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Eric Mangini Fired Just Hours After Season Ends: Where Do the Jets Turn Now?

He was the Bill Belichick protege.

He was then the Mangenius.

Now he's unemployed.

The New York Jets fired head coach Eric Mangini just hours after their season came to an end at the hands of the Miami Dolphins.

Despite winning nine games, a five-game improvement from 2007, the Jets were unable to finish strong after beginning the season 8-3.

Among the many off season moves GM Mike Tannenbaum made, it was the trade that brought Brett Favre to New York that raised expectations and had Jets fans hoping for a return to the postseason.

Things were looking promising following wins in New England and Tennessee. However, the Jets stumbled down the stretch, losing games in San Francisco and Seattle, while falling short at home against Denver and Buffalo.  The Jets finished with better records then all four of those teams.

Many will point to the poor play of Favre down the stretch that cost Mangini his job—and to be fair, Favre was awful.

He threw only two touchdowns with nine interceptions over his final five games, including perhaps his worst performance of the season in the finale, tossing three picks in the loss at home to the Dolphins.

Mangini coached New York for three seasons, leading the Jets to a very unexpected playoff birth in his first season.  In 2006, the Jets would finish 10-6, and earned themselves a first-round playoff matchup with Mangini's former mentor in New England.  The Jets would lose, but hope was high heading into the 2007 season.

That hope would fade fast, as the team battled injuries and inconsistency on their way to a 4-12 finish, calling into question the ability of the first time head coach.

Knowing serious changes needed to be made, Tannenbaum was given the checkbook of owner Woody Johnson and spent 140 million dollars on upgrading the roster, while also pulling off the Favre trade just prior to the start of the season.

The decision making of Mangini and his top assistants was called into question both prior to and following the Jets mid season five game winning streak, as the team never was able to establish any sort of identity, despite the presence of Favre.

Mangini will likely be remembered as much for his demeanor as his decision making, as fans grew upset at the lack of emotion shown by the now former Jets head coach.

In a press conference this morning, both Johnson and Tannenbaum praised Mangini for his hard work and loyalty, but felt the team needed to move in a different direction.

The big questions of course are where the Jets go from here, and how Brett Favre factors into the decision.

The Favre question is easier to answer in this regard—if an MRI reveals any type of injury that would require surgery, he'll retire.  He's 39 and has admitted that at this point in his career, needing surgery to extend his career isn't something he's interested in doing.

Should the MRI reveal Favre simply needs rest, then you can expect the romance with Favre to be explored for another season, as both Johnson and Tannenbaum expressed their desire to have Favre play another season for gang green.

Assuming Favre is healthy enough to come back and wants to, the question then becomes can the Jets hire a coach would be willing to work with Favre for what would absolutely be the final season of his career, and then work from scratch the year after?  Or would he prefer to see Favre retire now and start fresh with a quarterback of his own choosing.

These will be among the things that both Johnson and Tannenbaum consider during what they described as a very extensive search for the next head football coach of the New York Jets.

Who might they turn to?

Well, the two biggest names Jets fans are going to hear are Bill Cowher and Bill Parcells.

Cowher stepped down as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2007 season, and has a proven, winning track record that includes two appearances in the Super Bowl and a championship in one of them.  He's a defensive-oriented coach who likes the 3-4, which is the defense the Jets are built to play. 

Whether or not Cowher would have any interest in coming to New York is unknown. However, Johnson loves spending money, and could convince Cowher that coming to New York would be worth his while at the right price.

The idea of Bill Parcells returning to New York would likely only occur in the same capacity he held in Miami.  Of course, the obvious response there is that in Miami Parcells is in charge of all the personnel decisions, while the Jets already have Tannenbaum doing that.

Would Tannenbaum be interested in relinquishing power to bring the Big Tuna back to the Big Apple?

Parcells of course has yet to publicly state anything, as the speculation surrounding the status of his contract begun yesterday as his Dolphins were clinching the AFC East title.  Parcells, who coached the Jets from 1997-1999, last coached in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys from 2004-2006, and would be unlikely to return to the sidelines.

Other names to keep on eye on are New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was responsible for turning the Giants defense into championship form last season. 

Romeo Crennel's name was thrown around as a possible defensive coordinator replacement had Mangini made it into next season—however, it is unlikely he would now be hired in any capacity by the Jets.

Mike Holmgren made it clear he is taking the next year off, although the fact that he did coach Favre back in Green Bay would make his name one that is certain to run through the rumor mill.

The Jets will be faced with the decision of whether or not they hire a first-time head coach and former coordinator, as has been the trend of late in the NFL.  Teams like Miami, Baltimore, and Atlanta have all found success with doing so.

The Jets roster, as currently constructed with or without Favre, is built to win now.  That would certainly lead one to believe that they'll be inclined to hire a coach with a proven track record—especially on the heels of hiring a coach who took the job without any prior head coaching experience.

Following the game, Johnson expressed his disappointment in the way his football team finished the season, and vowed that a decision regarding the coaching staff would be made by the end of the week.

He clearly wasn't interested in waiting that long, as the press conference was announced at 2 AM, and at 10 AM this morning, Johnson and Tannenbaum, side by side, announced the firing of Mangini.

The next step will be to await the results of an MRI Favre is scheduled to take today, and the health of his right shoulder may very well dictate the direction of the Jets franchise in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned, Jets fans.

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