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Eric Mangini fired as Jets' coach one day after season-ending loss

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Five weeks after mulling a long-term contract extension for Eric Mangini, Jets owner Woody Johnson pulled a 180, whacking the former "Sopranos" cameo star in an early-morning meeting at the Jets' training facility in Florham Park Monday.

So began another chaotic offseason for the star-crossed franchise, which embarked on its fourth coaching search of the decade - equaling the number of playoff appearances in the same span.

Johnson was appalled by the team's late-season collapse, but he didn't mention that or any other negatives in a Pollyannaish news conference filled with vague remarks about Mangini's job performance. At times, Johnson, joined by GM Mike Tannenbaum, was so complimentary that it sounded like he wanted to rehire Mangini.

"I don't think it was one thing," said Johnson, explaining why he fired Mangini after two winning seasons in three years. "It was just Mike's and my judgment that we had to go in a different direction. There's nothing specific that you can (say). It's a call that we made and hopefully it's correct."

Mangini, hailed as a young Bill Belichick when he was plucked from the Belichick cocoon in 2006, finished 23-25 plus one playoff appearance. He had one year left on his original contract, meaning he's still owed $1.75 million, the annual average. Mangini, his voice cracking, delivered a brief - two-minute - but emotional farewell address to the team at noon.

With Tannenbaum as the point man, a strong indication that he will remain the GM, the Jets began the search for Mangini's replacement. They contacted two candidates, according to sources. The Jets requested permission to speak with Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher also is believed to be on their short list, although the current CBS analyst has misgivings about the Jets because of their power structure, according to a source. As of late last night, the Jets had not contacted Cowher.

Cowher is said to desire total control of the football operation, but that authority belongs to Tannenbaum, a close friend of Mangini's who was the driving force behind his hiring. Johnson, speaking generally, made it clear that he doesn't want a coach/GM. That would seem to eliminate Cowher unless Tannenbaum is willing to take a lesser role.

"There's no way, there's no way you can do it," Johnson said of the dual role. "You may think you have the power, but you can't make those discerning decisions - there's too much work - and be a coach."

Perhaps the most intriguing possibility, albeit a longshot, is Bill Parcells, the Dolphins' VP of football operations. Parcells reportedly has an out clause in his contract, although he has said many times in recent months that he has no desire to coach again. But he does have a strong relationship with Tannenbaum, who regards Parcells as a mentor.
"We're considering all the talent anywhere it exists," said Johnson, when asked specifically about Parcells.

Johnson and Tannenbaum didn't provide any hints about their ideal head-coaching profile. With a veteran team built to win now, especially if Brett Favre returns, a proven, big-name coach would make the most sense.

Favre appears to be leaning toward retirement, but he could be an "X" factor in the search. The Jets want him back despite a horrible late-season slump - Johnson gave a strong endorsement - fueling speculation that the organization may try to appease Favre with its coaching choice.

A month ago, the Jets figured to be preparing for a playoff game this week, but they suffered the worst collapse in franchise history, dropping four of their last five games. At 8-3, there were discussions about a new deal for Mangini, Johnson confirmed. By last week, Johnson was so livid that he decided it would be playoffs-or-bust for Mangini, sources said.

"This is a decision that was basically running through the season," said Johnson, claiming he made the final call late Sunday night after the season-ending loss to Chad Pennington and the Dolphins.

At the owners' meetings last spring, Johnson told the Daily News that Mangini would "absolutely" be back in 2009, regardless of the record. But after doling out $160 million in veteran acquisitions and trading for Favre, the collapse was too much to bear.

Tannenbaum said he supported the decision. He called it a very emotional meeting with Mangini, who was referred to as Mangenius on "The Sopranos."

"We had to make the right decision, not the easy one," Tannenbaum said.

In a statement released last night, Mangini thanked Johnson and Tannenbaum.

"We worked hard to achieve two winning seasons out of the past three," he said. "I regret that we could not reach our goals for this year."

Players were shocked by the firing; they figured Mangini's close relationship with Tannenbaum would spare him. In the end, he failed to rescue a team that had lost its way after registering stunning back-to-back wins over the Patriots and Titans.

Privately, some players said Mangini didn't show enough emotion, made too many tactical errors and gave preferential treatment to Favre.

"It was just a total, total collapse on everybody's part," tackle Damien Woody said.

But only one paid the price.

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GreenBlood

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Well i am glad he is gone he has no swagger , no passion as a head coach. I feel bad for the browns

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Last season we lost Chad and now Mangini....The last 3 years they were apart of our family. So many people are glad to see Mangini leave (not me) and chad playing for the fish, but we still lost part of what was the JETS and I am anxious to see who will fill those shoes besides Jet Farve who was on clearance. Lets not make the same mistake we did last season and get Cower because he was so wonderful with the steelers. Take Brett the Jet as a lesson learned when looking for our new coach............LUV MY JETS!!!!!

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