AFC East: Abram Elam
Mangini pointed at player after player after player after player. These were the guys he once coached. As he rattled them off, he tacked the phrase "was with me" after each name. Mangini articulated the names with an emphasis that reflected their importance to him.
"You go right on down the list," Mangini said from his spacious office that overlooks the Cleveland Browns' practice fields. "It's a core group of guys, and you know so much about these guys. You've had so many shared experiences with them, and now you're playing against them."
Mangini is in between games against his previous employers, referring to these two weeks as his personal version of the film "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past."
He gleefully embarrassed the New England Patriots last week and will coach against the Jets for the first time since joining the Browns on Sunday.
Mangini unwillingly departed the Jets 22 months ago. They fired him after a 9-7 season that began with a promising 8-3 start and Super Bowl chatter but disintegrated along with Brett Favre's right arm.
An outsider might assume the games create similar feelings for Mangini. They don't.
Mangini has faced his former mentor, Bill Belichick, several times. They've exchanged many frigid handshakes. Mangini, a former defensive assistant ruled a turncoat for joining the Jets, has a long history with the Patriots. The subsequent Spygate scandal drove the wedge deeper.
Still, the Patriots and Belichick are in his coaching DNA. Mangini is from them, of them.
"Being with Bill as long as I was there," Mangini said, leaning back in his leather chair and eating purple grapes from a cup, "you understand things change and parts change there each week, but philosophically it doesn't change."
His three years with the Jets were more of an association. Unlike his time with the Patriots, though, he had ownership of the Jets' roster. Those were his guys, and many of them remain on Rex Ryan's squad.
"Those are guys that I was instrumental in bringing in and developing and coaching and teaching," Mangini said.
"I told those guys when I left -- I got to address the team -- and I said 'Look, fellas, we were close here, and we made mistakes. There's a new head coach coming in here, and you guys have worked too hard to fight that guy and set yourself back. Embrace that guy and allow him the opportunity to achieve things we could have achieved.'"
Mangini didn't know at the time the Jets would hire Ryan, a gregarious figure who made the transition easier for the players. Most of them quickly embraced Ryan on his own merits, but the fact that he was a stark contrast to Mangini's austerity helped.
It must be noted Mangini played a significant role in giving Ryan a roster to work with. Still, Mangini insisted he's not bitter about his exit. He has acknowledged the concept of the fall guy, and one was necessary. He remains close friends with Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
"It's cool to see them doing as well as they're doing," Mangini said.
Mangini claimed that what's happening in Cleveland has made this week's preparations for the Jets less emotional for him.
Mangini barely survived his first season with the Browns. They went 5-11 but won their last four games. The Browns hired Mike Holmgren to oversee football operations. Holmgren stripped Mangini of some duties, but the product seems to be improving.
The Browns are 3-5 and enter Sunday's game against the Jets with back-to-back victories over the New Orleans Saints and Patriots.
"This has been pretty satisfying," Mangini said. "Getting the job was great because it meant somebody recognized the great work we did in New York. We had a tough last year, but we developed. This year, we're competitive and we're making more steps. It's starting to pay off to some degree."
Mangini's disparate feelings for the Jets and Patriots are evident in his personnel moves.
He and Tannenbaum have made notable trades.
The Browns sent Braylon Edwards to the Jets last year for receiver Chansi Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik and two draft picks. The Jets were able to get quarterback Mark Sanchez through a blockbuster draft-day trade that sent quarterback Brett Ratliff, defensive end Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam and two picks to the Browns for the fifth overall selection.
Mangini, whether with the Jets or Browns, never made a trade with Belichick.
That fractured relationship is unlikely to heal.
"I appreciate what he did for me," Mangini said. "He was a huge part of my life. We were very close friends for a long time. When things started to go south, it sucked.
"Whether it'll ever get to that stage where we're close friends again, I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. But at no point will I ever stop appreciating what he's done. I feel I know who the guy is as a person, and hopefully at some point the friendship will resume."
That's why the Jets and Patriots are different for Mangini.
But he wants to beat them just the same.
The New York Jets will visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Browns head coach Eric Mangini, coming off a rousing victory over mentor Bill Belichick, will face his previous team for the first time since it fired him.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan will match wits with his twin brother, Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
And there will be all sorts of former Browns (Braylon Edwards, Brodney Pool) and former Jets (Chansi Stuckey, Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam, et al) playing their old teams. The Jets drafted quarterback Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick acquired from the Browns in a blockbuster trade.
