Transcript of Jets head coach Eric Mangini's news conference with reporters before Wednesday's practice:
I made the announcement to our players today about our captains. The players vote on our captains. I don't get involved. The coaches don't vote. It's their expression of who they want to lead the team throughout the next season. What I will say is the voting was close. I think we have a lot of really good leadership on the team.
These are the guys voted on by the players. Offensively it was Brett Favre and Alan Faneca. Defensively it was Shaun Ellis and Kerry Rhodes. And on special teams it was David Bowens and Leon Washington. So congratulations to those guys.
I think we've got a really good leadership group. These are the players that our players have chosen. One of the nice things that I'm going to have this year is being able to work with them but also being able to work with all the guys we have over 30 and get their insight and be able to draw on a lot of different experiences as we move forward.
In terms of the Dolphins, I think the one thing that stands out to me right off the bat — and this is typical of Bill [Parcells]'s fingerprint on any team he's been with — is this is a physical team, it's a very aggressive team and it's a very tough team. You see that in all three phases and you see that in the people they've brought in and the way they play. It has shown up throughout the course of the preseason. It's very consistent with all of Parcells' teams and my experience with him as well here at the Jets.
With Tony Sparano, it's nice to see another Connecticut native, another fellow Italian, the head coach, so that's always great. I think he's doing an excellent job here early on. I know all the challenges that he faces. But again, watching it on tape, I think that's moving along really well.
Offensively, working with Dan Henning in my first time around with the Jets, I have a lot of respect for Dan. I've known Dan since that time and he actually came to training camp last season and watched practice and I got to meet with him, spent some time, talked to him about his philosophies. Neither one of us, I'm sure, thought he'd be coaching the Dolphins the next season.
He's very creative. What Dan's always done is he finds a way to create angles, he finds a way to create advantages against any defense that he plays and there's going to be some things that we have to adjust to because of the problems that he's going to create from a coordinator perspective.
I think they've got an excellent running game. I think the offensive line is doing a really nice job, especially considering having those two young players on the line and we all know how well Chad manages the game and all the problems that he can create.
Defensively it's a big defense. It's a 34 defense, but it's not a typical 34 defense in terms of true two-gapping. It's very aggressive, more up the field, like the Dallas–San Diego–Pittsburgh family tree of 34. They do create some of the same problems there.
I think they play tight coverage. They have an aggressive pass rush, aggressiveness in the run game, and that tight coverage is going to present some challenges for us offensively. In size, they're big, they're big up front. Throughout the course of the preseason I think they've been very effective.
On teams, punt returner with Tedd [Ginn Jr.] back there, he's tough. He's got great speed. He can hit the home run at any point. I think their hold-up on their punt return team is excellent. I think John [Bonamego, ST coordinator] does a good job with the way he rushes, the challenges they present when they are bringing people to block the punts. I think with Dan [Carpenter] and Brandon [Fields], these are two good kickers that have been doing an excellent job in the preseason and can do some things in terms of where they place the football that makes it more difficult for the return game to really get going.
Reggie [Torbor] I think is an excellent player, and Patrick [Cobbs]. The other fingerprint with Parcells is everybody's going to be involved on special teams. Everybody's going to have a role. It's not offense-defense, with special teams an afterthought. It's very much one of the three core phases, and everybody plays, everybody works at it. It's going to be a well-coached, well-disciplined and well-emphasized phase of the game.
On if he has spoken to Chad Pennington since he was released…
I have not talked to Chad since he has been released. I think that when we did talk, when I let him know about the change we were making, I thought it was a great conversation. My feelings for Chad have not changed. He's a good person. He's a good player. He taught me a lot of things. I really respect what he did for us organizationally and I wish him well.
On if he thinks it's strategically important that he doesn't talk to Chad…
Really, by league rules, you're not really allowed to talk to players on other teams, especially the week of the game. That would be a big problem. Chad studies. Chad knows a lot about this team. There's some things that I'm sure he can take advantage of if we provide those opportunities. There's always familiarity on other teams with what you're doing, like people going to New England, Miami, Buffalo, whatever the case may be. You take that into account. You do things game-plan-specifically, which he also knows. It will be different than, say, he's anticipated in the past.
On how much he has to change the Jets' audibles…
It's not the same as offense where one code word always means one play. Oftentimes you have those defenses that may be poor defenses, but you change the signals and you change the hand signals out on the field. You do that pretty consistently because they're so demonstrative on tape that if you don't change them it's going to be an issue whether it's Chad or somebody else.
On if it is difficult to prepare for a player who was with his team last month…
There's pluses and minuses. Being so game-plan-specific, as we're going through training camp and you're covering the whole playbook, all those different things are going to come up throughout the course of the season that you want to work on that you want to be able to draw from. But when you get into the game plan, then you narrow it down and maybe it's 10 percent of the playbook, and then you're always adding four or five things that work ideally against that team. We have a lot of different stuff like we always do.
