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Jets' Journey Reaches Final Quarter


The New York Jets completed the third quarter of their season Sunday in Green Bay, concluding a 3-1 run with a rout of the Packers a Lambeau Field. The Jets have become a national darling and many media prognosticators see a postseason in their future. While head coach Eric Mangini is pleased with his team's progress, he continues to stress focus.

"We are excited about the progress we're making and there still is a quarter of the season left," Mangini said. "That is the way we are approaching it. I appreciate the excitement - I appreciate the fans' excitement. I think that's great, but if we lose track of the next game and get caught up in the other things that are happening, that is when you let a game slip away or you let some level of preparation of matter slip away. It won't matter what happens outside this building if we are not continually focused on the task at hand."

Not surprisingly, Mangini says he hasn't had much contact with people outside his inner circle. The first-year head coach is seemingly always at the office and he treasures the time he does spend with his family. In fact, Mangini gave credit to his wife, Julie, for scoring him some extra points with his young son Jake.

"I really haven't had any contact with anybody outside the building except for my family," he said Monday. "I talk to my brother here and there, and he's been excited about the Jets for a while. Elmo called Jake last night. It's a service Julie set up and that's all he was excited about. She told him that I arranged it, so he thinks I'm a pretty good dad right now, so I am fired up about that."

The 7-5 Jets own the best NFL record in New York City, but Mangini doesn't put too much credence into having a better record than their cross-town NFC counterparts.

"I guess it's nice," he said. "We are trying to be the number one football team here in Hempstead and keep working. Like I said, there is still a quarter of the season left and a lot of football. That is what we are focused on."

Beyond the thorough approach taken by the organization, Mangini credited his players today for meeting expectations and then reaching for another level. He talked of the way they have worked on conditioning, their preparation in the film room, and the diligence in the weight room.

"It's all the stuff they are doing on a consistent basis outside what I think are fairly challenging practices, which is helping us make progress every week," Mangini said.

Fans today rummaged through the morning papers and examined the remaining schedules of the Bengals, the Broncos, the Chiefs and the Jaguars. But Mangini, the leader of Hempstead's best team, was thinking about his next opponent.

"The second you lose sight of what's important, that is when suddenly the playoffs are no longer an issue," he reminded us. "The important thing is the next game, the next opponent, the consistency. To me it's all about the Buffalo Bills."

NotebookAs per usual, Mangini named his Players of the Week on Monday. Earning honors for their Week 13 performances were RB Cedric Houston and LB Jonathan Vilma. Linebacker Cody Spencer took home special team recognition while rookie tackle Ed Blanton captured the team's practice award… Houston, who rushed for a career-high 105 yards against the Packers, was active Sunday along with Leon Washington. Kevan Barlow did not dress for the first time this season. "All three guys will have the chance and whoever practices the best will play," Mangini said… Fullback B.J. Askew wasn't intimidated by freezing wind chills in Green Bay. Askew came out for warm-ups bare-chested. Mangini said Jerome Henderson, the club's director of player development and former Buffalo Bill, said the Bills used to prey on opponents who looked cold in warm-ups. Askew decided to send a message of his own yesterday. "It was cold out," Mangini said. "He had to be cold."… As the season has progressed, Mangini has given his team periodic breaks from full-pad practices. "We have pulled off the pads a little bit. We definitely have taken them off a little bit more than we have been," he said. "I think it's important to be able to practice it without pads effectively."… Justin Miller, the NFL's top kickoff return man, had a 45-yard return against the 'Pack but was hauled down by kicker Dave Rayner. Last week, Houston quarterback Sage Rosenfels brought down Miller after a failed field goal attempt. "This is two weeks in a row now where he has been tackled by the kicker or the quarterback, so we will work on those things here moving forward," joked Mangini.

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