In the span of three days, New York Times reporter Greg Bishop produced two must-read features about the trash-talking Ryan twins and a reinvented Mangini.
From the Ryan story:
Both brothers speak in expletives as much as in English. Both have mountainous midsections. Both are considered brilliant defensive strategists, a notion sometimes overshadowed by their bluster and brutal honesty. Even their sentences sound the same.
Rob, with an expletive removed: "When Rex won the Super Bowl, I was jacked. I was talking so much mess. It was awesome."
Rex, with an expletive removed: "When Rob won the Super Bowl, I was surrounded by St. Louis fans, talking mess the whole game. When Brady led them down the field, it was awesome."
From the Mangini story:
The night the  regular season ended, Mangini watched television on his couch, preparing for exit interviews, compiling an off-season checklist. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum called at 11:40 p.m., charged with the unpleasant task of firing one of his best friends.
Mangini kept returning to one thought: He had compromised, sold out [for signing off on Brett Favre].
"I get that someone had to pay," Mangini said. "And it was me."
In the meantime, fans of both clubs are excited about their young quarterbacks. The Browns could've drafted Sanchez if they wanted, but they had Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson at the time. Both are gone, but this year the Browns selected Colt McCoy, who has won head-to-head meetings against Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
If you're a New York Jets fan and would like to express your gratitude, mail your thank-you notes to:
|James Lang/US PRESSWIRE|
|The Jets traded up with the Browns in this year's draft to select Mark Sanchez at No. 5.|
Attention: Eric Mangini
76 Lou Groza Blvd.
Berea, Ohio 44017
The New York Jets pulled off another trade with their former head coach's new team. The Browns have a general manager, George Kokinis, but Mangini most certainly was involved to a high degree in trading receiver Braylon Edwards to the Jets on Wednesday morning.
This, of course, isn't the first time the Jets and Browns brokered a major deal. The Jets made a five-for-one deal to acquire Cleveland's fifth overall draft pick for the purposes of selecting Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez.
So the Jets have acquired the third overall pick from the 2005 draft and the fifth overall pick from this year. And what, really, have they parted with?
Cleveland, clearly in a rebuilding mode, is collecting draft picks for the future. New York is tweaking their roster to win this year.
What the Jets have gotten from dealing with the Browns
- Mark Sanchez, quarterback: The Sanchise won the job in training camp and, despite some rookie mistakes, has the Jets 3-1 and tied for first place in the AFC East.
- Braylon Edwards, receiver: He had off-the-field problems and was erratic in the Browns' offense, but he's the big-play receiver the Jets were lacking.
- Brett Ratliff, quarterback: He's third on the depth chart behind Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.
- Chansi Stuckey, receiver: Stuckey was the Jets' No. 2 receiver, but didn't seize the job out of camp as much as he was a better option than David Clowney.
- Jason Trusnik, linebacker: A depth player and special-teamer, he was undrafted out of Division III Ohio Northern and has an injury history.
- Abram Elam, safety: Elam starts for the Browns but would have been a backup for the Jets behind Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard.
- Kenyon Coleman, defensive end: Coleman starts for the Browns.
- 17th overall draft pick (Sanchez trade): The Browns turned another trade, giving the pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who took quarterback Josh Freeman, for picks Nos. 19 and 191. The Browns then dealt No. 19 to the Philadelphia Eagles for Nos. 21 and 195.
The Browns drafted starting center Alex Mack at No. 19, cornerback Coye Francies at No. 191 and running back James Davis at No. 195. Francies is a backup, while Davis is on injured reserve after a promising preseason.
- 52nd overall draft pick (Sanchez trade): The Browns kept the pick and selected defensive end David Veikune, who now is a backup inside linebacker.
- Two undisclosed draft picks (Edwards trade).
After establishing himself as game-changing safety, the New York Jets wanted him to play center field. Stay back. Play it safe. Make sure opponents don't score when another defensive back would inevitably get charred.
The strategy defused an explosive player.
|Al Bello/Getty Images|
|Safety Kerry Rhodes hopes to be back in a position to make plays for the Jets next season.|
"I didn't like it, of course," Rhodes said after Friday morning's rainy practice at SUNY Cortland. "When I make plays, I help this team. That's been true since I've been here. Not being able to make as many plays as I wanted to, I was frustrated."
Rhodes is hoping for a rebirth under new head coach Rex Ryan and with the help of a reformed secondary.
The Jets dismissed Mangini after starting last season 8-3 and then failing to reach the playoffs. Nobody was happier than Rhodes when the Jets hired Ryan, who believes in an attacking defense that frequently triggers dramatic moments.
