Favre's wild ways likely to test Mangini's patience

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

CLEVELAND – There are plenty of stories about odd and troubled marriages, from Liza Minnelli and David Gest to Madonna and Sean Penn to just about any woman who married Larry King.

As in the entertainment world, odd football marriages tend to end in ugly divorces. Bernie Kosar and Bill Belichick were smart guys who couldn't find common ground in Cleveland. Just about any coach who ever has had Jeff George has had a run-in with the enigmatic passer.

The topper of all may have been Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson, two men who desperately wanted each other until they actually had to work together in Miami. By their fourth year, Marino and Johnson would swear at each other during practice and in private meetings, according to multiple sources. To this day, they don't talk.

These situations are important to consider now that the New York Jets have to work through the pairing of coach Eric Mangini and future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.

While it's hard to envision implosion between a coach who has yet to build an ego-worthy resumé and a quarterback who's about as good ol' boy as it gets, there is no question that a meeting of the minds will have to occur.

In essence, Mangini must loosen his tight-fisted grip on the play-calling and game management if he's going to successfully coexist with a quarterback who lives just about every part of his life by the seat of the fishing shorts he wore during Thursday night's exhibition game at Cleveland.


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Mangini said all the right things after the game, including "I like whatever wins" when asked about melding his style with Favre's.

Jets tight end Bubba Franks, who played with Favre in Green Bay for eight seasons, was similarly optimistic, saying: "He should feel pretty comfortable pretty soon. The systems are very similar except for the terminology."

For his part, Favre promised to get up to speed as soon as possible after his month-long dance with the Packers ended Wednesday night.

"You have to dive into it," said Favre, who spent half the news conference talking about Green Bay in almost a cathartic way. "The only way you're going to know these guys, know how they play, know the coaches, is to be in meetings, is to go to practice. Now, I'd be kidding myself if I thought after the second day I wouldn't be walking on eggshells. My feet will be hurting, shoulder will be hurting, all the fun things about camp.

"That is the way you build chemistry. To me, the most important aspect of winning is chemistry."

Of course, that includes the chemistry between quarterback and coach. Favre worked on that immediately, listening to play calls on the coach-to-quarterback radio system Thursday night.

Still, there is a limit to what anyone can learn between now and when New York opens the season at Miami on Sept. 7. Mangini has one of the most complicated offensive systems in the NFL, one that borrows concepts from just about every major system ever devised. Beyond that, Mangini is the type who measures his words and actions so carefully that you wonder if he thinks about how to pronounce "the."

That led former NFL quarterback Doug Williams, on hand Thursday as a scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to say: "If the system is that complicated that a guy like Brett Favre can't pick it up after playing at this level for 16 years, then at the end of the day the coach will have to adjust to Brett Favre."

How tight is Mangini's grip? In the offseason, the Jets have a curfew for players who stay in the team hotel.

Yes, in the offseason.

"It's going to be interesting to see how Eric deals with having a quarterback like Brett, a guy who likes to sling it around," one NFL team executive said Thursday. "Eric likes to be in control, and if you're going to have Brett, you're going to have to just let him play at times."

Mangini also is going to have to live through Favre's occasional bad moments, the games where he throws two or three ugly interceptions, such as what he did in the NFC championship game against the New York Giants in January. Or the ugly interception he threw against Philadelphia in the 2003 playoffs. Or the two picks he threw against Atlanta in the 2002 playoffs.

Not that this is a bad move. On the contrary, this is a move that the Jets had to make on so many levels that it was worth every one of the air miles Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum logged Thursday. After finishing the deal late Wednesday night, Tannenbaum woke up early Thursday and went from Long Island to Mississippi to pick up Favre, then back to Long Island for a tour of the area. They then took a quick helicopter trip to New Jersey for a tour of the new facility the Jets will move into next year and then jetted to Cleveland for the preseason game against the Browns.

By the time Tannenbaum sat down for a pregame news conference, he was weary.

"I think I'm going to take a nap right over there," Tannenbaum said after he got to the press box.

The Jets had to do this if they were going to be a real threat for a playoff spot. In 2006, the Jets and Mangini took a weak schedule combined with a healthy team and snuck into the playoffs. Last season they got slapped back into reality with a 4-12 record.

That led to a $140 million spending spree on players such as guard Alan Faneca, defensive end/linebacker Calvin Pace and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. While all of those players bring function to the team, none bring the excitement of Favre.

Or as two Jets employees noted, the team is now relevant and worthy of back-page coverage in the New York tabloids. Getting Favre also figures to get a positive reaction from Jets fans, who'll be asked to pay for personal seat licenses at the new stadium the team moves into next year.

The Jets also are moving away from the Chad Pennington era. While Pennington is a bright guy, a good leader and a good game manager, his arm is so weak that he can't consistently beat quality defenses. He simply can't stretch the field.

With Favre, the Jets can run any play a coach can draw up.

But will he run what the coaches draw up or what Mangini wants?

"At the end of the day, Brett is going to do it his way because he's the guy on the field," the team executive said. "Eric is going to have to live with that if it's going to work."

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