The Breakers Hotel & Resort in Palm Beach, Fla., is a magnificent place to hold the NFL's annual March-April meetings. Its breathtaking Atlantic Ocean view, opulent architecture and celebrated history is enough to make even a grizzled meetings-goer like Eric Mangini, the now 37-year-old Jets head coach, take notice.
"I hadn't thought about it, but I got to walk around a little bit this afternoon, spend some time by the pool, looking out the window and seeing the water," Mangini told newyorkjets.com after a busy day working through the meetings' agenda. "It's pretty beautiful. You should probably appreciate that more than you often do."
But Mangini has a few other things on his mind this week, such as the league's approval for the first time of a radio system to send signals from the sidelines to the defense, plus the arrival of the new Jets through free agency and trade in the past month — something the coach hadn't commented on previously. Here is a Q&A with Coach Mangini at The Breakers on Tuesday evening:
What are some of your general thoughts on how the Jets have fared with the unrestricted free agents you've signed and the trade you made?
What we did is we went through and we treated free agency and the free agent board much like a draft board. We ranked all the players, identified things we could do, financing, much like you would look at the draft and where you have picks in the draft. And we sort of combined the two approaches and looked at what we could get done in free agency, some of the things we hoped to get done in the draft. Once we put our plan together, we aggressively tried to execute the plan. A lot of people worked hard to get the guys in, Mike [Tannenbaum], Ari [Nissim, director, football administration] and everybody to get them signed. I was pleased with the organization's approach, thoroughness and execution, and now having the guys here and working in the off-season program.
Perhaps a one-line observation on each new high-profile addition? Guard Alan Faneca.
Alan's a pro's pro and he's going to be a good example, not just to the offensive linemen but to the whole offensive group and really to the team.
Offensive lineman Damien Woody.
I think Damien is versatile and he's got great instincts and toughness. He's a guy I knew from New England. He just has a really good personality, just a nice way about him.
Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins.
Kris is a big, powerful, strong man who's hard to block.
Enough said. Linebacker Calvin Pace.
Calvin is another big, strong, fast man. He's a fluid athlete and he's a really versatile player who played a lot of different places for Arizona. And one of the things I really like about Calvin is when he was going through the process, he wanted to know not just where he would be used but what other opportunities he'd have to play some different roles. And that's exactly what we're looking for, guys who not only are flexible but who enjoy that aspect of it.
Fullback Tony Richardson.
Tony, I guess he's in my peer group. He's another guy who, when we were researching him, everyone we talked to had nothing but glowing comments about who Tony is. I really like the way he consistently gets his blocks, how he's able to move through traffic. He plays on special teams. He's just a very good person and player.
Running back Jesse Chatman.
I liked Jesse when we were getting ready for him and he was establishing more of a role for himself in Miami. Brian [Schottenheimer] knew him from San Diego. He's tough not only with the football but without it, when he's picking up blitzers or involved in protection. He's got good hands, and he's another guy who can play a role on special teams.
Tight end Bubba Franks.
Bubba is a guy who consistently scores touchdowns. He's always been a threat in the red zone. He's another guy, like a lot of the guys we've talked about, who is good in the locker room. He's very excited about the opportunity to play in this system, and I think he'll give us some versatility in the running game and some good opportunities in the passing game as well.
Do we see an emphasis on the running game with the addition of big blocking types like Richardson, Franks, Faneca and Woody?
I don't think its purely that. What we're trying to do is get better in both phases. I think Woody and Alan will help us in terms of protections — what'd we have, 50-plus sacks last year? Tony's always been good in protection. I don't think they're limited just to running the ball. I think they're going to help us in all the different areas
Does your job and the jobs of your assistant coaches change significantly when you're preparing a team with so many new veterans as opposed to when the additions are mostly young players, draft picks and undrafted free agents?
Not necessarily, because every year you're going to have an influx of both. We've really dealt with both over the last couple of years. There's been a group of free agents and then a wide range of draft picks. So it's still new information. The good thing about veteran players is they have something to relate it back to, something to draw on and things they can use to help them learning a new system.
Was the trade of Jonathan Vilma to New Orleans a difficult decision for you and the organization?
I think it was one of those situations where it was good for everybody. It worked out well for us, it worked out well for Jon, it worked out well for New Orleans. I haven't spoken to Jon directly but we've exchanged messages, and I've talked to Sean [Payton, Saints head coach] a little bit about him here at the owners' meetings. I really thank Jon for everything he's done and I hope for the best for him.
Any thoughts on the status of Dewayne Robertson? Could Dewayne still be in a Jets uniform on opening day?
Yeah, he definitely could still be a Jet. There's really nothing that's changed there. I think definitely he could still be a Jet.
Are there any players standing out in the early weeks of your off-season program? Players who reported in phenomenal shape? Other success stories? Sal Alosi's implementation of the program?
I thought the most striking thing for me about the start of the off-season program was how many guys were here, some even a month early, working out on their own. Some days when I came in, there'd be 24, 25 guys in the room, and this wasn't anything required, it wasn't anything that was even talked about. It was them wanting to get a head start in the program and wanting to get back to work. That was great, that was really good. [Darrell] Revis, [David] Harris, D'Brickashaw [Ferguson], Kellen [Clemens], Eric Smith was there, right on down the line.
The draft is still a month away. Do you like where you're at in the predraft process? I know you won't talk about any specific players, but are there any positions or any traits that you're targeting in the entire draft?
The traits don't really change for us in terms of the core characteristics. They guide the process. What I do like is that we're in a much better position than maybe in the past where we have some more flexibility in what areas we can draft in.
There's still a lot more to do, but at this stage do you like the way this team is coming together?
Yeah, I'm excited about where we're at right now. And it's not just the influx of new players but the players we had on the roster, the way they've been working at the start of the off-season program. Guys are proactively trying to watch tape or work on individual skill sets. The combination of developing the players who were here, the new players, them getting to know each other, i think all that stuff is exciting. Then you have the draft still to come, Bill Callahan joining team, Jerome Henderson's new role. And we've hired Dave Szott as our new director of player development.
A few days ago at the meetings, Woody Johnson gave you and Mike T a big vote of confidence. Any thoughts on that?
Woody's been great the whole time I've been here. I always like the conversations we have, the shared vision we have, just being able to go through things and to see things as a process. He's been great with free agency, obviously in giving us the tools to go get the free agents but also being part of that process, helping with talking to the free agents, and building the practice facility that's going to be completed in September, all those things. He's giving us tremendous support to go in and build the team.
What's the main issue being talked about among all the coaches, GMs and owners at the meetings that most interests you?
The ability to send the signals, the defensive calls over radio. I don't know what it's going to be called. It's coach-to-quarterback on offense, I guess coach-to-signalcaller on defense. The ability to verbally send those in, it's going to be interesting to see how that works because it'll be an adjustment. It'll change two-minute drives. It'll change a lot of things.