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2 New York Jets
Peter King
September 03, 2007
Anything goes in the land of the Mangenius--but what's really needed is a Houdini to pull off more of that '06 magic
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September 03, 2007

2 New York Jets

Anything goes in the land of the Mangenius--but what's really needed is a Houdini to pull off more of that '06 magic

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A team will be inconsistent when it lacks a serious rushing game, when a weak-winged quarterback has two deep threats and no major intermediate weapons, when a 4-3 tackle ( Dewayne Robertson) is played at the nose and when two rookies start on the offensive line. Amazingly, Mangini and his smart staff piloted the Jets to wins in five of their last six to make the playoffs. The coach deserved his springtime cameo on The Sopranos, when restaurateur Artie Bucco puffed out his chest and proudly told Tony that "Mangenius" was in the house.

There's no guarantee he'll be doing any cameos this season. To go 10-6 or better will take more of Mangini's ample imagination with some of his fringe players. "The NFL is like the stock market," he said in mid-August after a scorching practice. "Past [performance] doesn't guarantee future success. That applies to our team. We're not letting last year's wins affect our expectations this year. History means nothing in football."

Mangini imported much from his nine years working under Bill Belichick, and he's hammering home the wisdom gleaned. "I showed the team the [2001] Lennox Lewis- Hasim Rahman fight, when Rahman was a 20-1 underdog and Lewis just walked off the set of Oceans�11 and weighed 253 and hadn't taken the fight very seriously, and Rahman knocked him out," Mangini says. "The announcer said, 'There's no such thing as a lucky punch.' I witnessed how�you go from 5-11 one year to three Super Bowls in the next four years. It wasn't luck. It was diligent, consistent hard work."

Another lesson is, Don't be tied to one way of doing things. Last year the Jets drafted Missouri quarterback Brad Smith in the fourth round, worked him mostly at wide receiver during training camp and used him during the season on 17% of their offensive plays and at four different positions--receiver (147 plays), running back (22), quarterback (12) and tight end (three). This year he's mastered the playbook at wideout and quarterback, and the Jets can employ him to run anything from either position in the regular offense. Got a last-round pick in your fantasy league? Choose Smith. He might throw a touchdown pass and catch one--in the same week. "He creates major containment problems for the defense," Mangini says. "I've always been intrigued by things like the option offense. Maybe you have a running back or receiver who used to play quarterback. Why not use him at that spot if he can do the job and make it tough on a defense?"

Like Belichick, who once had Doug Flutie drop-kick an extra point, Mangini isn't afraid to try anything. Which means that even if this Jets season isn't as successful as last year's, it'll be fun to watch.-- Peter King

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
WITH 2006 STATISTICS
COACH ERIC MANGINI (10-6 in NFL), second season with Jets

OFFENSE

LAVERANUES COLES
POS WR
REC 91
YARDS 1,098
TD 6

THOMAS JONES
POS RB
ATT 296
YARDS 1,210
AVG 4.1

REC 36
YARDS 154
AVG 4.3
TD 6

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