Ten years ago, Eric Mangini arrived in New York as coach of the Jets and spiced up the rivalry between his new employer and his former one, the Patriots.
The rivalry reached new heights in Mangini’s second season on the job, when Week One of the 2007 season sparked Spygate.
In a nutshell, Mangini knew that Patriots coach Bill Belichick recorded defensive coaching signals in violation of league rules, and Mangini wanted Belichick to not do it when playing the Jets. That morphed into the Jets catching the Patriots in the act, and the Jets reporting the situation to the league office.
“Spygate is a big regret,” Mangini tells Brian Costello of the New York Post. “It wasn’t supposed to go down the way it went down. . . . There was no great value in what they were doing. It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it to me personally. It wasn’t worth it to the relationship.”
It’s been long believed that Mangini didn’t want to blow the whistle on the Patriots, but that others in the organization (presumably, G.M. Mike Tannenbaum) pulled the pin on the Spygate grenade.
“I cared about [Belichick],” Mangini said. “I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to hurt the Patriots. They were a huge part of my life, too, and the Kraft family. The Krafts were always great to me. It wasn’t like I was thinking I really want to get these guys. My thought was I don’t want to put my team at a competitive disadvantage, no matter how small.”
The following year, Mangini was put at a competitive disadvantage via the arrival of Brett Favre at quarterback. Mangini didn’t want to add the veteran, who had retired in February and then unretired for a Packers team that didn’t want him.
“We weren’t going to be a team that was going to be built on one guy,” Mangini said. “We were a team. I preached that and I preached that. When we had the opportunity to bring Brett in, it didn’t fit with the vision, the idea of bringing someone in who was really bigger than the team.”
Mangini eventually agreed to do it because he was told by owner Woody Johnson that it was a one-year experiment.
“I was told no matter what happens if we bring in Brett Favre, you’re absolutely safe,” Mangini said. “I probably should have gotten that in writing.”
Mangini was fired after the failed one-year experiment with Brett Favre.
The former Jets coach landed quickly in Cleveland, where he spent a couple of seasons before working for ESPN and then serving in various roles with the 49ers. He told Costello that Mangini hopes to coach again, or maybe to work in a front office.
Still only 45, Mangini surely has plenty of football left in him. The only question is whether and when someone else will give him another chance to show what he can do.