Jets' Mangini on criticism: 'It's part of what we do'
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Eric Mangini realizes he's not winning many popularity contests these days.
With the New York Jets struggling down the stretch and on the outside of the playoff picture, frustrated fans are flooding sports talk shows and message boards with heavy criticism of the coach.
"It's inherent with what we do," Mangini said Friday. "It's part of what we do. I appreciate that. It's not anything that's a surprise in terms of analysis, discussing the team and all the things related to the team. That's usually how it goes. I appreciate the fans' passion and interests. I get that.
"What I'm trying to do and what we're always trying to do is moving forward and beat the next opponent. That's what we focus on."
The next opponent, the Miami Dolphins, could be the last for Mangini and his staff this season -- or beyond. The Jets (9-6) need to win Sunday and have either New England or Baltimore lose to even get into the postseason.
"If you don't make it to the playoffs, there's nothing successful about that," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said.
After a wild offseason spending spree, the acquisition of Brett Favre and an impressive 8-3 start, a poor performance Sunday and a second straight season not making the postseason would damage Mangini's chances of returning for a fourth year.
Owner Woody Johnson has not spoken publicly on Mangini's future, but plenty of others have shared their opinions. Even former Pro Bowl defensive lineman Joe Klecko sounded off during a radio interview with New York-based WFAN earlier this week, saying, "I think he's lost them. I don't think he's done a good job with them."
Not so, said safety Kerry Rhodes, who doesn't believe the team is playing to save Mangini's job.
"We don't get that feeling around here that that's even the case," Rhodes said. "We're still behind him and, from what I know, the management is still behind him, so I don't think it's an issue right now. I think it's more of an outside thing."
Mangini, who's 23-25 in his three seasons, including a playoff loss at New England two years ago, said he has managed to insulate himself from the criticism.
"I don't have that active of a social life," he said with a smile. "It's pretty much here to home. In terms of radio or any of that stuff, the stations I listen to aren't talk radio. Sometimes it's NPR or a little rap on the way home. It's not heavy sports talk."
Mangini said he and general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who share a close working relationship, haven't discussed his future.
"We'll assess things after the season," Mangini said. "We just focus on what's ahead of us. That's what he believes. That's what I believe, and that's what the organization believes in. That wouldn't deviate regardless of any situation."
Mangini's not alone on the hot seat. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are also feeling the heat because of the inconsistency and, at times, ineffectiveness of their units.
The Jets' struggles down the stretch -- they've lost three of four since winning on the road at New England and Tennessee -- can be directly traced to perhaps their two most important players: Favre and nose tackle Kris Jenkins.
Favre has just one touchdown and six interceptions in the last four games and cryptically revealed Wednesday that "there could be something" affecting his right shoulder.
The 39-year-old quarterback has missed badly on a number of throws during the last few weeks, underthrowing open receivers and floating passes at times. That led to speculation that Favre's rocket right arm was ailing.
"At this time of year, he has historically been sore," Mangini said, appearing hardly concerned and pointing out that Favre is still making the same types of throws now that he made when he first came to New York in early August.
"If he's hurting, I'd hate to see a healthy shoulder throwing that ball to me," Cotchery said. "Every game, I can't even wear my wedding ring sometimes because my fingers are swollen and all that stuff. He still can zip it."
Jenkins, a dominant godsend at nose tackle through the first half of the season, has shown signs of wearing down while dealing with a balky back and hip and been held out for stretches during games. The once-stout run defense has suddenly looked porous as a result.
How the two play Sunday against the Dolphins and Chad Pennington, the man Favre replaced, could go a long way in determining Mangini's fate, as well as that of the franchise.
"This is the most fun I've had since I've been in the league," Cotchery said. "I hope a lot of guys in here feel the same because I don't want it to end. I still want to be around these guys and continue this thing."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press