Eric Mangini Never Had The Chance to Win That Tom Coughlin Did

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IDecember 30, 2008

At the final whistle of last years Super Bowl, the New York Giants were Champions. Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin were the newest sports heroes in the Big Apple, and the season before that, Eric Mangini and the New York Jets were the toast of the New York football town.

But, while the Tom and Eli show is still generating big ratings, the Mangini show was just cancelled by the New York Jets.

Like a new network show slated for Friday nights, the Mangini show never had a chance.

I wrote a feature just before the Giants-Tampa Bay playoff game last season, wondering that if the Giants lost that game, was the Tom and Eli show over? This theory was based upon the notion that the NY media and their fans would want heads to roll if the Giants lost.

"C'mon," the fans would cry! "It's been three years and no Super Bowl title! Coughlin and Eli stink. Get rid of them" As if three straight years of playoff football at the time was not enough! (Now it is four straight playoff appearances for Big Blue).

Hey New York fans—newsflash! Only three other teams that made the playoff in 2007 had made the playoffs three straight years (Colts, Seahawks and Patriots). The main reason? All four teams had continuity with the same head coach and QB. In 2007, only two other teams that year had the same QB and head coach for three seasons—the Eagles and the Bengals.

We all know what a disgrace the Bengals were on the filed and in the courtroom, but the Eagles were a very good team. Injuries to Donovan McNabb cause them to miss out of the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. The Eagles have since righted themselves and made the playoffs in 2008 by beating the hapless Dallas Cowboys.

On the first day after the 2008 regular season ended, three NFL head coaches lost their jobs. Rod Marinelli of the 0-16 Detroit Lions and Cleveland’s Romeo Crennel were obvious choices. Eric Mangini of the New York Jets, though, was a scapegoat for mismanagement by Jets higher ups.

Although the Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins are 2008 playoff teams with new coaches and new quarterbacks, history shows an NFL team simply can not win with a Super Bowl with a “free agent” QB. A Championship NFL team needs to have consistency with a QB and coach being together for several years.

Football is not the same as baseball where teams often go from worst to first and win the World Series. In the NFL, Super Bowl champs are usually teams which have stability and good foundations, then work their way up to a title.

By trading for Brett Favre just before the season, the Jets heaped a big problem on Mangini right from the start. His rapport with Favre was rumored to be terrible; never a good sign when dealing with a primadonna QB. Favre was Mangini’s third starting QB in three seasons.

Back to the Giants and 2007. Going into 2007, all the other teams (besides the 6 mentioned above) either had a change in their head coach or starting quarterback during the prior three seasons. After the 2006 season, when the Giants limped off the field in Philadelphia after a heartbreaking playoff loss, the NY media and fans wanted Coughlin's head, and wanted Eli gone, too.

After the Giants devastating late season loss to the Vikings last year (Eli's worst game of his career), the media questioned whether NY was too tough a media market for the "non excitable" Eli. Coughlin was too tough a coach, and Eli was too soft a QB. In today's day in pro sports, if you don't win every year, or at least meet the expectations of your uninformed and impatient fans, the coach and star player need to go!

But, because both owner John Mara and GM Jerry Reese resisted fans and pundits alike and kept the Coughlin and Manning duo intact for another season, the Giants won last year’s Super Bowl and are favorites to win it again this year. 

As a QB, Eli is above average, far from a superstar, but he does not make mistakes and can win a game when needed. He rallied the Giants to victory and home field advantage by throwing the ball against Carolina in Week 16. That is what the NFL is about. Stability and managing a game.

Teams will stability at both the head coach and QB position are usually good for a long time, not winning a Super Bowl or even making the playoffs each year, but ready to compete for the championship almost every season.

The Giants have the making of a team that will win several Super Bowl titles during the Coughlin/Manning reign. The Jets are going through another head coach and probably a new quarterback.

A Common Variable

During the 1970’s, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders won Super Bowls. And if one team didn't win, they were usually in the Super Bowl but fell short of a title. All those great 1970's teams had that great head coach and QB partnership. Noll had Bradshaw, Landry had Staubach, Shula had Griese, Madden had Stabler.

Now Coughlin has Manning.

Mangini, though, had Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens and Favre over his three seasons. No stability.

Landry, Noll, Shula and Madden coached every season for their teams during the 1970's, as did Bud Grant of the Minnesota Vikings. The Steelers won four Super Bowls, the Dolphins and Cowboys won two each and the Raiders won one. Although the Vikes never won a Super Bowl, they were in three during the decade, and were in four NFC title games in five years.

Grant had Fran Tarkenton during those seasons. All teams were steady Super Bowl contenders due to their stability and continuity in the two most important positions. Those 1980's 49ers teams also had a great head coach and steady QB, and they were somewhat successful, too.

It takes a few years to win, but it eventually happens to stable teams. Dallas had to overcome obstacles in Green Bay before they won their first title. Miami lost to Dallas, then won their Super Bowls, and Pittsburgh and Oakland overcame each other (and the Dolphins) to win theirs. Even when a team is on top of their game, they cannot win every single season, as there are too many variables in sports, especially pro football.

More owners and GM's (are you listening Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum?) should look at what history reveals rather than succumb to the whims and tirades of their overzealous, uninformed media and "what have you done lately for me" fans. Stability in the head coach-quarterback partnership is the only sure way to win long term in the NFL.

The tremendous season by the 2007 Giants would never have happened without Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and the great playoff effort of the Giants defense. But, that season might not have happened if John Mara and Jerry Reese had fired Coughlin and/or rid themselves of Peyton's little brother. The Giants future now looks significantly brighter—as long as that coach/QB partnership remains intact.

Eric Mangini never had the opportunity of that stable head coach–QB relationship, and with the win now mentality of the pro sports, especially in fan unfriendly New York, he paid for it with his job. Too bad the Jets owner and GM did not understand what the Giants hierarchy did about that stable relationship.

Because of that lack of knowledge and tremendous influence of the impatient fans, the Jets “brain trust,” players and their fans will watch the Giants dominate over the next few seasons, while the Jets continue to “rebuild.” The Giants won’t win the Super Bowl every year, but they will contend every year.

More than can be said for the New York Jets.