Heyman at bheyman@lohud.com.

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Jets' off-season agenda

Monday, December 31, 2007


Second-year pro Kellen Clemens looks like the guy by default right now. The Jets spent a second-round pick on him and will give him every opportunity to succeed. He was a bit underwhelming this season but he has shown potential, and the Jets love his intangibles. If the Jets improve the offensive line, Clemens is good enough to win in this league.

With veteran Chad Pennington almost certain to leave, the Jets will trade for or sign a veteran to compete with Clemens in training camp. They might be able to get a second- or third-round pick for Pennington. Don't be surprised if the Jets spend a mid-round pick on a quarterback, hoping to strike gold.


Look for the Jets to draft an offensive lineman in the first three rounds of the April draft. They must solidify the unit if they hope to do anything. Veteran RT Anthony Clement and LG Adrien Clarke likely will be gone. Clarke, a third-year pro, was a huge disappointment as a replacement for Pete Kendall.

C Nick Mangold, RG Brandon Moore and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson are keepers and are expected to return as starters. Michigan LT Jake Long is the best offensive lineman in the draft, but the Jets have Ferguson and you don't draft Long that high and move him to right tackle because right tackles aren't paid like left tackles.


University of Virginia DE Chris Long, the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, is high on the Jets' wish list and there's a good chance he'll be on the board when the Jets are on the clock. The Jets must get a big-time pass rusher along the defensive line and Chris Long could be their guy. An added bonus is that he played in the 3-4 scheme in college.

Also, the Jets need a playmaking linebacker. Ravens unrestricted free-agent Terrell Suggs could be their guy if Baltimore doesn't slap him with the franchise tag. Cornerback remains an unsettled position and the Jets need someone to pair with sensational rookie Darrelle Revis.


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Jets end bad year on good note

Monday, December 31, 2007


Star-Ledger Staff

When Mike Nugent made his 33-yard field goal in overtime, Jets linebackers David Bowens and Matt Chatham had a cooler of Gatorade primed for dousing. Then, a 10-yard holding penalty was called on offensive lineman Wade Smith, and the two NFL veterans had to wait.

Nugent made his second, 43-yard attempt, though, to give the Jets their 13-10 victory, and Bowens and Chatham got the Gatorade ready again. They celebrated the win -- and the end to a frustrating 4-12 season.

"It was hard, man," Bowens said. "But it could be the start of something good next year."

As the Jets played their final game, under cold rain and in front of a paltry Giants Stadium crowd, they ended a season that had few bright spots. There was a quarterback controversy, a defense that started rolling only after the bye week and early elimination from playoff contention.

The end to the season, in some respects, came as a relief to some players.

"I guess you could say that, to a point, we can wipe the slate clean and start all over," tight end Chris Baker said. "Because once it got bad for us, and we knew we weren't going to the playoffs, it was tough."

There are always off-season changes in the NFL but, as a result of the 4-12 season, the Jets especially expect changes now that the season is over, whether in personnel and approach.

On defense, safety Kerry Rhodes said he hopes the team can hit its stride earlier next season, after two years of coming out with a revamped defense following the bye week. Both times, the team simplified the defense during the break, so Rhodes hopes that's a lesson that can easily be applied in 2008.

Offensively, the lack of production this season, especially in the red zone, was wearisome to the players.

"It's very frustrating because we were in most of our games this year, and we didn't do enough to pull it out," said receiver Jerricho Cotchery. "We didn't make enough plays at the end of games to be able to get the Ws. What we did today, we could have been doing a lot more this year."

Even though the Jets offense was still inefficient for most of yesterday's game, it was able to put together an 11-play, 45-yard drive in overtime to grab the victory. Both teams finished the season at 4-12, and the game was largely meaningless, save for determining draft order.

But, for the Jets, the final field goal was the difference between sending a disappointing year into the off-season with something good, instead of another bad feeling.

"That was the whole plan this week, we wanted to win this as much as we could," Rhodes said. "You can't say a lot for the year, but we got it done today."

