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Scott Dierking

The First Thirty Days

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By Scott Dierking 

Team Mangini’s first 30 days at the helm of the New York Jets will define the organization’s existence for his entire duration.

Strong words. But these are words that resonate true for any Head Coach, for any team, or for any organization for that matter. The truism that “first impressions are often correct� carries a lot of symbolic rhetoric, but for Eric Mangini, first impressions will accentuate his tenure for a variety of reasons.

First, has to do with the relative age of Mangini and his background. It will be easy for Jet players to associate Mangini as a peer through their subconscious. The idea that Mangini is “one of us� can erode his base of power before it is even erected.

One also has to imagine what the psyche of the overall team is. If there ever was a team that is a candidate for the collective psychological couch, the New York Jets could create a cottage industry for Dr. Melfi. Tony Soprano has nothing on the Jets when it comes to trying to create a static balance.

Let’s just examine some of the coaching machinations through recent Jet history and their psychological effects on this team. Say what you want, Bill Parcells had it easy when he first walked into Weeb Ewbank Hall, at least as it relates to a willing subject. He took over a club that was downtrodden and embarrassed. Talk about your beaten puppies, this one didn’t know its name. Parcells could have told each player that they had to walk barefoot, over 10 miles of broken shards of glass in order to become a contender, and he would have had willing bodies forming a line.

Bill Belichick, he of the not-so elegant parting elocution, was not even a stop on the Jet coaching merry-go-round, but his hasty retreat set the stage for Al Groh. It was a stage that was set with trap doors and faulty guide wires. Groh, devoid of much personality (which was the greatest appreciable decline from the Parcells regime, not coaching talent), quickly realized that any noticeable slip in discipline would spell his demise as authoritarian. He kept the hammer down, and he kept it down hard.

The result, a few pampered and prissy athletes, sensing the ability to revolt given an absent strong personality such as Parcells, did precisely that. They got their feathers in a bunch and created a backlash against precisely the same regiment and work ethic that turned this morbid franchise around. A late season collapse, only predictable, given some of the in sniping created by a few so-called leaders on the club made the departure by Groh a foregone conclusion.

The next personality of a coach for the Jets franchise was a given. Oddly, organizations, like nature, like life, seek a certain homeostasis, a balance if you will, in order to keep things in check. For every yin, there is a yang. For every starboard there is a port. For every Bill Parcells or Al Groh, there is a Herm Edwards.

To many Jet players, Herm Edwards and his style was a breath of fresh and days of sunshine. No one can relate better to a player, than someone who was a player himself. Who knows better how we feel, what we want, and how we want to do things better than someone who has walked in our shoes and run in our cleats. A match made in heaven, at least in many players’ minds, and on an organizational level as well. Team bliss was devoid of back page negative attributions and the sense was of one cozy house.

As is often the case, marriages that are consummated out of convenience, end quickly and they end ugly. In the case of the Jets, a divorce based upon a claim of non-support was a legitimate claim. When the honeymoon of dancing, and dinners out with friends is over, and you are left with the stark reality that this is the person that you may have to spend the rest of your life with, well, neither side seemed particularly comfortable with that notion once the lights shined bright. Herm was a fine date, but as a life partner he was just not a great fit.

Enter Eric Mangini. What he inherits are a few players that have lived the life though all of the regimes, many players that have witnessed the “players� approach, as well as a number of handpicked players that they feel exemplify the “new� Jets. A mish mash of a collection of players that have had different approaches thrust on them, if there ever was one.

Given that, Mangini will look to immediately make his mark, define his style and place his stamp upon his team. This will not be Parcells Team.2B nor Edwards Team.1A, but Eric Mangini’s team. One that we can assume will be ego-less and focused on core discipline and responsibility.

Exactly how the team will respond to this approach is not a given at this point. We can already witness some of the selective weeding out of certain veterans to ensure a smoother transition. What will be interesting to see is which veterans Mangini employs to help spread his gospel. No coach is without locker room extensions, and this will be key.

In addition, which rookie garners early favor and selective comments will be an interesting decipher of future leaders. How long until earned starting roster spots are announced? What psychological motivators will Mangini use as he tests wills and sets parameters? Who will break first? It very well may be a battle of wills and temperament among players and even coaches.

Any battle worth fighting is worth fighting well and with a plan. We can be sure that Mangini has one. The first month of training camp will be a culmination of those plans into action. How quickly those plans take hold, and how they are perceived will decide the short term future of the New York Jets, and the long term coaching ability of Eric Mangini.

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