On some days, Bob Wischusen wakes up and has no idea what city he's in.
"I had to look at the phone in the hotel room this morning just to make sure I knew where I was," the Jets' play-by-play voice said this morning, "but I'm in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I've got Memphis vs. Tulsa [in NCAA men's basketball] tonight. And then I'm home for a few days, thank goodness."
On Sunday, while the Giants were going toe-to-toe with the Eagles in divisional playoff action, "Shoes" was in El Paso, Texas, calling a women's basketball battle between UTEP and Houston.
A man on the move for ESPN, Wischusen has kept up to date with the Jets' off-season happenings. Two weeks after the dismissal of head coach Eric Mangini, Wischusen expressed disappointment in seeing him go.
"I really thought Eric had proven enough, certainly from a work ethic standpoint — nobody could possibly work harder at what they do than what he did at that job," Wischusen said. "I would have liked to see him have the chance to come back and right the ship."
But Mangini's the Browns' skipper in Cleveland and the Green & White will name his successor in the near future. Wischusen, who just finished his seventh season as the team's play-by-play man, stresses the importance of organizational stability.
"I thought it was kind of funny that the media thought the absolute no-brainer replacement for Eric Mangini was Bill Cowher," he told Randy Lange and myself on the "Jets Two-Minute Drive" radio program, which is on our site now. "The same reporters that are endorsing the firing of Eric after three years think that a guy that took 14 years to win a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh is the guy that has to come here."
For the fourth time since owner Woody Johnson purchased the team in 2000, the Jets almost assuredly will hire a first-time NFL head coach. But head-coaching rookies experienced great success in 2008 as Mike Smith and Tony Sparano led the Falcons and the Dolphins respectively to improbable division titles while John Harbaugh is preparing the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC Championship Game.
"I think the NFL is a copycat league and if you look at this past year, who are the two or three guys that drew the most headlines in the NFL for doing a spectacular job? They're first-year head coaches," Shoes said.
If the Jets have pegged either Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan or Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm as their guy, they won't be able to officially announce the hiring until that coach's team gets eliminated from postseason action.
A number of reports this week have indicated the Jets' top choice is Ryan. After 10 seasons with the Ravens and the past four as defensive coordinator, Ryan added assistant head coach duties to his résumé prior to this campaign. His defense finished second in the NFL in the regular season and has forced eight turnovers in two playoff games.
"I do think the transition would be smooth from a scheme standpoint because obviously Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum over the past three years have done a pretty solid job transforming the personnel the Jets have from 4-3 to 3-4 personnel and that's what the Ravens run," Wischusen said. "It would be a pretty natural transition for Rex Ryan to come in here."
Ryan deserves a lot of credit for this recent Ravens run. He has a couple of potential Hall of Famers at his disposal in LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed and there is also great talent around when you include the likes of NT Haloti Ngata and LB Terrell Suggs. But RR's the man calling the shots and he's got his defenders flying around every week.
"I don't think there are too many defensive coordinators who have coached mediocre guys to greatness. You have to have players. There is no question," Shoes said. "And I think we've seen it up close and personal — the Jets have players. They could add more and there are certainly needs on the defense, but I don't think there is any question that there is at least a core of players on this team that any coach is going to look at and be pretty excited about."
The Jets could opt to stay in house with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer or offensive line coach Bill Callahan. Despite Schottenheimer having to make major modifications to his offensive system in August after the Jets acquired Brett Favre, the Jets' 405 total points were the third-highest total in franchise history and their 48 touchdowns were the second-most.
"I think Brian Schottenheimer is a brilliant young football mind and I think he has a lot of the characteristics you would want in a head coach. I think he is a born leader," said the voice of the Jets. "Just talking to him, he is wise beyond his years."
The well-traveled Wischusen just hopes the final pick — whoever that may be — will be around for the long haul.