Eric Mangini says watching him and Bill Belichick square off in a game of football would not be worth the price of admission. Belichick, the New England Patriots head coach who played football at Wesleyan and earned his bachelor's degree in 1975, and Mangini, the New York Jets head coach who played football at Wesleyan and graduated 19 years later with a degree in political science, match wits for the first time this weekend at the Meadowlands.
"I think it's pretty funny. I've seen us both play football and it's not pretty," said a comical Mangini to a packed press room Wednesday. "Nobody wants to watch that. Those fans are too good of a group to watch that match-up."
Mangini, actually a very good football player who racked up a school-record 36.5 sacks at Wesleyan, says Sunday's AFC East divisional match-up will be decided on the field by dozens of combatants.
"It is the Patriots versus the Jets and that's the important thing," he said. "It is a division game and it's Patriots/Jets. For Bill and I, there won't be any passes thrown or balls caught or tackles made."
The history between the two leaders has been well-documented. Mangini's first coaching opportunity came in 1995 as an assistant on Belichick's staff in Cleveland. Belichick had Mangini on his defensive staff here in New York with the Jets from 1997-'99 and then again with the Pats from 2000-'05. They won three championships together in New England with Belichick manning the controls and Mangini guiding the defensive backs.
"I have tremendous respect for Bill. I was with him for a long time. He's a future Hall of Fame coach," Mangini said. "I've always admired the way that as smart as he is, he couples that with a tremendous work ethic. Regardless of the success that they have had, it's been a consistent approach week-in and week-out."
Mangini definitely learned a tremendous amount of information under Belichick, but his teachings are not based on simply one philosophy.
"He was a great person to learn from and I took away a lot of things from him," Mangini said of Belichick. "But I also took away a lot of things from some of the other really great coaches I've been around, whether it be Bill Parcells, Charlie Weis or Kirk Ferentz … There are quite a few guys that I've drawn from."
The Jets hired Mangini as their 14th full-time head coach on January 17, 2006. He received advice from Belichick prior to taking the position, but the decision was Mangini's.
"We talked about a lot of different things and Bill is very good at just being objective and presenting information," Mangini said. "At the end of the day, you have to make a decision for yourself. I think that's always important in any friendship, to be able to get objective advice."
Both men are as competitive as they come, so frequent football discourse would be out of the question. In fact, Mangini says the two haven't talked since the summer. The focused Jets head coach was asked if he will converse with Belichick before the game.
"I can tell you with all honesty I have not even remotely thought about the pre-game deal, really," Mangini said. "I am more worried about making sure that the cards are ready for practice, the plan is in place, the walk-throughs went well, the meetings went well, we executed well, and we corrected those mistakes. It is really about today and what's happening now at this point of the press conference."
Mangini says his approach to this game will be no different than to any other. He wants to win and make progress. If the Jets accomplish both of those against Belichick and the Patriots, Mangini will have his team 2-0 and atop the AFC East.
The Patriots traded wide receiver Deion Branch to Seattle Tuesday in exchange for the 'Hawks first round draft choice in 2007. Numerous media outlets have reported that the Patriots have filed a tampering charge against the Jets in regards to New York's talks with Branch. "I think it's a league matter, and I think they have to operate in their best interests and we need to operate in our best interests," Mangini said. "Business is business." … Mangini, who spent the previous six seasons in New England, knows the Pats' blueprint for success. "It is a well-coached team, a well-disciplined team and a well-conditioned team. They do a lot of things both offensively and defensively and that carries over to special teams. The things that you may see on tape the weeks leading up to your game aren't necessarily the things that you are going to get. You're going to get the things that give them the best chance to succeed."… Lastly, Mangini gave Jets' video director Steve Scarnecchia quite a compliment today. In his opening statement, Mangini talked of how "incredibly well-coached" the Pats offensive line is by Dante Scarnecchia, a tremendously respected coach in his 23rd season with the Patriots who also happens to be Steve's father. "I've known Dante for a while and Steve Scarnecchia works down with us in the video department; he does as good a job with video as Dante does in the offensive line."
Wednesday Injury Report Jets Doubtful: OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Questionable: *CB David Barrett (hip), *OL Pete Kendall (thigh) & WR Tim Dwight (thigh)
Probable: *LB Matt Chatham (foot) *LB Trevor Johnson (neck), *S Kerry Rhodes (ankle) & *S Derrick Strait (chest)
Patriots Questionable: LB Tedy Bruschi (wrist), WR Chad Jackson (hamstring), T Nick Kaczur (shoulder), & HB/TE Garrett Mills (flu)
Probable: *QB Tom Brady (R shoulder) & WR Doug Gabriel (hamstring)
*Denotes players who participated in practice