Former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini was supposed to be a genius and the future of coaching. Mangini was the head coach of the Jets a decade ago and back-stabbed Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on his way out the door.
Brian Costello of the New York Post spoke with Mangini, who is currently out of football, to discuss Mangini’s time with the Jets, his departure from the Patriots, and the lessons he has learned from experience.
On SpyGate escalating beyond his control
Mangini knew that the Patriots were filming the Jets sidelines from his time with the Patriots and he wanted them to stop. He didn’t think it would reach the NFL offices.
“It wasn’t like I was thinking I really want to get these guys,” Mangini said. “My thought was I don’t want to put my team at a competitive disadvantage, no matter how small.”
Unfortunately, former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum escalated the issue to the NFL and that’s how the cookie crumbled. Mangini had hoped the Patriots would have been forced to stop and that would have been the end of it. Instead, he lost one of the best relationships he ever had.
“There was no great value in what they were doing,” Mangini said about the filming. “It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it to me personally. It wasn’t worth it to the relationship.”
On losing his relationship with Bill Belichick and the Kraft family
“Bill Belichick read at Eric and Julie Mangini’s wedding,” Costello writes. “Mangini’s son Luke’s middle name is William, named after Belichick. Mangini followed Belichick from Cleveland, where he was a ball boy, to the Jets to the Patriots. The two have not had a real conversation in 10 years.”
Belichick was already upset that Mangini took a job with a division rival and started to poach players and coaches for his new franchise. SpyGate was the last heartbeat in that relationship.
“I cared about him,” 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’s no surprise that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is doing everything he can to leave the Patriots on good terms. We’ve seen defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and director of player personnel Nick Caserio interview with the Dolphins, but I feel like everyone would be supremely shocked if a Belichick protege went to a division rival.
I’m actually curious about Belichick’s relationship with Pepper Johnson. Johnson was a linebacker under Belichick with the Giants and served on the Patriots staff from 2000-2013. He left to become the defensive line coach of the Bills in 2014 and he’s been the defensive line coach of the Jets since 2015. I wonder if that relationship is frosty, or if Belichick gave him his blessing because Johnson wasn’t going to be a defensive coordinator in New England.
On drafting Vernon Gholston over Jerod Mayo
The Jets selected pass rusher Vernon Gholston with the 6th overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. He’s regarded as one of the biggest busts in NFL history and finished his career without a sack.
“I felt good about Gholston,” Mangini said. “The thing we didn’t do a good enough job on was how great the love of football is. That’s one of those intangibles that’s hard to measure definitively. I can promise you it wasn’t for lack of research. It wasn’t impulsive. We did a ton of work. But we were wrong. We were wrong.”
Apparently, according to Costello, the Jets were considering trading down to the 10th overall pick with the Saints so they could select a linebacker named Jerod Mayo. The Jets wanted Gholston more and didn’t make the move.
The Patriots wound up trading down to select Mayo at 10th overall, a player I consider one of the most important transitional players from the Bill Belichick era.
There were multiple reports that the Patriots were interested in selecting Gholston with the 7th overall pick, so perhaps this was Belichick pulling a fast one on Mangini. Or perhaps Mangini saved the Patriots from making a mistake. Thanks Mangini.
The latest news from the Belichick-Mangini relationship came when Belichick was advocating for former Patriots linebacker and Texans coach Mike Vrabel to take Mangini’s job as defensive coordinator of the 49ers.
I feel like we’re a long way from a reconciliation, which is kind of sad. It’s clear that Mangini knocked over the first domino that created irreparable damage to Belichick’s reputation, but it’s also obvious how important this relationship must have been for a twenty-year span of time.
Mangini is obviously remorseful, but who knows if Belichick is even paying attention to him anymore.