"You never want to see a coach get fired," Rhodes said. "That wasn't ever in my plan. But knowing the work Rex has done before and seeing the type of players he's had and made them do in his system ... I know I'm that type of player that will get it done in those opportunities. He's going to give me opportunities."
Rhodes amassed some impressive numbers in 2006 and 2007. He recorded 160 tackles, seven sacks, nine interceptions, 16 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and two recoveries -- one for a touchdown.
He wasn't nearly that sort of playmaker last year. He led the Jets with 81 tackles, but he had one sack, two interceptions, five passes defenses, zero forced fumbles and two recoveries.
"It definitely creeps into your mind," Rhodes said of last year's relatively meager stat line. "You know and the coach knows. [Mangini] even said 'This is one of your best years. You're getting everybody lined up. You're doing all this stuff' and blah, blah, blah.
"But from the outside, looking in, the numbers aren't adding up. That equated to the perception I wasn't the same player. That hurt."
Rhodes, a second-team All Pro in 2006, tried to convince Mangini to unleash him. About halfway into the season Rhodes was concerned when it was clear his numbers were well of his usual pace. He went to Mangini again late in the year, while the Jets were mired in a season-ending 1-4 slump.
"When you get adversity in those situations, you think, 'Come on, now. If I make some plays, we win these games,' " Rhodes said.
But the coaching staff was too concerned with the Jets' slipshod pass coverage to turn Rhodes loose. The Jets ranked 29th in pass defense, yielding 234.5 yards a game.
Left cornerback Darrelle Revis had a Pro Bowl season, but there was little help elsewhere. Fourth-round draft pick Dwight Lowery won the right cornerback job out of camp, but Mangini's confidence evaporated to the point he signed Ty Law off the street in Week 10.
The other safety position was shared by Eric Smith and Abram Elam, serviceable players, but not good enough to free up Rhodes to do what he wanted.
"When you're used to doing a certain thing and being a playmaker, and you're not being asked to do those types of things anymore, it made it a little bit frustrating," Rhodes said. "But I'm trying to put that in the past now.
|Kirby Lee/US Presswire|
|The New York Jet's blockbuster trade to grab Mark Sanchez was the news out of the first day of the NFL Draft Saturday.|
The AFC East exhibited classic passive-aggressive behavior Saturday.
The Jets and Patriots traded like their futures depended on it.
The Miami Dolphins were the only AFC East club that didn't barter on the first day of the draft. The Buffalo Bills traded a pair of picks to the Dallas Cowboys so they could grab Oregon State guard Andrew Levitre in the second round.
But the Jets pulled off the blockbuster and the Patriots were, by far, the busiest.
With the Detroit Lions sucking all the drama out of the No. 1 selection by signing Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford on Friday night, the Jets became the story of the draft with a trade that brought them Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez.
For the second time in nine months, intrepid Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum swung a monster deal to get his club a marquee quarterback. In July, he brought in a legend at the end of the line. On Saturday, he made a dramatic move for burgeoning star.
To make it happen, the Jets hooked up with Eric Mangini, the head coach they fired a few months back. Mangini, now with the Cleveland Browns, had no interest in another quarterback and gladly accepted an infusion of assets.
The Jets traded two draft picks (Nos. 17 and 52), quarterback Brett Ratliff, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and safety Abram Elam to maneuver into the No. 5 slot, where Sanchez awaited with a grin.
Given the circumstances, Sanchez to the Big Apple eclipses Stafford to the Big Grapple.
Sanchez looks like he strutted straight off the Warner Brothers lot. He has the magnetic presence of a star quarterback. He comes from a glamour college. His future is as bright as a klieg light.
Sanchez better pan out. Indicative of their infatuation with him, the Jets parted with an awful lot and likely poisoned Kellen Clemens, who must feel second-rate all over again.
The Jets paid that price to select Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez.
So much for Jets head coach Rex Ryan insisting he was satisfied with the quarterbacks on his roster.
Kellen Clemens, sullen over the Jets' flirtations with Jay Cutler months after they traded for Brett Favre, might be the starter for 2009, but he just got knocked down a few pegs in terms of his long-term outlook with the Jets.
With all of the assets the Jets parted with and the guaranteed money they're about to fork over, Sanchez is their franchise quarterback.
The trade fortifies the Browns' roster and gives them more draft ammo.
What do you think it will do for the Jets?
Posted by ESPN.com staff
- Running back Marshawn Lynch met with commissioner Roger Goodell in New York on Tuesday to discuss Lynch's misdemeanor gun charge, reports Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.
- Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com looks at the offensive linemen still available through free agency.
- South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde thinks the Dolphins should pursue disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler, but the Palm Beach Post's Edgar Thompson dismisses the idea as "ridiculous."
- Tony Massarotti explores the possibility of the Patriots adding Julius Peppers and offers a glimpse of what the team might do if they don't acquire him.
- The Patriots may not be amenable to Peppers' salary demands, writes the Boston Globe's Christopher L. Gasper.
- Newsday's Wallace Matthews says the Jets simply have to get Cutler.
- Running back Thomas Jones has been a no-show for the first two days of offseason workouts, says the Star-Ledger's Dave Hutchinson.
- The Jets matched the Cleveland Browns' offer to restricted free-agent safety Abram Elam, Hutchinson also reports.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bashful isn't a word that would be used to describe Rex Ryan.
|AP Photo/Darron Cummings|
|Rex Ryan responds to a question during a news conference at the NFL scouting combine.|
Ryan, holding a news conference at the NFL scouting combine in Lucas Oil Stadium, didn't hesitate when asked how long it would take for the Jets' defense to meet the standard he established for the Ravens.
"I think next year," Ryan said.
After Ryan left the podium, I asked him to clarify if he meant next year as in next season or as in 2010.
"This season," he replied. "I'm not backing away from a challenge. I want to be successful now."
The Jets ranked 16th in total defense last year, allowing 329.4 yards a game. The Ravens ranked second, yielding 68.3 fewer yards a game.
One way to give the Jets a more Raven-esque personality would be to add legendary linebacker Ray Lewis, who has said the idea of playing for Ryan again was compelling.
Ryan declined to discuss the possibility of pursuing the unrestrcited free agent. Ryan said he didn't want to be accused of tampering.
But Ryan rattled off a bunch of names in praise of what he called "a pretty good foundation" on defense. It would be easier to say who he didn't mention.
Barton and Law are unrestricted free agents. Elam is restricted.
"If we bring in the kind of players that we're talking about, we only need to add maybe one or two guys," Ryan said. "But the foundation's already there.
"I just think maybe the mentality that we're going to play with, maybe the style of play that we're going to play with is going to help the guys we already have.
"The proof will be in the pudding. But you know me. I'm not one to shy away from expectations. I think we'll be terrific. I think we'll have a defense our fans can be proud of."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Throughout the day I'll post the rundowns of free agents for each AFC East club.
We'll start off with the New York Jets, who have a lot of work to do to get their roster organized for 2009.
They're already about $7 million over the projected salary cap because of an accumulation of prorated signing bonuses.
Before we get to the list of free agents, here are some of the higher cap numbers for Jets under contract. I think everybody can identify one player in particular who will alleviate a lot a lot of cap strain if he doesn't return:
- QB Brett Favre $13 million
- OLB Calvin Pace 11.8 million
- S Kerry Rhodes $10.6 million
- G Alan Faneca $7.89 million
- WR Laveranues Coles $7 million
- DE Shaun Ellis $6.875 million
- T Damien Woody $6.5 million
- NT Kris Jenkins 6.4 million
- T D'Brickashaw Ferguson $6 million
- G Brandon Moore $5.85 million
Here are the Jets whose contracts are up:
Unrestricted (free to negotiate with any team beginning Feb. 27)
- LB Eric Barton
- CB Ahmad Carroll
- RB Jesse Chatman
- K Jay Feely
- TE Bubba Franks
- CB Ty Law
- DT C.J. Mosley
- K Mike Nugent
- CB Hank Poteat
- FB Tony Richardson
- LB Cody Spencer
Restricted (Jets have right to match offer from other team)
Exclusive rights (cannot negotiate with other teams if tendered qualifying offer)
On Tuesday, I ranked the top 20 AFC East stories for 2008.
To continue the divisional season review, these were the 10 most memorable games involving AFC East teams.
|Al Bello/Getty Images|
|In his return to the Meadowlands, Chad Pennington defeated his former team.|
1. Pennington's revenge: With the division title on the line in the season finale, Chad Pennington returned to the Meadowlands and showed up the Jets, 24-17. He went 22 of 30 for 200 yards and two touchdowns against his former team, while Brett Favre threw three ugly interceptions to punctuate the Jets' collapse.
2. Jets knock off Titans: The Jets looked like world beaters in Week 12. They traveled to Nashville and not only handed the Titans their first defeat, but also made it look rather easy, 34-13. The Jets' offense seemed like it had found itself, with Favre and Thomas Jones executing a balanced attack. The Jets' run defense was scary.
