Chatham has played under Mangini in each of his seven seasons in the NFL
New York Jets linebacker Matt Chatham has participated in five postseasons over his seven-year NFL career, including three successful trips to the Super Bowl. Although his name has never surfaced among the league's elite 'backers, Chatham has devotion - a trait that is a vital to any professional franchise.
When Chatham signed as free agent with New England in 2000, he dedicated himself to learning the Patriots' new system. Another fresh face in that system was Jets head coach Eric Mangini, who was then a first-year defensive backs coach. Even though the group finished just 5-11, both the coaching staff and the entire team maintained their consistent approach. Since then, the Patriots have found continual success and proved that getting a group to dedicate themselves to a certain plan ultimately works.
"There is a way to win; there is a formula," said Chatham as he cleaned out his locker in Hempstead. "It's very important to stick to that formula."
Looking back on the Jets' 2006 season, it's obvious that Mangini brought in his own distinct customs to Weeb Ewbank Hall. On day one of training camp, the first-year head coach shook the gridiron norm and initiated full contact tackling drills. Laps for errors – both mental and physical – followed. Pop quizzes were given in team meetings throughout the regular season in addition to player-led presentations.
"The better we can stick to the formula, the better off we'll be, and we had a really good group of guys here that did care about it and did buy in," said Chatham. "It's an ongoing system. You tend to learn in this league that systems don't go places, players do. If you don't buy into what's going on, you may not be around. That's something that you need to know."
The Jets found success in 2006, posting a 10-6 regular season record and landing a spot in the playoff tournament. Their improbable run was the result of many factors including the coaching staff's introduction to a new way of everyday life at Jets headquarters.
"I thought the staff did a really good job throughout the course of the season," Mangini said. "This was a transition for all of us, too. We were getting to know each other, getting to know the players, and implementing a system."
"I've seen it work before. I think Eric's done a good job of trying to instill those values and some of those methods that he knows works," said Chatham, a 29-year old special teams co-captain.
The Jets gained respect in 2006. They were a well-prepared group who was competitive throughout an exciting campaign.
"That being said each season is its own stand alone entity," explained Chatham. "There is no such thing as momentum in the NFL. We just have to take what we've learned and continue to apply it all over again. It's just another process.
"We have to not only go out and duplicate the things that made us successful, we have to improve on them as well," he added. "If we don't learn from these lessons, we could just as easily be 4-12 again. The NFL is a crazy beast."