On how hard it is to focus on football with the addition of new elements…
All those things are great. You know, whatever the different elements have been, whether it's the move, whether it's the quarterback, whether it's adjustments made on special teams, all those things are exciting. To me those aren't distractions, those are things to be really excited about and that's the feeling from the group. There is always anticipation for the opening game. These have all been really positive things that we're happy about, but what's going to be important is these meetings and these practices and what we can do collectively against Miami.
On what challenges he anticipates for Brett Favre…
The first game of the season is so unique because you go through off-season, training camp, you do all these new things, then you add the first game of the season, new head coach, new coordinators, new players on both sides, and it's a little bit of you have your plan going in, but who knows what it's going to be? I've prepared for things that I thought were definite over the years, and you go in and it's none of that, it's totally different.
I remember one year in New England we ran this defense 250 times. We weren't going to show it till the opening game, we were going to hold it. We ran it twice. We got gashed and that was the end of it. It was going to be a core part of what we did. Unfortunately, the first two reps didn't look too good, so out it went and you go to something else, but that's just sort of the nature of the beast early on.
On what he thinks it will be like for Favre early on…
I think, like the rest of us, he'll be excited. I think everybody has that excitement going in the first game. Obviously he's fitting in well to be voted on by his peers to be a captain. I think the question of how he's adjusting, how he's fitting with the guys has been clearly answered by the fact that his peer group — I don't know how peer groups work with that age differential, but the kids voted for him [smiles].
On his gut response when he found out Favre was elected…
You give the ballots out and they vote for whoever they vote for. That's what I gave them. I don't think it's my role to get involved in that process because obviously they've chosen that this is who they want and this is important to the group. Therefore, this is what is important to me. I think it's great if that's who they've chosen. He'll do a great job. I know Bryan Cox, when he first got to New England [in 2001], he was there maybe a week, maybe less, and he got voted captain, so it's not unheard of.
On meeting with his captains…
What we do is we get together on Thursdays postpractice and go through it. It's really an open forum in terms of I may say, "Here are some concerns I have, here are some questions I have. What do you guys want to do?" It may be a format issue, may be a practice issue. I may not have decided which way I'll want to go, so I'll throw it out to the group and say, "What do you guys think?" You talk about it, try to get the best answer for the group, and it's important, too, that their feedback is honest. I think the group has been great.
I think the other thing is we've got a good leadership group outside of the core that was elected. I think there's a lot of leadership on this team, and I would hope that any of those guys would feel free to come in and say "I want to talk about this" or "I want you to consider" whatever the issue is. That's happened quite a bit throughout training camp, the off-season. Guys will just come up and bring up a topic, an issue, a suggestion and that's good and important.
On the most surprising thing he has learned from Favre…
There were alligators in the front part of his yard. I don't know what it was called. I don't think I'd be too fired up about that, coming home from school and seeing a croc sitting out there. We didn't have a lot of crocs. If I go visit him down there, I'm not going to run straight.
On if he and Mike Tannenbaum ever talked about the scenario that might be coming up this weekend…
No, not in that context, not in the decision-making process. You know, whenever a good player leaves, there's a chance you could be playing against him. That's just the way it is. But it wasn't part of the discussion in terms of the decision-making.
On how much he looks at where Sparano and Henning have coached before…
You definitely look at that. Anytime there's a new head coach and it's an early game, you want to look at the head coach's history, the coordinator's history, try to take that into account when you're watching the preseason game to figure out "How much influence does the head coach have on this? How much is it just coordinator-driven?"
With Dan, I've got all my notes from the Super Bowl. I've got my notes from the next year when we played him. I've got all those patterns. You look back at that, the experiences I had coaching with him, being in staff meetings, even meeting with him last year in the off-season, and I'm sure he has all the same things as well. You take that into account and you try to figure out what their approach is going to be.
On discussions he and Favre have had about the game plan…
The usual process is you put together the game plan and then the quarterbacks come in and take a look at it and go through it and they express concerns: "I like this, I don't like this." You talk about it. You give them "This is why we're thinking about doing this. This is why we think it will work." And they express concerns on the other side: "I don't really like this read progressing. I would much rather go here."
You try to get to the point where it's the best game plan in terms of what you can do against that opponent, but you don't want to put in a bunch of plays that guys don't feel comfortable running because then it's not the best game plan for you.
The same thing happens defensively. You'll go through a meeting and you may practice something or it may just be in the meeting itself where someone says, "That doesn't make sense to me. I don't see how I can read the run and still cover the flat. That conflict is going to be hard for me." So you may adjust. Some of it's talking to a player who's going to be affected by that adjustment, and that's how you do it.
On if there is an advantage to facing Pennington on opening day…
What we do against the Dolphins isn't necessarily what we're going to do against New England next week, or San Diego or Arizona or any of those teams. It's what we're going to do against them and why, as opposed to this is just what we play, this is just what we do. That's really the approach. Having that approach is positive when people do change teams because it's not necessarily going to be all the things you practice in training camp. It's going to be the things that you like against them for that week specifically.
It's much more that team and the problems that team presents, things they do well, things they don't do well, your strengths versus them, ways you can minimize their strengths, attack their weaknesses. It's always going to be different. The same thing with New England. It's not necessarily how they played Indy or how they played Kansas City, it's how are they going to play you?