To kick things off here, as we look forward to the Cardinals/Steelers Super Bowl next week, I'm going to take a quick look back at the end of the New York Jets 2008 season.
I've spent the last three of my nine years covering the Jets attempting to glean the simplest of stories out of the locker room, where information under Head Coach Eric Mangini was guarded as if our national security depended upon it. However, along the way, I was able to uncover several very significant stories and I will share the most significant one with you now, which I first broke on my Sirius NFL Radio segment back in December.
For those of you who watched in horror, dismay and utter confusion as the Jets 2008 season unraveled at light-speed I can tell you the reason. It's actually a bit unusual for there to be one specific reason that a team either can't get it together or falls apart (barring, of course something like a season-ending injury to the starting quarterback). That said, it was actually quite simple in 2008.
Following the Jets' home loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 13, Head Coach Eric Mangini panicked. I have this on good authority from numerous (and by numerous I mean more than a half-dozen) players as well as two very highly-placed team officials. He immediately threw out the defensive schemes that the team had used all season long and implemented a new set. This put the players in complete and total disarray. They shared their discomfort openly with their position coaches and Mangini.
Since his arrival in New York, Mangini had insisted that his door was always open to both coaches and players to share their thoughts and opinions on everything that was going on and that he would do his best to accommodate their various requests and suggestions.
So why then, when the players asked the coach to return to the schemes that they were comfortable running (and that they had compiled a winning record with) did he refuse? That part may never be known.
In addition, Mangini began to put his hands on Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense, adding insult to injury.
Speaking of injuries, there were two significant ones that, to be completely fair, cannot be overlooked. Nose tackle Kris Jenkins was struggling with both back and hip problems and Brett Favre it turned out, had a biceps injury in his throwing arm.
That being said, you have to wonder what might have been had Mangini remained "consistent" (his war cry from day one on the job), had not allowed himself to get so rattled by one bad loss, and had respected his players and coaches enough to trust them so that they could move forward with what had already proven to be successful.