New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, September 10, 2008.
Q: How different is it preparing for quarterback Matt Cassel this week instead of quarterback Tom Brady?
EM: The week has not dramatically shifted. Obviously things are going to change in terms of his [Matt Cassel] versus Tom's [Brady] style. You can never really replace a player of Tom's caliber. I think that offensive system [New England's] is loaded and very efficient. I thought that Matt came in and did a great job, hitting a 51-yarder from being backed up. It showed how confident they are in him. He had the touchdown to [Randy] Moss, went 13-18 and had a 116 quarterback rating. Knowing Matt from being there [New England], I know how hard he has worked in his role as a backup. I assume he will be extremely efficient.
Q: Do you have to set your offense to what quarterback Brett Farve can do or does Farve have to get accustomed to your offensive system?
EM: What we try to do each week is be able to play to our strengths and be able to attack our opponent's weaknesses. One of the things that we have focused on and worked with Brett [Farve] on is trying to incorporate all the different things that we would like to do in terms of going into a game plan. Obviously he was behind when he came in, in terms of the overall playbook, but you never use the whole playbook in any given week anyway. You focus on the plays that you are going to run that week. There has been some give and take in terms of terminology but it has been positive. There are so many of our ex-players that are at other teams that we needed to change some of the terms anyway. That was something that was lined up to do prior to the start of the season.
Q: So is it sort of a 'give-and-take' with the team's philosophy and quarterback Brett Farve's philosophy?
EM: Yeah, and the one thing is with as many years as Brett [Farve] has played he has pretty much seen all the different concepts. He was there for the invention of the forward pass. He has played so long that the words may be a little bit different but he has been exposed to a lot of things that we do. I would say he has seen about 90 percent of the things that we do. Maybe there are a few things that are a little bit different. It is just about how you call it and how you get to it.
Q: How is the chemistry between quarterback Brett Farve and wide receiver Laveranues Coles? I know Laveranues missed a lot of time and he only had one catch in last week's game….
EM: I think their relationship since Brett [Farve] has got here has been really good. Obviously Laveranues was very close to Chad [Pennington]. I respect that and Brett respects that. Laveranues has been fantastic and it is not a function of him comparing the two quarterbacks. He [Coles] has been extremely good working with Brett. The timing and the on-field chemistry will continue to improve as well.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise for you since working with quarterback Brett Farve?
EM: I didn't have any set expectations going into it. Obviously, I respected him [Brett Farve] tremendously as a player. I didn't know him that well as a person. I have gotten to know him and one of the things that has been very impressive is his approach and his daily approach. He studies extremely hard. A good example of that is when I was talking to the team and went through the special teams keys from last week to win the game. The next day I asked Brett what they were and he was able to rattle them off without any problem. He is a guy that on outside runs, reverses or any of those types of plays he wants to get out in front and lead the pack. He works with the 'show team' guys to make sure they are giving the best look possible. He is getting together with the defensive guys, he is not solely focused on offense, he is just a down-to-earth guy. For such an impressive résumé it is easy to understand why he has been so successful for so long and such a good teammate.
Q: How has your offensive line looked? You spent a lot of money on it in the off-season. Are you happy with how guard Alan Faneca and lineman Damien Woody are meshing with the team?
EM: I think Alan [Faneca] and Damien [Woody] have been great. They have been great in terms of what they can do on the field but also in terms of their contributions in the room. They will work with some of our younger players. On how they have meshed, Alan got voted as one of captains, which gives you an indication of his relationship with the rest of the team. It is a pretty hard thing to do. I think that [first year assistant head coach/offensive line coach] Bill Callahan has done an excellent job as well. The guy has been a head coach in the league [Oakland] and a head coach in college [Nebraska] and an offensive coordinator. He sees things from a big-picture perspective. He is a great technician with the offensive line on the little details. Both of those things have shown up on the field.
Q: With the Patriots losing quarterback Tom Brady, does that change at all how you defend wide receiver Randy Moss?
EM: [Randy] Moss is tough to cover regardless of who is throwing him the ball. The best example is the 51-yarder that he caught [vs. Kansas City] when they were backed up. He is an explosive, explosive player. He and Tom [Brady] had great chemistry but I can't imagine that he is going to be that much less explosive.
Q: Is rookie cornerback Dwight Lowery is going to start again this week? How would you grade his performance against Miami last week?
EM: I thought he [Dwight Lowery] did a really good job. I think that he has a very good perspective on teams in terms of understanding that this [NFL] is a higher level but at the end of the day it is just football and it is the things that he has been doing his whole career extremely well. Having Geno [Eugene Wilson] start as a rookie and Asante [Samuel] play as much as he did early on, and other rookies I have worked with like [Darrelle] Revis, there are a lot of similar characteristics that they take to the game.
Q: Do you take any thing from having been around quarterback Matt Cassel when he was a rookie with the Patriots?
EM: there is some familiarity there but guys change and they grow and develop. A good example of that is Tom's [Brady] growth from his rookie year to his second year. Even with Brett Ratliff here, who really struggled as a rookie just calling a play in the huddle. When he did get a play out, he usually fumbled the snap. A year later, he is like a different guy and that is true with a lot of players. If you keep working at it there is going to be tremendous growth. I think Matt [Cassel] has grown quite a bit.
Q: How has rookie linebacker Vernon Gholston developed since he started?
EM: Vernon [Gholston] was a little bit 'behind the eight ball' because of the NCAA rule. He couldn't come in until his class graduated. He missed almost all of the OTAs. He was a little bit late coming into camp so he missed some time there. I think that is why Dustin Keller is further ahead than he is because of reps and experience. The one thing I like about Vernon is that he is building. Each week I see some real progress. It takes time with any rookie, especially when you are making a position change from having your hand in the dirt to standing up.
Q: How much does defensive tackle Kris Jenkins alter your run defense?
EM: I thought Kris [Jenkins] did a really nice job against Miami. He is a big powerful man that is athletic. He does a nice job finishing on plays. I was really happy with what he did in the middle in this past game. Some of the things we talked about in terms of what they were going to try to do against us in his awareness. I was happy with that as well.
Q: Expectations have increased this year with the addition of quarterback Brett Farve and some of the injuries that have happened in the AFC East. Have you addressed that with your team?
EM: No, one of the things we consistently talk about, and what I talked about in my first, second and now my third year, is that it is not about external factors and external expectations. I appreciate the excitement and all those things but what matters are what we do collectively. I have seen that over and over again throughout my time in the NFL where expectations have no correlation with results. What does have a correlation with results are focus, work and preparation.
Q: What will you take from last week's game against Miami and being able to hold off quarterback Chad Pennington in the end?
EM: There are a lot of things that we need to improve on. I was obviously very pleased with the win but there are a lot things situational wise that we can do better on. That is always a consistent challenge when you win to make sure that you don't gloss over the things that need to get taken care off. Just like when you lose you don't harp on things more than they need to be harped on. The key thing is consistency and getting the corrections made so that the next week you are better prepared when those situations come up.