Jenny Vrentas may be reached

at jvrentas@starledger.com

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Victory does little for QB

Monday, December 31, 2007


Star-Ledger Staff

Of all the numbingly disconcerting numbers Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens has put up this season, this stat tops them all: The second-year pro has led the Jets to just nine touchdowns in his 87 drives as a starter this season.

Even after a season-ending 13-10 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday, the Jets are no closer to having their long-term quarterback situation resolved than they were when Clemens took over for Chad Pennington midway through the season.

To be fair, Clemens has suffered through growing pains in his first action as a starter this season and his offensive line has struggled. And yesterday, he had to play in a cold, wintry mix before a three-quarters empty Giants Stadium.

Any decision about whether Clemens will be the Jets' starter in 2008 probably will have to be based more on his potential than what he showed in an underwhelming eighth career start, during which he completed 13 of 25 passes for 115 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

"We'll have to look at all the different games together and view it as a whole body of work," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "That's what we'll do."

The Jets (4-12) won on a 43-yard field goal by Mike Nugent with 9:47 left in the extra session, but much of that was set up on the strength of 39 rushing yards. Nugent's first crack at the game-winner -- a 33-yarder -- was waved off on a holding penalty by guard Wade Smith, and Nugent endured two separate time outs to ice him, one before each kick.

With a disappointing season now behind them, the Jets' attention is fixed on the future. They are in a three-way tie for the fourth pick overall in the NFL Draft with the Raiders and Chiefs. The Dolphins (1-15) have the rights to the first overall pick, followed by the Rams (3-13) and the Falcons (4-12). Unofficially, the Jets will almost certainly pick no higher than fifth overall because of their strength of schedule.

The Chiefs (4-12), under former Jets coach Herm Edwards, suffered their ninth consecutive loss -- tying a franchise record. They gained just 219 yards total offense.

"It's kind of fitting to go overtime," Edwards said. "It's two teams both having disappointing seasons."

As the Jets look to retool, they're more than $27 million under the salary cap and are expected to be active in free agency. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and Patriots cornerback Asante Samuels are believed to be on their wish list.

Moreover, veterans Pennington and Jonathan Vilma aren't expected back. Each could land the Jets multiple draft picks if dealt.

Pennington's likely departure -- he said earlier in the season he felt he could still start in the NFL and privately has said he will look for a job elsewhere -- magnifies Clemens' struggles. The Jets were hoping for a big day from Clemens to ease their concerns, but it didn't happen. Again, Clemens was jittery in the pocket, rushing throws or giving up on routes too early and pulling the ball down and running. He ran eight times for 18 yards and was sacked three times.

Clemens couldn't get untracked even though the Jets racked up a season-high 199 yards rushing, including 98 yards on 25 carries by Thomas Jones. Leon Washington added 67 yards on 11 attempts. He also completed a pass to Wallace Wright on a direct snap for 36 yards. The Jets were just 3-for-16 on third-down conversions.

Overall, Clemens, who was 3-5 as a starter, threw five touchdowns and 10 interceptions, two returned for touchdowns. His passer rating (60.9) and completion percentage (52.0) are the second-worst in the NFL among quarterbacks averaging at least 14 passes per game. The 49ers' Trent Dilfer was the worst in both categories.

"I think the best thing (he learned) is the margin of error is so small," Clemens said. "A lot of games we were in it and one mistake can cost you. I'll go back and look at every game and write everything down. I definitely think there has been progress in some areas where I need to improve.

"But there's plenty of work to be done. We'll look at things and get back to work."

Against the Chiefs, the Jets had to resort to trickery to score their first touchdown as they dialed up a direct snap to Washington, who hit a wide-open Wright for 36 yards. Three plays later, the Jets scored when Clemens hit Jones on a shovel pass for a 15-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

With the Jets leading 7-3, Clemens had perhaps his worse play of the game. On a second-and-eight from the Chiefs' 9-yard line, he scrambled out of the pocket to his left and threw the ball out of the end zone. Fans showered him with boos and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer screamed at him on the sidelines. Schottenheimer isn't available to the media after games.

