Days later, Mangini looks better than Jets

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

In the span of five days, Eric Mangini has evolved from New York Jets scourge to a sympathetic figure. The sentiment changed from "So long, punk!" to "Wait, maybe we misunderstood you."

Who could have imagined Mangini would likely be an NFL head coach again before the Jets had found his replacement?

So much has yet to unfold, but the more we learn, the more Mangini looks like the scapegoat rather than the source of the Jets' problems.

We thought he walked away from the Jets facility in dire need of career rehab. Instead, the Jets might have done him the ultimate favor.

A brief timeline:

  • Chad Pennington steps over the Jets' corpse on his way to the playoffs with the Miami Dolphins.

  • Owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum hold a ham-handed news conference to announce Mangini's firing.

  • Tests reveal Brett Favre played with a shredded arm.

  • Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan deliver stiff arms when approached about applying for the job.

  • Reports surface the Jets would be willing to strip Tannenbaum to appease a coach who wants organizational control.

  • Internal sniping commences over the failed Favre experiment.

  • Pennington takes Comeback Player of the Year honors and finishes second in the MVP race.

  • Mangini, according to multiple reports Friday, emerges as the frontrunner to replace Romeo Crennel as the Cleveland Browns' next coach.

Mangini interviewed with the Browns on Tuesday and apparently made an impression. He has two winning records in his three NFL seasons. Until Favre fell apart down the homestretch, Mangini resembled the wunderkind of his 10-win rookie season.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Browns owner Randy Lerner "is fascinated with" Mangini. Sports Illustrated's Peter King, an analyst on NBC's coverage of Saturday's games, called Mangini the "leader in the clubhouse by far."

Back in the Jets' clubhouse, leadership is dispersing.

They have no coach. Tannenbaum's authority might be permanently undermined if the Jets are willing to marginalize him. Many believe Favre won't be back. As King reported, Favre already has informed Tannenbaum "it may be time to look in a different direction.'' Players are popping off both publicly and anonymously.

At least the Jets are interviewing candidates, right? They spoke Friday to their offensive line assistant Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. On Saturday, they interviewed New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

But the New York Daily News reported on Saturday that Johnson is out of the country and not involved in the early interviews. The Daily News story claimed Johnson's unavailability was the final straw in Cowher's decision not to meet with the Jets.

It might not matter where Johnson is now if the Jets decide Spagnuolo is their man because he won't be available until the Giants are done playing anyway.

Then again, Spagnuolo is a popular prospect and will interview with the Denver Broncos, an organization with ownership that is being praised to no end by the coach they just fired.

Do you suppose Spagnuolo came away with a similar vibe from the Jets' front office?