3. Wildcat unleashed: The Dolphins, hurting with a 0-2 start and playing in Foxborough, Mass., shocked the NFL in Week 3. In the unbalanced-line, direct-snap offense, Ronnie Brown ran for 113 yards and four touchdowns and passed for another touchdown. The performance against the defending AFC champs was so devastating, versions of the Wildcat were installed by several teams.
4. Grieving Cassel riddles Raiders: Two days before his father's funeral -- and with every victory precious for the Patriots' playoff hopes -- Matt Cassel answered doubts about whether he would be mentally able to play. On the road and in the rain, Cassel threw four touchdown passes to beat the Raiders 49-26.
5. Jets edge Pats in sudden death: On Thursday night in Week 11, Cassel rolled right and found Randy Moss in the end zone with eight seconds remaining to force overtime. The play gave Cassel 400 yards and three touchdown tosses, but the Jets won the coin flip and got close enough for Jay Feely to kick the winning 34-yard field goal.
6. Miracle at the Meadowlands II: The Bills were on the verge of a highly likely victory, leading the Jets 27-24 just before the two-minute warning. The Bills asked mistake-prone quarterback J.P. Losman to pass. Blitzing safety Abram Elam forced a fumble, and defensive end Shaun Ellis returned it for a touchdown to win and keep their fading postseason hopes alive.
7. Surging Bills beat Chargers: The Bills' season appeared so promising after Week 7. Amid concerns about concussed quarterback Trent Edwards and a terrible loss to the Cardinals, the Bills emerged from their bye week and handled the Chargers, 23-14. Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell picked off Philip Rivers in the end zone late in the fourth quarter to put Bills fans on their last high of the year.
8. Buffalo's Monday night misery: Entering Week 11, the Bills' season was about to spiral out of control. They were trying to avoid .500 when the Browns came to town on a Monday night. Edwards plunged in from 1 yard to give the Bills a 27-26 lead with 2:35 to play. Cleveland's Phil Dawson kicked a 56-yard field goal with 1:44 left. Then Rian Lindell missed a 47-yarder that would have won it for Buffalo.
9. Patriots storm back in Seattle: With the Patriots in need of running the table to have a shot at the playoffs, Sammy Morris' fourth-down leap from a yard out gave them their first lead over the Seahawks with 2:44 to go.
10. Cruel wind blows in Buffalo: Wind gusts of 75 mph in Ralph Wilson Stadium created absurd conditions in a season finale with postseason implications. Gales twisted the Ralph Wilson Stadium uprights and kept the ball on the ground. Cassel passed eight times in a 13-0 Patriots victory that eventually was rendered moot by the Dolphins winning the first game on this list.
The New York Jets have announced their in-house award winners.
Running back Thomas Jones received the Curtis Martin MVP and the Dennis Byrd Most Inspirational Awards for carrying the offense on his back for most of the season.
Jones earlier in the week was named to his first Pro Bowl. He has broken several major team records, including total touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, most points by a non-kicker and most consecutive games with a touchdown.
Veteran fullback Tony Richardson won the Marty Lyons Community Service Award even though he has been a Jet for only one season.
Richardson already had been named the Jets' candidate for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year honor. He has donated over $1 million to the Rich in Spirit Foundation, which he established in 1999.
Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery received the Ed Block Courage Award. Click here for an ESPN.com story on Cotchery's inspirational tale. He and his wife last year started the Cotchery Foundation to help underprivileged youth.
Safety Abram Elam won the Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award, a decision that will raise eyebrows. Elam was expelled from Notre Dame after being convicted of felonious sexual battery for his role in an alleged gang rape in 2002.
The Jets' press release states the Good Guy Award is voted on by the Jets staff and "recognizes exceptionally consistent willingness, cooperation and professionalism in every day dealings with the various departments within the organization."
New England Patriots
- Ron Borges and John Tomase of the Boston Herald report Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light has a mildly separated shoulder but that he should keep playing.
- Boston Globe reporter Christopher L. Gasper takes a look at the Patriots' thriving ground game.
- Christopher Price of Boston Metro News gauges the anxiety level of the locker room with two games to go.
- Eric Wilbur of Boston.com does a fantastic job of breaking down the Patriots' various playoff scenarios.
- Providence Journal writer Daniel Barbarisi finds Bill Belichick contrite about his coaching performance Sunday.
- Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan says fans are experiencing "absolute torture" over the Dick Jauron contract fiasco.
- Rochester Democrat & Chronicle writer Sal Maiorana gives his take on how the Bills bungled the Jauron contract extension.
- Toronto Globe & Mail reporter David Naylor speculates on which Bills game will land in the Rogers Centre next year.
- Palm Beach Post columnist Greg Stoda takes a look at Miami's catalytic odd couple: Chad Pennington and Joey Porter.
- Miami Herald reporter Jeff Darlington breaks down the Dolphins' playoff scenarios.
- Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel checks in with former Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor to see if he has any regrets.
New York Jets
- Tim Smith of the New York Daily News is convinced the Jets will fail to make the playoffs.
- New York Post reporter Brian Costello looks back on the lucky break that helped the Jets beat the Bills.
- Bergen Record columnist Ian O'Connor shares the sad tale of Jets safety Abram Elam, who got to be a hero Sunday.
- Rich Cimini of the Daily News writes "instead of improving as they head toward the wire, the Jets are wheezing."
In last week's edition of the SportsNation NFL head coaches approval ratings, Jauron came in at 8 percent. He actually dipped as low as 6 percent during the week, which would have tied Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress for the lowest number by any of the 35 coaches, including three who've been fired, through the first 14 weeks
Somehow he's more likable after Jauron took the blame for calling a pass play with just over 2 minutes remaining and the Bills plowing forward on the ground all afternoon.
It's early yet, but the early results usually are indicative of what rating a coach will pull down for the week. As I write this, almost 1,300 votes have been cast.
Maybe Buffalo fans have resigned themselves to the idea Jauron will be back next year after reports he has signed a three-year contract extension.
Another answer could be that thankful Jets fans are showing Jauron extra love. But Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots supporters couldn't be too happy with how Jauron helped the Jets win Sunday.
|Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman's fumble handed the New York Jets an unlikely 31-27 victory Sunday and brought back memories of Joe Pisarcik's infamous fumble at the Meadowlands 30 years ago.|
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Thirty years ago on this site, New York Giants coach John McVay signed off on a play that ended his coaching career.
"I couldn't believe what was happening, a lot of mixed emotions because the game was looking dark," Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery said, "and he tried to drop back to pass. I'm thankful for that.
"It was looking darker than dark. Whoa. I can't even explain the emotions after that play happened."
That play might have salvaged the Jets' season.
That play also lost the game for the 6-8 Bills at a time when it looked like they would demonstrate some pride in a once-promising season gone utterly wrong. Not only that, they were on the verge of slobberknocking the Jets' precarious playoff hopes. But the Jets are 9-5 and still tied for first place in the AFC East.
The play in question occurred when the Bills were ahead by three points with 2:06 left in the game. They had rushed for a first down and ran another 5 yards on the following play, forcing the Jets to start calling timeouts and setting up second-and-5 from the Bills' 27.
Buffalo had rushed for 187 yards and a 5.8-yard average against the NFL's fourth-ranked run defense.
"When they made that first down," Jets fullback Tony Richardson said, "it was like 'Oh, shoot.'"
So naturally, if you're a Bills fan, your team decided to have their backup quarterback J.P. Losman -- who lost his starting job because of poor decision making and inability to read defenses quickly enough -- throw the ball.
Buffalo's brain trust asked Losman to pass. Jets safety Abram Elam grabbed Losman and forced a fumble. Defensive end Shaun Ellis picked up the loose ball and scampered 11 yards for the dramatic winning touchdown to keep the Jets in a first-place tie atop the AFC East.
"I, probably like most people, was thinking they were going to run the clock out, and we were going to be saying "What if?' " Jets quarterback Brett Favre said. "All I could say was 'Wow.' There were several things on that play that makes you scratch your head, but I'm just glad it was in our favor."
The play was reminiscent of Joe Pisarcik's infamous Nov. 19, 1978 fumble in the waning seconds of what should have been a guaranteed Giants victory in the Meadowlands. Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Herm Edwards scooped the ball and ran it in for a touchdown. McVay finished the season and never coached again.
As Favre mentioned, all Buffalo had to do was run down the clock and -- maybe -- have to play a little defense.
But Jauron did the seemingly unthinkable.
Maybe offensive coordinator Turk Schonert played a role in the decision. But Jauron repeatedly insisted "It's on my shoulders."
There was nothing on Jauron's shoulders when he made the call because he apparently lost his head. Now he could lose his job. Although the Bills refuse to address it, Jauron is believed to have signed a three-year contract extension earlier this season.