The Jets settled for a 27-yard field goal by Nugent to lead 10-3 at the half.

Kansas City tied the game on a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brodie Croyle to wide receiver Jeff Webb over cornerback Hank Poteat with 2:59 left in regulation to force the overtime.

Dave Hutchinson may be reached

at dhutchinson@starledger.com

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NY Times- The Going Got Tough, So Jones Got Going

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Thomas Jones had yardage to gain and a game to win. He was not worried about what would happen to him or the Jets after they played the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. He was not thinking about Darren McFadden, either.

McFadden is the flashy running back from Arkansas whom the Jets could pick in the first round of the N.F.L. draft, which is in four months. Jones is much more of a grinder than McFadden, as simple as the untied work boots he pulled on after Sunday’s game.

When Jones was asked last week about the prospect of McFadden joining the Jets, his answers were curt and testy. Jones was not much more expansive even after powering the Jets to a 13-10 overtime victory against the Chiefs.

“The draft is in April,” Jones said. “I’m an eight-year veteran. I’m not concerned with the draft. That’s not my job. My job is play football. Their job is to do what they need to do to make the Jets better. My job is to run the football, be a leader and role model, and lead by example.”

Jones rushed for 98 yards on 25 carries against Kansas City to finish the season with 1,129 yards on 310 carries. The season has been difficult for the Jets, who finished 4-12, and for Jones, who played in the Super Bowl for the Chicago Bears in February.

But in overtime of the season finale, in a game that each team at times seemed unqualified to win, Jones showed why the Jets thought he was worthy of a four-year, $20-million contract.

“Thomas got some really tough yards when we needed some tough yards,” Jets Coach Eric Mangini said.

Jones had 36 yards on five carries in overtime, making two tacklers miss on an 8-yard run for a first down to set up Mike Nugent’s game-winning 43-yard field goal. Two plays earlier, he gained 10 yards for a first down at the Kansas City 24.

“He’s a very hard worker, and he’s just so passionate about the game,” center Nick Mangold said.

Jones was a critical part of the Jets’ game plan Sunday. As Mangini explained afterward, the more effectively Jones ran between the hash marks, the less the Chiefs’ defensive ends could focus on quarterback Kellen Clemens.

Clemens was not exactly magnificent, completing 13 of 25 passes for 115 yards. But Jones provided some extra room for Clemens and for the other running back, Leon Washington, who rushed for 67 yards and completed a 36-yard pass.

“He’s in the mode of a Curtis Martin, the way he approaches the game, the way he works so hard to win,” Washington said of Jones, comparing him to the Jets’ most prolific rusher. “That was good to go out and see us run the ball, especially with the game on the line.”

Jones was also an integral part of the Jets’ only touchdown drive against the Chiefs, a six-play, 56-yard march that ended with Jones hauling in a shovel pass from Clemens and darting 15 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

The Chiefs slowed down Jones in the middle of the game. Tamba Ali, one of the defensive ends the Jets were trying so hard to neutralize, tripped up Jones for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 play that started at the Chiefs’ 36-yard line early in the third quarter.

Jones carried the ball only three more times before the end of regulation, picking up 7 yards. As rain mixed with snow and the already thin crowd at Giants Stadium thinned even more, he was ready to rumble when overtime began.

The Jets won the toss, and Jones picked up 9 yards on their second play in overtime. Clemens turned a sneak into a first down, then completed a 13-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery. Jones picked up 8 yards, and Clemens sneaked for another first down.

It seemed as if the Jets were moving downhill. A small crowd gathered in the seats behind the goal post where Nugent would try his winning field goal. A holding penalty negated a successful kick from 33 yards, but Nugent then converted from 43 yards.

The long, dreary season was over, and the Jets might have improved their standing in the N.F.L. draft to the point where McFadden may not even be available, anyway.

“I wouldn’t know that,” Jones said. “I don’t keep up with that.”

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